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  1. Adventures With Grandpa Ek: Washington DC:
  2. Project MUSE - Authors and Illustrators
  3. Ek Is Van Afrika
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  5. Stöbern in Kategorien

What it really meant was: "Shame on you, lying there so lazy after sunup! Look at me , all dressed and ready to begin! For all that I don't like to get up early, it recalled old times, and was very pleasant, to be away with him again [Pg 26] upon our travels; to be in a strange city and a strange hotel, preparing to set forth on explorations. For he is the best, the most charming, the most observant of companions, and also one of the most patient.

That is one of his greatest qualities—his patience. Throughout our other trip he always kept on being patient with me, no matter what I did. Many a time instead of pushing me down an elevator shaft, drowning me in my bath, or coming in at night and smothering me with a pillow, he has merely sighed, dropped into a chair, and sat there shaking his head and staring at me with a melancholy, ruminative, hopeless expression—such an expression as may come into the face of a dumb man when he looks at a waiter who has spilled an oyster cocktail on him.

Therefore in a spirit happy yet not exuberant, eager yet controlled, hopeful yet a little bit afraid, I dressed myself hurriedly, breakfasted with him eating ham and eggs because he approves of ham and eggs , and after breakfast set out in his society to obtain what—despite my walk of the night before—I felt was not alone my first real view of Baltimore, but my first glimpse over the threshold of the South: into the land of aristocracy and hospitality, of mules and mammies, of plantations, porticos, and proud, flirtatious belles, of colonels, cotton, chivalry, and colored cooking.


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Because Baltimore was built, like Rome, on seven hills, and because trains run under it instead of through, the passing traveler sees but little of the city, his view from the train window being restricted first to a suburban district, then to a black tunnel, then to a glimpse upward from the railway cut, in which the station stands. These facts, I think, combine to leave upon his mind an impression which, if not actually unfavorable, is at least negative; for certainly he has obtained no just idea of the metropolis of Maryland. Let it be declared at the outset, then, that Baltimore is not in any sense to be regarded as a suburb of Washington.

Indeed, considering the two merely as cities situated side by side, and eliminating the highly specialized features of Washington, Baltimore becomes, according to the standards by which American cities are usually compared, the more important city of the two, being greater both in population and in commerce. In this aspect Baltimore may, perhaps, be pictured as the [Pg 28] commercial half of Washington. And while Washington, as capital of the United States, has certain physical and cosmopolitan advantages, not only over Baltimore, but over every other city on this continent, it must not be forgotten that, upon the other hand, every other city has one vast advantage over Washington, namely, a comparative freedom from politicians.

To be sure, Congress did once move over to Baltimore and sit there for several weeks, but that was in , when the British approached the Delaware in the days before the pork barrel was invented. As a city Baltimore has marked characteristics. Though south of Mason and Dixon's Line, and though sometimes referred to as the "metropolis of the South" as is New Orleans also , it is in character neither a city entirely northern nor entirely southern, but one which partakes of the qualities of both; where, in the words of Sidney Lanier, "the climates meet," and where northern and southern thought and custom meet, as well.

Adventures With Grandpa Ek: Washington DC:

This has long been the case. Thus, although slaves were held in Baltimore before the Civil War, a strong abolitionist society was formed there during Washington's first Administration, and the sentiment of the city was thereafter divided on the slavery question. Thus also, while the two candidates of the divided Democratic party who ran against Lincoln for the presidency in were nominated at Baltimore, Lincoln himself was nominated there by the Union-Republican party in Speaking of the blending of North and South in Balti [Pg 29] more, you will, of course, remember that the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment was attacked by a mob as it passed through the city on the way to the Civil War.

The regiment arrived in Baltimore at the old President Street Station, which was then the main station of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and which, now used as a freight station, looks like an old war-time woodcut out of Harper's Weekly.

