Mount Clare Station - Baltimore, Maryland
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Bluejacket01
N 39° 17.118 W 076° 37.923
18S E 359243 N 4349706
Quick Description: The Mount Clare Station is one of the oldest stations in the United States, likely the site of the first telegraph reception, and at the heart of the birthplace of American Railroading.
Location: Maryland, United States
Date Posted: 1/25/2009 10:15:11 PM
Waymark Code: WM5NGJ
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member TheBeanTeam
Views: 25

Long Description:
Mount Clare Station is part of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, the birthplace of American railroading, which also includes a roundhouse and car shops from the nineteenth century (see the link below). A number of railroad ‘firsts’ were accomplished here, including the first common carrier railroad in the United States, the first telegraph, and the first use of trucks (or bogies in England) under a passenger car. There is a good deal of confusion over the age of the station. For many years it was claimed that the Mount Clare station was the oldest station in the United States and dated back to 1831. Over the years, evidence has come to light that this is likely not the case. From the book ‘Trains and Technology’ by Anthony J. Bianculli, (visit link)

The Mystery of Mount Clare – Although many railroad histories assert that the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s Mt. Clare station was the first true American railroad station, Mr. Herbert Harwood has made a case that the station in question was not built until the 1850s. His argument, strong but not conclusive, rests mainly on the fact that the Baltimore and Ohio’s 1850 annual reports spoke of the intent to “place a small but convenient building for the use of passengers” near Poppleton Street and, in 1851, described that building as “A small Passengers’ lodge, with offices in the second story” and located it at Poppleton Street. Other circumstantial evidence included wording in the reports that earlier passenger accommodations were inadequate, the changing point from steam- to horse-power was some distance from that spot, no earlier mention of a station was reported in previous annual reports, and a drawing of the site in the 1831 report shows only some small sheds. City maps did not locate a station at Pratt and Poppleton Streets (the site of the Mt. Clare station) until 1851, although another historian, Lawrence W. Sagle, inferred that an old map showed the station in 1841. It [is] unlikely that the road would have built such a permanent (brick) structure at what was considered a temporary terminal some distance (1½ miles) from the city center. Lending credence to Harwood’s premise that the station did not exist in the early 1830s, yet muddying the waters still further, is a passage in the Statement of Significance made when the structure was nominated to be included on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. That statement read, “the weight of evidence now available suggests that the Mount Clare Station was not built until the company was sure its railroading venture was a success; that its probable date of construction [1835] had more to do with its consolidation and growth of the company operations than with the actual beginnings of rail service.”

The latter date (1835) is probably correct, or more nearly so, because, by 1851, the Baltimore and Ohio management had decided on the construction of a large terminal in the heart of Baltimore. It is questionable (though possible) that they would have authorized the construction of a second depot, however small, nearby. Again, it was reported that the first public telegraph transmission (May 1844), Samuel F. B. Morse’s famous message, “What hath God wrought,” originated at the Capitol building in Washington, D. C. and was received at the Mt. Clare station of the railroad.

Having said all that, a brief description of the Mt. Clare surroundings in 1830 is in order. Mount Clare was “outside the city” of Baltimore, where the single track of the main line was divided into twelve tracks and where the repair facilities of the road were located. In 1830, the area where the station now stands, designated on an 1831 map as “Depot B,” included a warehouse and crude sheds. The Mt. Clare station, seen at the corner of the intersection in the illustration, figure 7.3, functioned as a depot only until the road’s Camden Street Station was completed downtown. Mt. Clare was designed in a late Georgian architectural style; polygonal in shape and its design was said to have been based on English turnpike toll houses, which were octagonal. That statement is arguable and it is more likely that the building’s odd shape conformed to the adjacent street and track alignments. From Mt. Clare, the main line proceeded to Ellicott Mills (now Ellicott City), Maryland, and when the line was completed to that point, the tariff for round trip tickets sold at Mt. Clare, a thirteen-mile, three-hour trip, was seventy-five cents. –End of narrative.

Information about the station is available from the National Park Service web site - (visit link) The Wikipedia entry is available - (visit link)
Is the station/depot currently used for railroad purposes?: No

Is the station/depot open to the public?: Yes

If the station/depot is not being used for railroad purposes, what is it currently used for?:
A railroad museum

What rail lines does/did the station/depot serve?: Baltimore & Ohio Railroad

Station/Depot Web Site: [Web Link]

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