As any Johns Hopkins student should know, arteries are the blood vessels that carry life-sustaining oxygenated blood from the heart to other parts of the body. Similarly, it is easy to think of Charles Street–one of the oldest thoroughfares in the country–as the main artery of the city of Baltimore. Since the 1700’s, Charles Street has supplied the life-blood of culture, education, and commerce to Baltimore.
Charles Street is the dividing line between streets designated as “west” or “east”. Starting in south Baltimore, the road passes through such varied neighborhoods as Federal Hill, Mt. Vernon, Charles Village and up into the leafy northern areas of Homeland and Roland Park. This beautiful and historic road has been designated as a National Scenic Byway by the Federal Highway Administration.
The cultural heart of the city, Mt. Vernon Place, is situated right on Charles Street. The magnificent Washington Monument and its surrounding parks are a beautiful oasis in the midst of a busy city. And this space is shared by two of the most important cultural institutions in the city, the Walters Art Museum and the George Peabody Library. Built in the early 1800s, Mt. Vernon Place has started showing the wear and tear of city life. But fortunately the Mt. Vernon Place Conservancy is giving both the monument and the surrounding area the restoration that they deserve.
Most of us see Charles Street through the window of a car or bus, but the best way is on foot. Pedestrians actually get the chance to look up and notice some of the great architectural detail found on the route. For many years Charles Street was the host to one of the city’s two Easter Parades–the other was on Pennsylvania Avenue. The street is also the location of the annual Baltimore Pride Parade. Another important part of Charles Street that is getting a great pedestrian makeover is the stretch near the Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus. And if you want to get some great exercise on Charles, you can enter the annual Charles Street 12 Miler footrace.
However you decide to experience, get out and enjoy all the history, beauty, and culture that Charles Street has to offer.