Baltimore Civil War Museum
The Maryland Historical Society (MHS) has taken
over control of the Baltimore Civil War Museum-President Street
Station, Inc. and is now the new administrator of the museum.
The museum will continue its regular operations under the new
"The people of Baltimore City and its visitors will benefit
from this new relationship and the MHS is delighted to have
an Inner Harbor presence," said MHS Board President Stanard
"Baltimore City and the State of Maryland are more vibrant
now that the Station and the Baltimore Civil War Museum have
a bright and robust future," said Baltimore City Councilman
John Cain, who is a member of both the Station and MHS groups.
The 1849 train station, one of the oldest in the nation, houses
a permanent exhibition focused on Baltimore during the Civil
War and the role of the President Street Station in the era.
It also features exhibits focused on Maryland's railroad
history and the building's role in the transportation of
slaves escaping to the North.
On April 19, 1861, as Northern troops were passing through the
city between rail stations on their way to defend Washington,
D.C., the first blood was shed. The so-called "Baltimore
Riots" left four men in the 6th Massachusetts Infantry
and some civilians dead and many injured.
Ralph Vincent, the director of the Friends of President Street
Station, said he was pleased with the new arrangement.
"The Historical Society's involvement will secure
the Civil War Museum's future and the Friends group looks
forward to remaining involved - as volunteers and as advisors
- under the new leadership," Vincent said.
Under the terms of the agreement, which was announced Nov. 2,
the Historical Society has assumed the museum's 20-year
lease from the City of Baltimore. When the lease expires in
2017, the MHS will have the option to renew it for another 20
years. The society would, some day, like to own the station
"The MHS's new leadership of the Baltimore Civil War
Museum is truly a win-win situation for both institutions,"
said MHS Director Dennis Fiori. "We can provide the administrative
and financial backing the museum needs while we acquire a new
space in which to exhibit our outstanding collection related
to Maryland's role in the Civil War and in the abolition
of slavery. The MHS has one of the country's best Civil
War collections. Its strength lies in its vastness and in the
fact that it represents both sides of the war due to Maryland's
divided loyalties during that era."
Many of the items on display in the President Street Station
facility are on loan from the MHS, Fiori said.
"We have had a relationship with the museum since it opened
and have always been supportive of their mission," Fiori
said. "The addition of MHS's staff and services
will strengthen the museum and its ability to operate in a competitive
According to a recent column published in The Sun, the Baltimore
Civil War Museum is the victim of inconsiderate surrounding
growth and architectural design which has made the President
Street Station "virtually unapproachable."
Three years of construction in the Inner Harbor area has more
than halved its first year admissions of some 18,000 visitors,
according to columnist Dan Rodericks.
He said the construction of hotels and a parking garage in the
immediate vicinity of the station has squashed it.
"Overshadowed by those imposing buildings in Inner Harbor
East, it's going to need all the help it can get,"
Shawn Cunningham, the director of the BCWM, agrees that the
historical society's leadership will be beneficial to both
"I have been involved with the President Street Station
since the 1980s when it was in miserable shape," Cunningham
said. "Our new relationship with the MHS will provide the
Civil War museum with a strong base during the inevitable ups
and downs that take place at museum within any year.
Cunningham said that visitors often say they wish there were
more items on display. The additional space in the Civil War
museum will offer more exhibition space for the historical society's
"We will proceed carefully before making any changes,"
said Fiori, noting that the Civil War Museum will allow the
society to expand its educational offerings and serve new audiences
in the Inner Harbor section of Baltimore.
Since opening in 1997, the Baltimore Civil War Museum has operated
with one full-time and one part-time staff member and a corps
of approximately 75 volunteers who serve the museum under the
auspices of the Friends of Presidents Street Station.
The non-profit organization formed in 1987 and has provided
occasional funding as well as staff, programming and promotion
for the museum. The friends group worked for years to save the
bulding and had it included in the National Register of Historic
The Maryland Historical Society was founded in 1844 and is the
state's oldest cultural institution. The MHS includes a
museum, library, press, extensive educational programs and collects,
preserves and interprets objects and materials reflecting Maryland's
The Baltimore Civil War Museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays
from 10 to 5 with a $2 admission.