Baltimore Harbor

Baltimore Inner Harbor - Fells Point Underground Railroad Walking Tour

Baltimore Harbor

Baltimore City and its waterfront echo incredible stories from the past - the stories of survival, courage and the yearning of thousands of African Americans to be free. Follow this 3-mile walking tour to discover the vibrant communities, people, and events that wove and built a new nation while striving for freedom for all Americans.

Start just west of the harbor at Camden Street Railroad Station. Follow the Inner Harbor Promenade to discover sites where slavery was met with determination for liberty, gripping journeys to freedom began, and Underground Railroad heroes and abolitionists conducted a hidden world for change.

Camden Street Railroad Station
Camden Street Railroad Station

Camden Street Station served as the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad’s main passenger terminal beginning in 1853, and its early offices were located here between 1856 until 1881. Freedom seekers who traveled the B & O Railroad during this time passed through Camden Street Station on their way to Philadelphia.

In 1855, Jane Johnson and her sons Daniel and Isaiah rode the B & O train enroute to New York City from Washington, D.C. through this station with their enslaver, John Wheeler. During a brief stop in Philadelphia, Jane and her children escaped. She knew that the laws in Pennsylvania would protect her, and Wheeler could not stop her.

Although a law called the Fugitive Slave Act (1850) required people to report fugitive slaves to authorities or pay hefty fines, the B & O made no effort to enforce this law and paid these penalties when a fine was imposed.

Civil War-era B & O Railroad President John Work Garrett, worked in Camden Station’s offices. He supported the Union cause during the Civil War, which relied upon the railroad to transport supplies and soldiers. Garrett worked alongside President Lincoln, who established the United States Military Railroad and took control of the B & O. Union troops traveled through the station on the way to defend the U.S. Capitol at the onset of the Civil War in 1861.

President Abraham Lincoln passed through here on his way to deliver the Gettysburg Address, committing the country to a new birth of freedom. In April 1865, the assassinated president’s 9-car funeral train arrived at Camden Station, the first stop on its lengthy journey from Washington, D.C. to Springfield, Illinois via the B & O Railroad and the Northern Central Railway’s Baltimore-Harrisburg line.

The original Camden Street Station building is intact. Commuter rail lines serve an expanded and relocated station nearby at Oriole Park at Camden Yards adjacent to the B&O Warehouse.

301 West Camden Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

From Camden Street Station, travel east on Camden Street, turn right on Howard Street, left on Conway Street and right onto S. Sharp Street. Cross W. Barre St. Welcome Alley is the next left turn, a historic cobbled alley. Follow it to Welcome Alley Park on your left.

Residence of Underground Railroad Agent Thomas Skinner
Welcome Alley

Wagon driver Thomas Skinner lived on Welcome Alley and shepherded enslaved people to freedom, hidden in his wagon. In 1857, Skinner was convicted on four counts of enticing the enslaved to run away. He was sentenced to prison for ten years and four months but was later pardoned by Governor Bradford in 1865, just before the conclusion of the Civil War.

The cobbled streets and historic row homes on Welcome Alley stand as witnesses to Skinner’s Underground Railroad operations over a century ago.

Welcome Alley Park
Baltimore, MD 21201

Nearby on Sharp Street, Baltimore’s first Black congregation built Sharp Street Methodist Episcopal Church in 1802. The church ran a school headed by abolitionist and anti-colonizationist William Watkins. Watkins inspired radical abolitionist and writer William Lloyd Garrison to attack slavery with his pen. Watkins’ niece, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, whom he raised, became an active abolitionist and famous writer.

As you continue to the next site at the Baltimore Harbor, imagine the scene filled with wharves, slave holding pens, and traders holding slave auctions. Sailing ships and steamships came into dock daily.

Around Baltimore Harbor, notorious slave traders, such as Austin Woolfolk, Hope Slater, Isaac Franklin, John Armfield and Benjamin Campbell operated out of offices and hotels on Conway Street and the Light Street Wharf. Dozens of slave markets and trading houses surrounded the harbor along Pratt Street all the way to Kerr’s Wharf at Fells Point. Traders also operated along Lombard, Baltimore, Fayette and Lexington streets, always a reminder of the abominable fate of those who could not get free.

Most slave traders owned ships and transferred thousands of captives torn from their lives in Maryland to the Deep South to work on cotton, sugar and rice plantations. The ships returned to the North carrying the products of their enslaved labor.

Although these forces that underpinned slavery were daunting, Black and white anti-slavery activists fought relentlessly to end slavery with remarkable bravery. Working in slavery’s shadow, they committed to fortifying freedom for all Americans.

Continue east on Welcome Alley to S. Hanover Street. Turn left and cross W. Barre Street. Follow the paved pathway through the park to the intersection of Conway Street and Charles Street. Continue East on Charles Street. Cross Light Street and walk to the Baltimore Visitor Center on Light Street, which offers restrooms and travel information.

