Mayor Catherine Pugh and other city and B&O Railroad Museum officials pose for a photo at the ceremonial groundbreaking for the police department’s new $2.5 million stable for the mounted unit.
Mayor Catherine Pugh and other city and B&O Railroad Museum officials pose for a photo at the ceremonial groundbreaking for the police department’s new $2.5 million stable for the mounted unit. (Colin Campbell/The Baltimore Sun)

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.

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“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.

Donations still are being collected at the First Mile Stable Charitable Foundation’s website.

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.

Baltimore, B&O Railroad Museum announce joint effort to raise $2.5 million for new police mounted unit stables

Officials from Baltimore and the B&O Railroad Museum on Monday announced a joint effort to raise $2.5 million in charitable donations to build new digs for the police department's mounted unit.

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.

“For the Police Department, it’s more than just about building a stable for horses,” Interim Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle said. “This is continuing a legacy.”

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