It is, however, a noteworthy fact that Mayor Brown of Baltimore bravely preceded the troops and attempted to stop the rioting. A few days later the city was occupied by northern troops, and the warship Harriet Lane anchored at a point off Calvert Street, whence her guns commanded the business part of town. After this there was no more serious trouble.

Moreover, it will be remembered that though Maryland was represented by regiments in both armies, the State, torn as it was by conflicting feeling, nevertheless held to the Union. A pretty sequel to the historic attack on the Sixth Massachusetts occurred when the same regiment passed through Baltimore in , on its way to the Spanish [Pg 30] War. On this occasion it was "attacked" again in the streets of the city, but the missiles thrown, instead of paving-stones and bricks, were flowers. Continuing the category of contrasts, one may observe that while the general appearance of Baltimore suggests a northern city rather than a southern one—Philadelphia, for instance, rather than Richmond—Baltimore society is strongly flavored with the tradition and the soft pronunciation of the South; particularly of Virginia and the "Eastern Shore.

So, too, the city's position on the border line is reflected in its handling of the negro. Of American cities, Washington has the largest negro population, 94,, New York and New Orleans follow with almost as many, and Baltimore comes fourth with 84,, according to the last census.

New York has one negro to every fifty-one whites, Philadelphia one to every seventeen whites, Baltimore one to every six, Washington a negro to every two and a half whites, and Richmond not quite two whites to every negro. But, although Baltimore follows southern practice in maintaining separate schools for negro children, and in segregating negro residences to certain blocks, she follows northern practice in casting a considerable negro vote at elections, and also in not providing separate seats for negroes in her street cars.

Have you ever noticed how cities sometimes seem to have their own especial colors? Paris is white and green—even more so, I think, than Washington. Chi [Pg 31] cago is gray; so is London usually, though I have seen it buff at the beginning of a heavy fog. New York used to be a brown sandstone city, but is now turning to one of cream-colored brick and tile; Naples is brilliant with pink and blue and green and white and yellow; while as for Baltimore, her old houses and her new are, as Baedeker puts it, of "cheerful red brick"—not always, of course, but often enough to establish the color of red brick as the city's predominating hue.

And with the red-brick houses—particularly the older ones—go clean white marble steps, on the bottom one of which, at the side, may usually be found an old-fashioned iron "scraper," doubtless left over from the time not very long ago when the city pavements had not reached their present excellence.

The color of red brick is not confined to the center of the city, but spreads to the suburbs, fashionable and unfashionable. At one margin of the town I was shown solid blocks of pleasant red-brick houses which, I was told, were occupied by workmen and their families, and were to be had at a rental of from ten to twenty dollars a month. For though Baltimore has a lower East Side which, like the lower East Side of New York, encompasses the Ghetto and Italian quarter, she has not tenements in the New York sense; one sees no tall, cheap flat houses draped with fire escapes and built to make herding places for the poor.

Many of the houses in this section are instead the former homes of fashionables who have moved to other quarters of the city [Pg 32] —handsome old homesteads with here and there a lovely, though battered, doorway sadly reminiscent of an earlier elegance. So, also, red brick permeates the prosperous suburbs, such as Roland Park and Guilford, where, in a sweetly rolling country which lends itself to the arrangement of graceful winding roads and softly contoured plantings, stand quantities of pleasing homes, lately built, many of them colonial houses of red brick.

Indeed, it struck us that the only parts of Baltimore in which red brick was not the dominant note were the downtown business section and Mount Vernon Place. Mount Vernon Place is the center of Baltimore.

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Everything begins there, including Baedeker, who, in his little red book, gives it the asterisk of his approval, says that it "suggests Paris in its tasteful monuments and surrounding buildings," and recommends the view from the top of the Washington Monument. This monument, standing upon an eminence at the point where Charles and Monument Streets would cross each other were not their courses interrupted by the pleasing parked space of Mount Vernon Place, is a gray stone column, surmounted by a figure of Washington—or, rather, by the point of a lightning rod under which the figure stands.

