Baltimore and B&O Railroad Museum officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking Tuesday for a $2.5 million stable for the country’s oldest continuously operating mounted police unit — and the museum’s board of directors announced plans to donate money to acquire two new horses.
The Baltimore Police Department mounted unit, in its 130th year, is made up of six horses — Big D, Pax, Porter, Slurpee, Blair and Hercules — which were deployed for crowd control at 175 community events last year. Hercules is retiring, but a roughly $10,000-to-$13,000 donation from the museum will add two new horses.
“Building these stables is a part of the master plan for this community, for this institution,” Mayor Catherine Pugh said at the ceremony. “What we’re asking you to do is re-imagine the future development of the B&O over the next decade.”
The unit has operated out of a former car dealership downtown since the 1970s, but a yearlong fundraising drive has raised about $1.3 million for a new facility on the railroad museum 40-acre property in Southwest Baltimore.
Construction on the 13,000-square-foot facility is expected to begin by mid-November, and take roughly six to eight months, officials said.
Courtney Wilson, the museum’s outgoing executive director and head of the foundation, said he was amazed at the level of donations pouring in for the project.
“There are so many people out there that love these horses, love this Police Department, this mounted unit, this city and this museum,” Wilson said. “It has really been something.”
Kris Hoellen, the incoming executive director, joked that the horses enjoy better accommodations than most of the crowd huddled at the ceremony under an outdoor pavilion at the railroad museum in the pouring rain.
“They are going to have an even better quality of life when they’re looking up at the skies, instead of the underside of a bridge,” she said.
The facility will include 12 stalls and associated support rooms, an exercise area, an educational area that can be used as a classroom/museum/community center, and an outdoor paddock.
Beyond upgrading the facilities and expanding the unit to 10 horses, officials hope to capture the imaginations of the museum’s roughly 200,000 visitors each year.
The stables will be free for the public to visit — and city officials hope bringing children in for tours will help bolster the relationship between police and the community, while spreading the word about the historic unit.