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Baltimore is the largest independent city in the United States and the largest city and cultural center of the US state of Maryland. The city is located in central Maryland along the tidal portion of the Patapsco River, an arm of the Chesapeake Bay. Baltimore is sometimes referred to as Baltimore City in order to distinguish it from surrounding Baltimore County.

Architecture

Baltimore exhibits examples from each period of architecture over more than two centuries, and work from many famous architects such as Benjamin Latrobe, George A. Frederick, John Russell Pope, Mies Van Der Rohe and I. M. Pei.

The city has architecturally important buildings in a variety of styles. The Baltimore Basilica (1806–1821) is a neoclassical design by Benjamin Latrobe, and also the oldest Catholic Cathedral in the United States. In 1813 Robert Cary Long, Sr. built for Rembrandt Peale the first substantial structure in the United States designed expressly as a museum. Restored, it is now the Municipal Museum of Baltimore, or popularly the “Peale Museum”. The McKim Free School was founded and endowed by John McKim, although the building was erected by his son Isaac in 1822 after a design by William Howard and William Small. It reflects the popular interest in Greece when the nation was securing its independence, as well as a scholarly interest in recently published drawings of Athenian antiquities.

The Phoenix Shot Tower (1828), at 234.25 feet (71.40 m) tall, was the tallest building in the United States until the time of the Civil war. It was constructed without the use of exterior scaffolding. The Sun Iron Building designed by R.C. Hatfield in 1851, was city’s first iron-front building and it was a model for a whole generation of downtown buildings. Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church, built in 1870 in memory of financier George Brown, has stained glass windows by Louis Comfort Tiffany and has been called "one of the most significant buildings in this city, a treasure of art and architecture" by Baltimore Magazine. The 1845 Greek Revival style Lloyd Street Synagogue is one of the oldest synagogues in the United States. The Johns Hopkins Hospital, designed by Lt. Col. John S. Billings in 1876 was a considerable achievement for its day in functional arrangement and fireproofing.

I.M.Pei's World Trade Center (1977) is the tallest equilateral pentagonal building in the world at 405 feet (123.4 m) tall.

Future contributions to Baltimore's skyline include plans for a 717 foot (218.5 m) tall structure known as "10 Inner Harbor". The building was recently approved by Baltimore's design panel, but as of January 10, 2010, ARC Wheeler had yet to break ground on the project. It will include luxury condominiums, a hotel, restaurants, and shopping centers. The Naing Corporation has approved a tower of 50–60 floors for the lot at 300 Pratt street, with the design currently being finalized. The Inner Harbor East area will see the addition of two new towers which have started construction: a 24-floor tower that will be the new world headquarters of Legg Mason (now complete), and a 21 floor Four Seasons Hotel complex.

The streets of Baltimore are organized in a grid pattern, lined with tens of thousands of brick and formstone faced rowhouses. In The Baltimore Rowhouse, Mary Ellen Hayward and Charles Belfoure considered the rowhouse as the architectural form defining Baltimore as "perhaps no other American city."[46] In the mid 1790s, developers began building entire neighborhoods of the British-style rowhouses, which became the dominant house type of the city early in the 19th century.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards is considered by many to be the most beautiful baseball park in Major League Baseball, and has inspired many other cities to build their own versions of this retro style ballpark. Camden Yards along with the National Aquarium have helped revive the Inner Harbor from what once was an industrial district full of dilapidated warehouses, into a bustling commercial district full of bars, restaurants and retail establishments.

Culture

Historically a working-class port town, Baltimore has sometimes been dubbed a "city of neighborhoods," with 72 designated historic districts traditionally occupied by distinct ethnic groups. Most notable today are three downtown areas along the port: the Inner Harbor, frequented by tourists due to its hotels, shops, and museums; Fells Point, once a favorite entertainment spot for sailors but now refurbished and gentrified (and featured in the movie Sleepless in Seattle); and Little Italy, located between the other two, where Baltimore's Italian-American community is based – and where former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi grew up. Further inland, Mt. Vernon is the traditional center of cultural and artistic life of the city; it is home to a distinctive Washington Monument, set atop a hill in a 19th century urban square, that predates the more well-known monument in Washington, D.C. by several decades.

Each year the Artscape takes place in the city in the Bolton Hill neighborhood, due to its proximity to Maryland Institute College of Art. Artscape styles itself as the 'largest free arts festival in America'.

Performing arts

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is an internationally renowned orchestra, founded in 1916 as a publicly funded municipal organization. The current Music Director is Marin Alsop, a protégé of Leonard Bernstein. Center Stage is the premier theater company in the city and a regionally well-respected group. The Baltimore Opera was an important regional opera company, though it filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and is not currently performing. The Baltimore Consort has been a leading early music ensemble for over twenty-five years. The France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, home of the restored Thomas W. Lamb-designed Hippodrome Theatre, has afforded Baltimore the opportunity to become a major regional player in the area of touring Broadway and other performing arts presentations.

Baltimore also boasts a wide array of professional (non-touring) and community theater groups. Aside from Center Stage, resident troupes in the city include Everyman Theatre, Single Carrot Theatre, and Baltimore Theatre Festival. Community theaters in the city include Fells Point Community Theatre and the Arena Players Inc., which is the nation's oldest continuously operating African American community theater.

Baltimore is home to the Pride of Baltimore Chorus, a 3-time International silver medalist women's chorus, affiliated with Sweet Adelines International.

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