Other monuments are known as this monument or that, but when "the monument" is spoken of, the Washington Monument is inevitably meant. This is quite natural, for it is not only the most simple and picturesque old monument in Baltimore, but also the largest, the oldest, and the most conspicuous: [Pg 33] its proud head, rising high in air, having for nearly a century dominated the city.

One catches glimpses of it down this street or that, or sees it from afar over the housetops; and sometimes, when the column is concealed from view by intervening buildings, and only the surmounting statue shows above them, one is struck by a sudden apparition of the Father of his Country strolling fantastically upon some distant roof.

If it were Parisian, it would have more trees and the surrounding buildings would be uniform in color and in cornice height. It is perhaps as much like Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia as any other, and that resemblance is of the slightest, for Mount Vernon Place has a quality altogether its own. It has no skyscrapers or semi-skyscrapers to throw it out of balance; and though the structures which surround it are of white stone, brown stone, and red brick, and of anything but homogeneous architecture, nevertheless a comparative uniformity of height, a universal solidity of construction, and a general grace about them, combine to give the Place an air of equilibrium and dignity and elegance.

Including the Washington Monument, Baltimore has [Pg 34] three lofty landmarks, likely to be particularly noticed by the roving visitor.

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Of the remaining two, one is the old brick shot-tower in the lower part of town, which legend tells us was put up without the use of scaffolding nearly a hundred years ago; while the other, a more modern, if less modest structure, proudly surmounts a large commercial building and is itself capped by the gigantic effigy of a bottle. This bottle is very conspicuous because of its emplacement, because it revolves, and because it is illuminated at night.

You can never get away from it. Why, even in Boston, where he was born, they have no such memorial as that.

Ek Is Van Afrika

That struck me as strange. It seemed somehow out of character with the great philosopher. Also, I could not see why, if he did wish to raise a memorial to himself, he had elected to fashion it in the form of a bottle and put it on top of an office building.


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  7. If the bottle tower represents certain modern concepts of what is suitable in architecture, it is nevertheless pleasant to record the fact that many honorable old buildings—most of them residences—survive in Baltimore, and that, because of their survival, the city looks older than New York and fully as old as either Philadelphia or Boston. But in this, appearances are [Pg 36] misleading, for New York and Boston were a century old, and Philadelphia half a century, when Baltimore was first laid out as a town. Efforts to start a settlement near the city's present site were, it is true, being made before William Penn and his Quakers established Philadelphia, but a letter written in by Charles Calvert, third Baron Baltimore, explains that: "The people there [are] not affecting to build nere each other but soe as to have their houses nere the watters for conveniencye of trade and their lands on each side of and behynde their houses, by which it happens that in most places there are not fifty houses in the space of thirty myles.

    The difficulty experienced by the Barons Baltimore, Lords Proprietary of Maryland, in building up communities in their demesne was not a local problem, but one which confronted those interested in the development of the entire portion of this continent now occupied by the Southern States. Generally speaking, towns came into being more slowly in the South than in the North, and it seems probable that one of the principal reasons for this may be found in the fact that settlers throughout the South lived generally at peace with the Indians, whereas the northern settlers were obliged to congregate in towns for mutual protection.

    Thus, in colonial days, while the many cities of New York and New England were coming into being, the South was developing its vast and isolated plantations. Farms on the St. Nevertheless, when Baltimore began at last to grow, she became a prodigy, not only among American cities, but among the cities of the world. Her first town directory was published in , and she began the next year as an incorporated city, with a mayor, a population of about twenty thousand, and a curiously assorted early history containing such odd items as that the first umbrella carried in the United States was brought from India and unfurled in Baltimore in ; that the town had for some time possessed such other useful articles as a fire engine, a brick theater, a newspaper, and policemen; that the streets were lighted with oil lamps; that such proud signs of metropolitanism as riot and epidemic were not unknown; that before the Revolution bachelors were taxed for the benefit of his Britannic Majesty; and that at fair time the "lid was off," and the citizen or visitor who wished to get himself arrested must needs be diligent indeed.