Baltimore Visitor Center
Baltimore Visitor Center
Visit Baltimore

The Baltimore Visitor Center provides one-on-one personalized visitor information services, reservations and ticketing services. Interactive touchscreens provide visitors with information about attractions, museums, restaurants, lodging and wayfinding. Here you can get travel information about Baltimore from friendly travel counselors to help with trip planning.

Near here on Camden Street, at the site of today’s Convention Center, Hannah Goosebury and her teenage children Judea and Stephen escaped enslavement from Baltimore businessman William Heckrotte in 1844. Hannah was assisted by abolitionist and Underground Railroad agent Charles T. Torrey.

Torrey is credited with helping more than 400 people escape slavery during the early 1840s. He worked in conjunction with his partner, Underground Railroad agent Rev. Thomas Smallwood. Until Torrey was arrested and convicted, the two men operated successful escape routes on land and water between Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia. Governor of Maryland Thomas Pratt granted him clemency in 1846, but just hours before he was released, Torrey succumbed to tuberculosis.

 401 Light Street
 Baltimore, MD 21202

From the visitor center, turn left onto the Baltimore Waterfront Promenade and follow it around the corner to the U.S.S. Constellation.

U.S.S. Constellation
Historic Ships in Baltimore - USS Constellation
Historic Ships in Baltimore

The USS Constellation, patrolled the West Coast of Africa and captured illegal slave traders after the Transatlantic Slave Trade was outlawed in 1808.

The Baltimore waterfront, where this maritime beacon of freedom is docked, once witnessed the importation of enslaved human cargo. Until 1808, ships deposited African captives and sold them from wharves around Baltimore’s shorelines. After the Transatlantic Slave Trade was outlawed, some traders illegally smuggled Africans to these shores for the next fifty years. British and American naval vessels intercepted the illegal trade by patrolling the coasts of West Africa, the Caribbean and the United States.

The USS Constellation, a sloop-of-war built in 1854, became the flagship of the U.S. Africa Squadron and captured illegal slave traders plying the waters off the African coast. The ship and her crew captured three illegal slave ships: Delicia on September 21, 1859; Cora on September 26, 1860; and Triton on May 20, 1861, liberating 705 Africans including 199 women and children.

She returned home during the Civil War and was used by the Union Navy to assist in capturing the Confederate steamship, the CSS Sumter.

Today you can visit and tour her at Pier 1, formerly Light Street Wharf, in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Walk the decks and see its battery of guns, the living quarters and galley. Imagine her with a crew of 325 sailors and officers on the high seas fighting for freedom.

Historic Ships in Baltimore
301 E. Pratt Street
Baltimore, MD 21202

Continue walking east on the Baltimore Waterfront Promenade to the Marine Mammal Pavilion of the National Aquarium in Baltimore on Pier 4. Just past the aquarium, a footbridge crosses the water to Pier 5. As you enter the bridge, look for the two interpretive markers on your right.

Dugan’s Wharf - Pier 4, National Aquarium in Baltimore
View of Pier 4 and Dugan’s Wharf from Four Seasons Hotel and Resort
Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore

On October 21, 1856, Harriet Tubman carried out one of her most daring rescues from this pier. She helped a young woman named “Tilly” flee enslavement from Dugan’s Wharf, now known as Pier 4 and the site of the National Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Pavilion.  

Knowing they would not be able to travel northward to Philadelphia safely without being questioned and caught, Tubman made a clever and wise plan to carry Tilly to freedom. They boarded the steamboat Kent and traveled southeast across the Chesapeake Bay and up the Nanticoke River to Seaford, Delaware. Tubman knew that the Kent made weekly round trip excursions to Maryland’s Eastern Shore, carrying mail, freight and passengers to ports on several rivers, including the Nanticoke.

Once Tubman and Tilly arrived in Seaford, the two women took the newly built Delaware Railroad to Camden. They eventually found their way to Wilmington, where Underground Railroad agent Thomas Garrett documented their arrival and helped them travel to Philadelphia and freedom.

As you stand on the bridge adjacent to Pier 4, you will find two interpretive markers that describe this event and the pathway to freedom that the Baltimore waterfront provided.

Imagine the crowded, busy wharves and nearby streets, where free and enslaved Blacks worked side-by-side and socialized, worshiped, and married - sometimes in secret. The bustling activity within the city and along the waterfront in the 1800s proved conducive to escape. Thousands attempted to flee by ship, railroad, wagon, and foot to cities and ports in the North. The lucky ones achieved liberation.

