While designing the first synagogue in Maryland, architect Robert Cary Long Jr. cleaved to graceful, Greek Revival lines and pillars. In 1845, his vision came to life in the Lloyd Street Synagogue, which welcomed the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. Twenty-six years later, contention among the congregation about reforming its liturgy and ritual led some members to break off and form the Chizuk Amuno Congregation?who built their own Moorish Revival-style synagogue (known today as B?nai Israel Synagogue) right down the street from the first. Today, both places of worship nestle within the campus of the Jewish Museum of Maryland, formed in 1960 to rescue and restore the Lloyd Street Synagogue?which now claims the title of third-oldest standing synagogue in the United States.
The museum has gone beyond just restoring the historic place of worship, which included the preservation of its original 1845 mikveh, a ritual bath. It has built three exhibition galleries that interpret the Jewish-American experience, focusing on Jewish life in Maryland. Art, rare objects, photographs, and oral histories fill these spaces, forming rotating and permanent exhibits that delve into topics such as the symbolism and traditions of Jewish food and the evolution of the Jewish market on Lombard Street. In the lower level of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, a multimedia exhibit explores its three immigrant congregations.
Before leaving, visitors can stop by a gift shop to pick up necklaces with the Star of David, custom kippots, and toys. On the right day, guests can extend their visit to include events, or they can return for educational programming that teaches non-Jewish students about Judaism and guides teens in interfaith dialogues.
The historically curious can also make an appointment to trace genealogical roots at the Robert L. Weinberg Family History Center, found inside the museum?s Anne Adalman Goodwin Library. These form the JMM?s collections and research center, which boasts more than 150 major manuscript collections and 24,000 cataloged photographs.
A trip to the Inner Harbor isn’t complete without a visit to the historic ships. Kids can board the 19th-century USS Constellation to learn about the lives of boys who served as “powder monkeys” during the Civil War, or explore the decks of the World War II-era submarine USS Torsk.
Home to more than 17,000 animals including jellyfish, blacktip reef sharks, and honeycomb stingrays, the exhibits here immerse kids in underwater life. Visitors can meet piranhas and caimans in the Amazon River Forest, or go eye-to-eye with ocean predators in the 225,000-gallon, ring-shaped Shark Alley.
A long fly ball from Oriole Park could hit the row house where, on February 6, 1895, Babe Ruth entered the world and sent chills down the spines of pitchers and outfielders across the country. After the legend earned more than 700 home runs and 2,200 RBIs, his career ended and his life faded, leaving his birthplace to fall into disrepair. In the late 1960s, a campaign restored both it and the adjoining structures to create the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum. Babe’s widow, daughters, and sister collaborated with the museum founders to create exhibits commemorating the record breaker’s life and career, filling glass cases with balls and jerseys and restoring his bedroom to how it would have looked the year that the stork pitched the little Bambino through the window.
Originally, this museum also explored the history of the Baltimore Orioles—Ruth’s first professional team—and hosted the Baltimore Colts’ archives. Its quickly growing collection of artifacts, however, soon led to the need for a larger location. In 2005, the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum retained those items relating to its titular legend while the rest found a new home in the Sports Legends Museum. This museum occupies the basement and first floor of the historic Camden Station, sprawling throughout 22,000 square feet with exhibits that delve into subjects such as the history of baseball in Maryland and collegiate ball.
The American Visionary Art Museum devotes its space to original work by self-taught artists who honed their craft—often unintentionally—while operating on the outskirts of the formal art world. As temporary exhibitions explore a particular artist or theme in depth, the permanent collection displays thousands of powerful and often whimsical items, such as Andrew Logan's mirror-winged Black Icarus, or the haunting Applewood Figure, an emaciated sculpture said to wince whenever someone eats a piece of fruit. The museum spreads its arresting pieces throughout three historical buildings, including the expansive main building, which boasts a reflective mirrored-mosaic exterior and neighbors the Tall Sculpture Barn, an ex-whiskey warehouse fully equipped with 45-foot ceilings for large-scale projects. A wildflower garden—complete with meditation chapel—and a sculpture plaza featuring a 55-foot whirligig beckon visitors to the museum's outdoor space, where envious clouds shape themselves into crude versions of Pietà. Completing any trip, the museum's Sideshow gift shop stuffs shopping bags with an ever-rotating collection of eclectic artwork, jewelry, toys, and more.
The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House was built in 1793, originally owned by the Young-Pickersgill family. Mary Pickersgill, maker of the Star-Spangled Banner Flag, is among the historical figures portrayed. Mary and her family?including her mother, Rebecca Young, and her apprentice, Grace Wisher?describe life in the 19th century and how Mary stitched the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key's poem and the national anthem.
After exploring the house on 30- to 40-minute self-guided or docent-led tours, guests can learn about America's defense of the Chesapeake Bay against the British navy, which culminated in the battle that inspired Key's verse. The first floor's permanent exhibition gallery focuses on that defense with artifacts such as a drum used by an American soldier during the bombardment of Ft. McHenry. Kid attendees, meanwhile, can head over to the Discovery Gallery to whip up a pretend meal at a replica of the Flag House kitchen or design their own flag to string up on the gallery's flagpole.