    Following the incorporation of the city, Baltimore grew much as Chicago was destined to grow more than a century later; within less than thirty years, when Chicago was a tiny village, Baltimore had become the third city in the United States: a city of wealthy merchants engaged in an extensive foreign trade; for in those days there was an American merchant marine, and the swift, rakish Baltimore clippers were known the seven seas over. The story of modern Baltimore is entirely unrelated to the city's early history.

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    It consists in a simple but inspiring record of regeneration springing from disaster. It is the story of Chicago, of San Francisco, of Galveston, of Dayton, and of many a smaller town: a cataclysm, a few days of despair, a return of courage, and another beginning. Imagine yourself being tucked into bed one night by your valet or your maid, as the case may be, calm in the feeling that all was secure: that your business was returning a handsome income, that your stocks and bonds [Pg 39] were safe in the strong box, that the prosperity of your descendants was assured.

    Then imagine ruin coming like lightning in the night. In the morning you are poor. Your business, your investments, your very hopes, are gone. Everything is wiped out. The labor of a lifetime must be begun again. On the sickening morning following the conflagration two Baltimore men, friends of mine, walked down Charles Street to a point as near the ruined region as it was possible to go.

    How many citizens of Chicago, of San Francisco, of Galveston, of Dayton have known the anguish of that first aftermath of hopelessness! How many citizens of Baltimore knew it that day!

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    And yet how bravely and with what magic swiftness have these cities risen from their ruins! Was not Rome burned? Was not London? And is it not, then, time for men to learn from the history of other men and other cities that disaster does not spell the end, but is oftentimes another name for opportunity? Always, after disaster to a city, come improvements, but because disaster not only cleans the slate but simultaneously stuns the mind, a portion of the opportunity [Pg 40] is invariably lost.

    The task of rebuilding, of widening a few streets, looks large enough to him who stands amidst destruction—and there, consequently, improvement usually stops. That is why the downtown boulevard system of Chicago has yet to be completed, in spite of the fact that it might with little difficulty have been completed after the Chicago fire although it is only just to add that city planning was almost an unknown art in America at that time ; and that also is why the hills of San Francisco are not terraced, as it was suggested they should be after the fire, but remain to-day inaccessible to frontal attack by even the maddest mountain goat of a taxi driver.

    These matters are not mentioned in the way of criticism: I have only admiration for the devastated cities and for those who built them up again. I call attention to lost opportunities with something like reluctance, and only in the wish to emphasize the fact that our crippled or destroyed cities do invariably rise again, and that if the next American city to sustain disaster shall but have this simple lesson learned in advance, it may thereby register a new high mark in municipal intelligence and a new record among the rebuilt cities, by making more sweet than any other city ever made them, the uses of adversity.

    The fire of found Baltimore a town of narrow highways, old buildings, bad pavements, and open gutter drains.

    The streets were laid in what is known as "southern cobble," which is the next thing to no pave [Pg 41] ment at all, being made of irregular stones, large and small, laid in the dirt and tamped down. For bumps and ruts there is no pavement in the world to be compared with it. There were no city sewers. Outside a few affluent neighborhoods, the citizens of which clubbed together to build private sewers, the cesspool was in general use, while domestic drainage emptied into the roadside gutters.

    Adventures (And Inaccessibility) in Washington, DC

    These were made passable, at crossings, by stepping stones, about the bases of which passed interesting armadas of potato peelings, floating, upon wash days, in water having the fine Mediterranean hue which comes from diluted blueing. Everybody seemed to find the entire system adequate; for, it was argued, the hilly contours of the city caused the drainage quickly to be carried off, while as for typhoid and mosquitoes—well, there had always been typhoid and mosquitoes, just as there had always been these open gutters.

    It was all quite good enough.