National Aquarium, Pier 4, Inner Harbor
501 E Pratt Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
410 576-3800

Cross the footbridge to Pier 5, walk past Pierce’s Park and cross the Eastern Avenue bridge. Continue eastward on Eastern Avenue and cross President Street. Turn left and head northwest on President Street and walk 3 blocks to Pratt Street. Cross Pratt Street to reach the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African-American History and Culture.

Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History and Culture
Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture

In this museum you will find exhibits on 400 years of Maryland African-American history and culture. The Things Hold, Lines Connect gallery features the history of Maryland slavery with special emphasis on the people and events of Maryland’s Underground Railroad. Several Underground Railroad heroes and freedom seekers are portrayed, including Josiah Henson, Samuel Denson, Charles Ball, William Parker, Ann Marie Weems, Thomas Smallwood, James Pennington, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman.

The gallery illustrates the poignant differences between the lives of Blacks who were free and those who were not. Imagery, music, sounds and oral histories convey how self-determination, family bonds, and community ties through worship helped the oppressed survive against all odds.

In the 1850s, Tom Tubman, Harriet Tubman’s brother-in-law, lived on Slemmers Alley near where the Reginald F. Lewis Museum is now located. Harriet Tubman relied on her friends and relatives in Fells Point and surrounding neighborhoods to hide her charges or get messages to others when she conducted rescues through Baltimore.

Harriet Tubman’s first rescue mission happened in December 1850, when she met her niece Kessiah Bowley and Kessiah’s young family near here. Kessiah, her husband and children escaped from Cambridge and sailed across the Chesapeake Bay in the dark of night to meet Tubman. When Kessiah arrived, they were hidden safely among family and friends living on Slemmers Alley, and Dallas, Bond and Pratt streets, until Harriet Tubman could bring them safely to Philadelphia. Slemmers Alley is now part of Baltimore's Little Italy.

830 E. Pratt Street
Baltimore, MD 21202

From the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, cross Pratt Street and walk south on President Street. Cross President Street at Eastern Avenue and continue walking south on President Street for another block. Cross Fleet Street. The President Street Station Museum will be on your right.

President Street Station Museum
President Street Station Museum

The Philadelphia, Wilmington, & Baltimore Railroad (PW&B) began in 1838 to connect Baltimore to Philadelphia. Several individuals escaped to Philadelphia on this rail line, including Frederick Douglass in 1838 who disguised himself as a sailor.

Freedom seekers who fled through President Street Station include Charlotte Giles and Harriet Eglin; Henry “Box” Brown; Jake, Bob and Stephen Pennington; Joseph G. Johnson; Rachel and Elizabeth Parker; and William and Ellen Craft. The General Vigilance Committee of the Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia, and other groups aided the enslaved in fleeing by using this railroad. Some employees of the PW&B also aided in the escapes. Many freedom seekers fled on their own without assistance.

Some individuals shipped themselves in crates to reach Philadelphia unnoticed. Others used disguises to avoid getting caught. Charlotte Giles and Harriet Eglin, two women from Fells Point, used disguises to escape via train. They purchased black dresses and veils to pose as women in mourning. A free Black friend helped them to the depot and convinced a white man that the two were her free nieces. The man vouched for them so the women could obtain tickets to York, Pennsylvania. Although one of their enslavers rushed through the train looking for his “property,” he did not recognize the grieving women covered in black veils.

Museum exhibits inside the station describe the tumultuous escapes these individuals endured. The present station was built in 1850, replacing the original circa 1842 depot.

601 President Street
Baltimore, MD 21202

From President Street Station, continue south on President Street, continuing around the circle at the intersection with Aliceanna Street, until you reach the waterfront. Cross Lancaster Street and rejoin the Baltimore Waterfront Promenade. Turn left and walk on the promenade adjacent to Lancaster Street. Turn right onto S. Central Avenue. Cross the bridge and continue to Point Street. Turn left on Point Street and follow it to Thames Street. Turn right on Thames Street. The Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park and Museum is straight ahead.

Frederick Douglass - Isaac Myers Maritime Park and Museum
Frederick Douglass - Isaac Myers Maritime Park and Museum

This museum celebrates the contributions of African Americans in Baltimore’s maritime industry. It explores the lives of two national leaders - Frederick Douglass and Issac Myers - and the founding of the Chesapeake Marine Railway and Dry Dock Company, the only African-American owned and operated shipyard in the United States.

Frederick Douglass lived here enslaved at Fells Point when he was eight years old and taught himself to read. He later was sent here as an adult and became a ship caulker. He met his free wife Anna Murray in Fells Point. Together they planned his escape via train from President Street Station, and the two of them fled to New York where they married. She influenced him in becoming a renowned scholar and inspiring orator.

In the museum, you can discover his hidden world on the Fells Point waterfront and uncover the significance of this free and enslaved Black community in the fight for freedom. Guided tours are available with advance notice.

