Back to the Future – Baltimore Edition

Submitted by: Varghese Paranilam

It was a beautiful morning after the Winter Solstice when the Fiscal Administration team mounted our 15 passenger Ford van for a trip back in time. Well… not really, but on this morning we would be walking the floors of the house where  Mary Pickersgill sewed the garrison flag that a young lawyer, Francis Scott Key, would someday write a poem titled “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The Fiscal Administration team toured several of our historic properties all supported by the work of DGS Facility Maintenance Division: The Peale Center, The Phoenix Shot Tower, Carroll Mansion and, finally, The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House.

The Peale Center is the oldest museum building in North America and was the City Hall for Baltimore (1830-1875). During the War of 1812 and the bombardment of Fort McHenry, Rembrandt Peale and his family stayed in the museum with hopes that when British soldiers came across the building they would spare it as a residence rather than as a piece of history. Fortunately, the Continental soldiers rallied and the British troops were turned back on that stormy night. The next day our flag remained in sight.

The Phoenix Shot Tower, erected in 1828, was the tallest building in the United States at that time. The “Shot Tower” was used to make shot for hunting. The process encompassed melting lead, pouring it through a colander, and allowing it to fall 215 feet to cool and form perfect spheres before landing in a water barrel at the base of the tower. Over 2.5 million pounds of shot was produced in a year using only 3 workers. Talk about LEAN workflows!

The Carroll Mansion housed as many “Charles’” and “Mary’s” as there were signers of the Declaration of Independence. Perhaps not as many, but Charles Carroll of Carrollton was the last living signer of the Declaration. He spent his winters in Baltimore at the Carroll Mansion. The Carroll family has deep rooted Catholic ties which led to the eventual creation of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the first Catholic Diocese in the United Stated, and its first Arch Bishop, John Carroll.

Finally, this staff of penny-pinchers and numbers-crunchers ventured over to The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House. This structure and recently renovated visitors center, takes you back to the time of Baltimore’s boom, literally: people could hear the bombs bursting in air, from here. The house where Mary Pickersgill lived was the site where the famed Star-Spangle Banner was sewed. The facility was a wonderful time travel in history and features a map embedded in their courtyard of stones from every state. The Visitor Center features an amazing entryway, where visitors are greeted by a 30’ x 42’ stained glass window of our stars and stripes.

On this day in 2016, the Fiscal Administrative team took a trip in time and learned how Baltimore flourished in America’s early history. This is the city we serve, and the city we love!

We thank Jackson Gilman-Forlini, Historic Properties Coordinator, for being an excellent tour guide. Thanks to Paula Hankins, Director of Carroll Mansion and Amanda Shores Davis, Director of The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House for their impressive presentations.

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