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Federal Hill

Discover Charles Street > Your Charles Street Journey > Federal Hill

The two neighborhoods of Sharp-Leadenhall and Federal Hill are nestled west of the city’s two sport stadia and the harbor. Both are historically significant and tell stories that touch upon key aspects of American history, including the War of 1812, early abolitionist movements, and immigration. 

Sharp-Leadenhall is associated with 200 years of African American and immigrant history. The African American community along the Sharp Street corridor began with a partnership with Methodist and Quakers; both denominations which were rooted in the area and were strong opponents of slavery. In 1789, the Baltimore Abolitionist Society was founded—the first in the south and the third in the United States. Society members established the African Academy of Baltimore on Sharp Street in 1797. The school was the first in the south for children of African descent and the first purpose-built African American school in the nation.

As the 18th century drew to a close, an African American community grew along the Sharp Street corridor. The neighborhood was home to the country’s most important African American intellectuals. German immigrants also established a presence here, and a physically integrated community took form.

Things to See in Sharp-Leadenhall

  • Ebenezer AME Church (18 W. Montgomery)—This is the oldest standing church built by an African American congregation, dating to 1865. It stands on the site of an earlier church building erected in 1848 by the same congregation, which may have formed as early as 1816. Several outstanding clergymen served the church, including Bishop Daniel A. Payne, who founded the nation’s oldest African American university.
  • Leadenhall Baptist Church (1021 Leadenhall Street)—Established in 1873, the church was constructed for specifically for African American Baptists and is the city’s second-oldest church building in continuous use by the same black congregation. The church is one of the few remaining structures that tie in to the neighborhood’s African American history.
  • John Wesley Chapel (S. Sharp and W. Hughes streets)— Prior to 1838, a “Watch Meeting” under Methodist principles was held in a carpenter’s shop on the corner of Sharp and Little Hughes streets. In 1838, the Methodist congregation purchased the shop and renamed it John Wesley Chapel in honor of the founder of the Methodist denomination.

Federal Hill
In June 1608, Captain John Smith was the first European to lay eyes on Federal Hill, who reported seeing “a great red bank of clay flanking a natural harbor basin.” The hill, and the neighborhood that surrounds it, is significant for its contribution to Baltimore's early maritime trade, which has been largely responsible for Baltimore growth and development. The hill was the focus of many important events in Baltimore history: it was a signal observatory to identify incoming vessels from 1795 to 1902; the hill hosted a celebration of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution; and during the War of 1812 and the Civil War military outposts stood at the hill’s peak.

The neighborhood that developed around the hill was home to merchants and laborers. The architecture of Federal Hill is among the most diverse in city, and many of the earliest houses in Baltimore can be found in the area. Post-Civil War and Victorian Era houses provide sightseers with a diversity of architectural details, including stained glass, bracketed cornices, ornate storefronts, and elaborate iron fencing.

Today both residents and visitors enjoy taking in the amazing view of downtown Baltimore from Federal Hill. It’s just a short stroll from top to lively restaurants and bars, unique shopping, and Baltimore most unique art museum.

Things to See in Federal Hill

  • American Visionary Art Museum (800 Key Highway) — America's national museum for self-taught art delights visitors even before walking through the front door. AVAM’s exterior is decorated with a mirror mosaic and boasts a 55-foot-tall whirligig at the entrance. Inside visitors discover art in a setting that is decidely different from an old-fashioned museum.
  • Cross Street Market (1065 S. Charles) — A market has stood at the corner of Cross and South Charles streets since the late 1800s. The city’s neighborhood markets were the original “supermarkets” and still today vendors offer patrons a variety of fresh produce, meats and and seafood, prepared foods like tacos and sandwiches, and even fresh flowers.
  • Federal Hill Park (300 Warren Ave) — Following the Civil War, the city decided to create a formal park at the top of Federal Hill. Today the park is known for its fantastic view of the Inner Harbor and the downtown skyline. Two impressive statues honor the War of 1812 heroes Samuel Smith and George Armistead. The statues were recently restored for the bicentennial of the war.
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