Camden Station's lost decade; Untapped potential: Reuse of depot for Babe Ruth museum/restaurant should languish no longer.


LINCOLN PASSED through it on his way to Gettysburg. Maryland's World War troops departed from it. And for the past eight years, Baltimore has wasted it.

It is Camden Station, the gingerbread-like former train depot that sits beside the city's acclaimed baseball stadium. The exterior of the 1856 structure was handsomely repointed and repainted when the ballpark opened in 1992, but aside from a passing exhibit when Baltimore hosted major-league baseball's All-Star Game in 1993, the interior has remained mothballed and cobwebbed.

There are hopeful signs that could change.

Three years ago, the Babe Ruth Museum at 216 Emory St. unveiled plans to expand into the station. It proposed a first-class, $10 million visitors' attraction with exhibits on Ruth and other Baltimore baseball history, including the Negro Leagues and Oriole teams of earlier eras. Officials showed off a miniature model of their museum-to-be and a giant replica of a $1 million check from the Orioles. The scheduled opening: summer 1999.

But the ambitious plans got waylaid as the Orioles' principal owner, Peter G. Angelos, and the Maryland Stadium Authority, which controls the property, waltzed around the question of what type of restaurant should be located in Camden Station. That impasse blessedly seems resolved.

Mr. Angelos envisions an upscale, seafood restaurant, nice enough not to have to depend on baseball-day fans. It will be at least two years until the museum/restaurant opens.

Camden Station begs to be reused. Millions of people pass it to attend ballgames and trade shows at the convention hall across the street. Light-rail stops at its doorstep. A hotel could someday rise just a few feet away.

The state and the Orioles should not waste more time.

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