Baltimore is a city of distinct neighborhoods. While stellar downtown attractions such as the National Aquarium and the Inner Harbor draw torrents of tourists each year, much of the city's character can be found in bergs like Hampden (the "p" is silent) and Federal Hill. Scores of Baltimore's trademark narrow redbrick row houses with white marble steps line the city's East and West sides. Some neighborhood streets are still made of cobblestone, and grand churches and museums and towering, glassy high-rises fill out the growing skyline.
One of the largest cities in early America, Baltimore’s protected harbor gave the city a strategic advantage. Commercial trade with the West Indies brought great wealth to city merchants, and speedy Clipper Ships, made in Baltimore’s shipyards, wreaked havoc on the British during the War of 1812. A motley band of Fort McHenry’s "Defenders," far outnumbered by British troops, nonetheless stood their ground—and turned the tide of the war. Baltimore thrived as a manufacturing hub until after World War II, when jobs dried up and its populace moved to the suburbs. Rising unemployment, the introduction of heroin and other illegal drugs, and week-long riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were Baltimore’s darkest hours. But the dogged spirit of Baltimore’s Defenders prevailed. With the 1970s came innovative programs offering homesteaders a chance to purchase and renovate once-abandoned row houses for as little as $1. New arts and cultural events, such as neighborhood festivals, celebrated the city’s unpretentious—and oftentimes eccentric—charm. Tourism grew dramatically in the early 1980s with the completion of the Harborplace shopping plaza and its crown jewel, the National Aquarium. Further development of the Inner Harbor, including Oriole Park at Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium, continued to fuel the city's resurgence.
Now the city's blue-collar past mixes with present urban-professional revitalization. Industrial waterfront properties are giving way to tech startups and high-end condos. Corner bars formerly dominated by National Bohemian beer—once made in the city—are adding microbrews to their beverage lists. Development continues, particularly around the Inner Harbor, though signs of the city's pockmarked past still persist north and west of downtown. But with more and more restaurants and retail stores replacing vacant buildings and parking lots, Baltimore has become one of the nation’s up-and-coming cities: firmly fixed on the future, with an ever-present nod to its past.
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