President Street Station
President Street Station in 1856
|Location||President Street at Fleet Street (southeast corner)|
|Area||less than one acre|
|Architect||Parker, George A.; Isaac Ridgeway Trimble; Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad|
|Architectural style||Mid 19th Century Revival, Italianate, Greek Revival|
|NRHP reference #||92001229|
|Added to NRHP||September 10, 1992|
The President Street Station in Baltimore, Maryland, is a former train station and railroad terminal. Built in 1849 and opened in February 1850, the station saw the some of the earliest bloodshed of the American Civil War (1861-1865), and was an important rail link during the conflict. Today, it is the country's oldest surviving big-city railroad terminal in the United States and, after a nine-year preservation campaign and a year-long restoration/reconstruction/renovation completed April 1997, houses the Baltimore Civil War Museum.
The Baltimore and Port Deposit Rail Road (B&PD), founded in 1832, completed a rail line from Baltimore to the western shore of the Susquehanna River in 1837.:32:489 The railroad's Baltimore terminus was on the east side of the "Basin" (now known as the Inner Harbor), at the southern end of President Street. The B&PD exchanged freight cars with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O), (oldest railroad line in the country - established 1827) which had built a track (along Pratt Street) to the eastern Basin harbor area from its original Mount Clare depot on the western side of the central business district.:31-2:144 The B&PD and its merger successor company, the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad (PW&B), transferred passengers to the B&O's first downtown depot at East Pratt and South Charles streets by a horse-drawn car on B&O's connecting track. (The Baltimore City Council prohibited the operation of locomotives on this track for reasons of frightening horses and fears of fires).:32 By 1838, the PW&B was carrying passengers from further northeast through Philadelphia to Baltimore, where they could transfer to the B&O and continue west to Ohio or by a new branch line further south to the national capital at Washington, D.C.
The PW&B started building its own station at the southwestern corner of President Street with Canton Avenue with train yards, including a roundhouse, shops and freight warehouses of about six square city blocks, extending east along Canton Avenue (later renamed Fleet Street).:3 The Greek Revival-style station opened on February 18, 1850. In addition to the brick head house with a distinctive arched roof, the original station also had a 208 feet (63 m) long barrel vaulted train shed over the tracks. The PW&B added a similarly styled freight house, adjacent to the south of the passenger station, in 1852.
On February 23, 1861 President-elect Lincoln, on his inauguration Whistle-Stop train ride, transferred from the President Street Station to Camden Station in order to thwart the Baltimore Plot assassination attempt.,
The station was involved in the Baltimore riot of 1861, as Massachusetts state militia troops bound for Washington were being pulled in several connecting horse cars and later marching to the B&O Camden Street Station, ten blocks west and were attacked by an angry mob of Southern and Confederate sympathizers, with a large number of civilians and four soldiers killed and many people wounded in the ensuing melee. On Friday, April 19, 1861, Baltimore Southern sympathizers attacked the passing 6th Massachusetts infantry regiment of the state militia and the "Washington Brigade" of Philadelphia from the Pennsylvania state militia. Both units were heading to the national capital at Washington to reinforce defenses in response to the requests for troops in his proclamation declaring the existence of an insurrection by 16th President Abraham Lincoln after the firing on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor in South Carolina by newly organized Confederate States military forces a few days earlier.
In 1873, the newly organized Union Railroad built a new set of tracks in northeastern Baltimore, connecting the original PW&B main line with the Northern Central Railway (NCRY) going north to York and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The new connection ran through the new Union Tunnel to NCRY's new Charles Street Station, north of Mount Royal Avenue.:488 (This station was rebuilt twice, in 1911, named as "Union Station" and ultimately renamed "Pennsylvania Station" in the 1920s.). This station on North Charles Street and its successors in the northern reaches of the city largely replaced the earlier President Street Station on the southeast for passenger service. The latter continued to serve as a freight station into the 1940s World War II era but served some passenger trains until 1911. The Pennsylvania Railroad, which acquired the PW&B in a merger in 1881, demolished the President Street's eastern train shed after heavy snow damage in 1913 and erected a new, shorter shed, built with wooden roof trusses.:4
The President Street Station was later used as a warehouse. The train shed was destroyed by fire, leaving only the present head house by 1970, when it was abandoned. In 1979, the derelict building was acquired by the City of Baltimore, which planned to demolish it to clear the way for a proposed southern extension of the Jones Falls Expressway (Interstate 83) to connect in an interchange near the harbor with the east - west Interstate 95 which was never built. In 1989, the station's wooden arched roof collapsed in a snowstorm.
In the 1990s, a public-private partnership pushed by a supporters group, the Friends of the President Street Station (FofPSS), funded the reconstruction/restoration/renovation of the vacant station and historic site, which reopened in April 1997 as the "Baltimore Civil War Museum" with the assistance of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum at the Mount Clare Shops.
President Street Station, Inc. operated the museum until 2000, when the building lease was partnered with the Maryland Historical Society (MdHS), located on their campus of buildings on West Monument Street, until 2006. The lease/partnership arrangement with the City and the FoPSS originally expired in 2017.
The museum temporarily closed in 2007, due to budget constraints by the MdHS in connection with their nearby extension at the new Fells Point Maritime Museum on Thames Street, then re-opened on weekends only, operated by MdHS and subsequently by FofPSS volunteers. The Civil War Museum was open on weekends in February 2010, in observance of Black History Month, although heavy snowfall forced closure of the museum on two weekends.
The future of the historic property is uncertain: In 2009, the City of Baltimore announced plans to designate the old depot as a landmark, which would restrict modifications to the building's exterior, and to request proposals for commercial development of the grounds. FofPSS opposes this, and called instead for the station's preservation and management as a museum by the National Park Service. The director of Baltimore City's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, which will review proposals, said that any commercial use "must be subordinate to the history" and that a multi-use partnership would be ideal.
On February 13, 2015, U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Benjamin Cardin introduced bill S. 521, "The President Street Station Study Act," which would authorize the National Park Service to study the suitability and feasibility of absorbing the station.
As of 2017, FofPSS operates the museum.