The site preserves one of the city’s oldest existing waterfront industrial buildings. A Frederick Douglass sculpture is on the park grounds.

1417 Thames Street
Baltimore, MD 21231

From the museum, while facing Thames Street, turn right and head east on Thames Street for 2.5 blocks until you reach Broadway Street. Turn right on Broadway and walk
out onto Broadway Pier.

Fells Point Historic District at Broadway Pier
Fells Point

Fells Point was once a bustling waterfront shipbuilding and commercial business district where free and enslaved Blacks worked side-by-side on the docks, streets and wharves. Black mariners were part of a secret communication network that carried messages to and from people at ports in the North, bringing news of a free land.

With access to waterways and railroads, Fells Point had several pathways to freedom. Many enslaved people escaped from homes, businesses, shipyards, vessels and wharves. Frederick Douglass worked as a caulker in the shipyards and planned his successful escape here in 1838.

Black seamen, known as Black Jacks, manned American vessels in the Chesapeake, battling British forces and achieving victory. George Roberts, a free Black mariner living in Fells Point, sailed on the private schooner Sarah Ann. After his ship was captured by the British, he was imprisoned along with his captain and shipmates in Jamaica. Once freed, Roberts sailed again on another American ship blockading British ports. He returned to Baltimore in 1815 and purchased a home on Ann Street at Fells Point.

These docks and wharves were also places where women and men first arrived after being kidnapped from the continent of Africa. A Middle Passage port of entry marker designates this site as part of the UNESCO Slave Route Project.

Some of the fastest vessels in the world were built at Fells Point by the hands of African Americans. The famous Baltimore Clippers, first designed and launched from these Fells Point slipways, dominated the seas. The famous USS Constellation was built here in Baltimore.

920 S. Broadway
Baltimore, MD 21231

From Broadway Pier, return to the intersection with Thames Street and follow Broadway Street north for 3 blocks to Fleet Street. Turn left onto Fleet Street and follow it westward for 3 blocks to Dallas Street. Turn right onto S. Dallas Street. Stop at 524 South Dallas Street, the beginning of Frederick Douglass Place.

Frederick Douglass Place
Douglass Place in Fells Point

Frederick Douglass wrote that “going to live at Baltimore laid the foundation and opened the gateway to all my subsequent prosperity.” Indeed he built upon his Fells Point foundation.

The Strawberry Alley Methodist Church once stood on this site, and Frederick Douglass attended the church’s sabbath school at age 12. After escaping slavery by boarding a train on September 3, 1838, Douglass returned in 1864 as an experienced orator, abolitionist and free man.  He celebrated the abolition of slavery in 1864 at Strawberry Alley Church.

When Douglass returned again in 1891, he found the church abandoned and in disrepair. He was determined to improve the site and help the local working-class African American community with affordable rental housing. He bought the property, razed the church building and hired workers to build these 5 row houses on the foundation of the Strawberry Alley Church.

He wrote “I have much interest and affection for this old spot around Fells Point where I first felt that I might be useful in advancing and elevating our race.”

A marble plaque on one of the row homes denotes Douglass Place. A marker on another describes Frederick Douglass’s life and history here.

524 S. Dallas Street
Baltimore, MD 21231

These are privately-owned homes. Please be respectful of privacy. Do not knock on doors or look in the windows.

From South Dallas Street, travel south to Fleet Street and turn left. Follow Fleet Street for 4.5 blocks to President Street. Turn right onto President Street and walk one block to Eastern Avenue. Turn left onto Eastern Avenue and pick up the Waterfront Promenade at Pierce’s Park. Follow it west to the Inner Harbor where your tour began.

Alternatively, you may board a water taxi from Broadway Pier in Fells Point. Take the Downtown Loop to travel back to Harbor East or Harborplace and enjoy seeing the city from the water.

Frederick Douglass Walking Tours of Fells Point
Frederick Douglass Statue at Frederick Douglass Isaac Myers Maritime Park and Museum

While exploring Frederick Douglass’s history and heritage in Fells Point, take a guided walking tour from one of these tour companies to reveal secrets of the Underground Railroad. Discover places that shaped Frederick Douglass’s life and destiny.

Becoming Frederick Douglass Walking Tour
This 90-minute walking tour, offered in partnership with the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation, follows the journey of the young, enslaved Freddy Bailey, who learned to read in what was then the busy ship-building area of Baltimore known as Fells Point.

Frederick Douglass Freedom & Heritage Trail and Tour
This guided tour through Fells Point includes slave jails, Underground Railroad sites associated with Baltimore abolitionists, and Frederick Douglass, who lived in Fells Point and fled to freedom from here.

Pathways to Freedom Guide

Follow Pathways To Freedom Guide

Download the Pathways to Freedom Guide to find detailed walking tour maps.