Those little-known attractions in not-so-faraway places


Baltimore has an inventory of destinations no travel agent will ever recommend. But these spots are high on my list of the hidden places that deserve more recognition and promotion. So let the lines wrap around the National Aquarium. Take a walk to these three-star attractions:

* Lafayette Square (Carrollton, Lafayette and Arlington avenues and Lanvale Street) is a stately Victorian park that has been quietly recognized in the last decade. In 1880s Baltimore, there was no finer address. Intermixed with the great marble-trimmed houses are stone churches of remarkable proportion and design.

* Green Mount Cemetery, Greenmount Avenue and Oliver Street, is the resting place for the luminaries of 19th century Baltimore. The marble work here earned stone carvers lucrative commissions. People who profess to dislike cemeteries get caught up in the show of funereal pomp here.

* The Baltimore Streetcar Museum, 1900 Falls Road, is just off Maryland and Lafayette avenues but buried in the Jones Falls Valley. This is one of Baltimore's remarkable undiscovered museums. Each Sunday afternoon, the restored streetcars run here on a one-mile circuit of track. Visitors should take the ride. Film director Barry Levinson loves the place. It's one of the star locations of his "Avalon."

* Downtown. Be honest. How many people have seen the Walters Art Gallery's 1904 building since its massive refurbishment in 1987? The Walters of your 1964 class field trip has changed and is well worth the visit. Ditto the Peabody Library on East Mount Vernon Place, another overlooked gem. And, if it's a weekday, do not bypass a chance to view the Maryland National Bank Building lobby at Light and Baltimore streets with its iron and brass work, mosaics and murals. It's a cathedral of commerce that was completed just before the Great Depression of the 1930s.

* Canton, in the 2900 block of Boston St., has a new waterfront park adjacent to the Canton Cove and Tin Deco Wharf apartment complexes. This is an ideal spot for seeing the beginning of Baltimore's residential waterfront. It's also the vantage point to observe Fort McHenry.

* The Hull Street Pier, off the 1100 block of Hull St., Locust Point, is another superb lookout for harbor-watching. If you venture here, take Fort Avenue to Hull and turn left. It's also near Fort McHenry, which, I dare say, remains Baltimore's greatest attraction but gets few visitors.

* Oella. It took some searching with map, compass and an experienced guide to find Oella, the 19th century mill village implanted on the sides of the Patapsco River Valley between Catonsville and Ellicott City. I thought I was in West Virginia. Parts of Oella remain untouched, a sleepy hollow surrounded by suburban upheaval. The restored parts of Oella are something from the pages of Metropolitan Home magazine.

* Savage. In a similar vein as Oella is the mill village of Savage on the Little Patuxent River in Howard County. The looms in Savage wove sailcloth, tarpaulins, awnings, feed bags, fire hose, golf bags and the fabric for movie painted scenery. There's also a spider weblike iron railway bridge, designed by Wendel Bollman in 1869. Today, the span is a Historic American Civil Engineering Landmark.

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