Priscilla Lee Miles, the grand dame of Baltimore historic tours, passed away sometime Monday morning just after an autumn weekend that was perfect for walking. She was 70.
Miss Miles never sought self-aggrandizement. But through her two books -- a guide to Roland Park and a set of tours through a dozen city neighborhoods -- she made a great contribution to a wider appreciation of Baltimore's history and charms.
"This was my town and I loved it," she once said. She demonstrated it by going to great pains to get her books produced. When no commercial publisher showed interest, she found her own layout artists and printers. She even carried the printed books to local book stores to make sure they would be available to interested buyers.
Miss Miles exemplified to us a person who had the qualities that make Baltimore enjoyable and interesting. Her two books are gold mines of facts and snippets of information; they have introduced countless newcomers to the community, its history and traditions.
We urge organizations and other individuals to continue her work by sponsoring tours that highlight specific neighborhoods or themes. Baltimore Heritage Inc. has been doing so for a number of years, focusing on such themes as iron buildings and form stone facades. A number of architectural and historical groups also arrange periodic tours. But that is not enough. There are just too many interesting things that ought to be explored.
Just a few examples: The early Jewish residential and commercial area around East Lombard Street's Corn Beef Row contains some remarkable relics of days gone by.
Some of the artifacts are preserved by the Jewish Historical Society, which currently features an exhibit of cityscapes by Baltimore artist Jacob Glushakow. But others are difficult for ordinary people to see. They include the fascinating old Hendler Ice Cream factory on East Baltimore Street and an old predecessor of today's Jewish Community Center just a few doors away.
A different but equally rewarding tour could be conducted in the area's mill towns. Dickeyville, Oella and the Jones Falls Valley and its hillside stone houses which are seldom open to the public.
Many tours would require some organizational sponsorship. But, surprisingly, many could be undertaken just by a group of friends, who could rotate research and guide assignments among themselves. Try it! And thank the memory of Miss Miles when you do.