Pigtown is just a skip across the Martin Luther King Boulevard from Oriole Park. It is one of several Southwest Baltimore neighborhoods that thrived because of their proximity to local slaughterhouses and the B&O; Railroad depot at Mount Clare.
The slaughterhouses are long gone. They are mainly remembered only in such colorful sobriquets as Pigtown and Cowtown, names which are enough to drive some of the snottier newcomers and real estate agents crazy. Even the commercial railroad activity has pretty much disappeared from the neighborhood. Some tavern names still carry on those memories. And, of course, the railroad museum.
The Mount Clare Mansion in Carroll Park and the B&O; Railroad Museum are the area's two key institutions. In the days before the Inner Harbor, the historic B&O; roundhouse, along with Fort McHenry, was among Baltimore's chief tourist draws. The museum's popularity then dipped but it is now staging a strong comeback. It is adding bells and whistles, sprucing up, bringing in new attractions. Last year, the number of paying visitors zoomed from 82,000 to 102,000.
A mile-long stretch of track in active use by trains carrying visitors now connects the museum with Carroll Park. Plans call for developing the whole corridor into Williamsburg-like exhibits that would re-create a 1770 iron foundry and the beginnings of industrialization leading to the birth and development of railroading.
Is this a pipe dream? No, says museum director John Ott, pointing to a $160,000 planning grant his institution received recently from the federal government.
The private, non-profit B&O; museum and a separate organization, Carroll Park Restoration Foundation, are asking legislators in Annapolis for further help. The museum wants to obtain a $2 million state loan to repair and rehabilitate its car shop so historic equipment can be protected from the elements. The Carroll Park group, for its part, is asking for a $600,000 loan to finance various restoration projects in the park. These are important requests that would benefit an economically distressed area and help in its turn-around.
The B&O; museum and Carroll Park are along the pathway of the Gwynns Falls greenway the city is beginning to construct to revitalize that stream valley as a recreational resource. Thus state aid would provide improvement and new amenities for all area residents.