This past weekend was the 14 th annual Baltimore Book Festival, and I am a writer by trade so it would seem a perfect fit for my time. Unfortunately, I was sick most of last week so browsing for books was the last thing on my itinerary, but one does what one must. Besides, it gave me an excuse to get out of the apartment for a few hours.
I left the apartment around 11:45am, and made my way towards the festival. Charles St was closed off so I detoured around Madison St where I stopped at the ATM before heading in through the eastern end of Mt Vernon park.
The festival itself wasn’t all that big: a few food stands on the north side of the park, a few book tents near the middle, an authors’ tent at the bottom of the hill, and several smaller stands surrounding the monument. There was also a large children’s area along the western flank of the park, and various tours for art, architecture and literature (this was a book festival after all).
It was 1pm, and having seen all four blocks of the festival, I decided to join the “Literary Mount Vernon” tour forming outside the Peabody Library.
There were about 20 or so other people waiting for the tour when I arrived including: our guide, Jo Williams of the Maryland Humanities Council; her assistant (whose name I never caught) and a tall thin man in 19 th century attire (later identified as a “Mr. Poe”).
Our first stop was inside the library where Ms. Williams regaled us with stories about George Peabody, F. Scott Fitzgerald (who lived in Bolton Hill) and John Dos Passos. We then left the library and traveled past the old Stafford Hotel and then east towards Emmanuel Episcopal Church where she spoke of the church’s poetry reading, the Baltimore School of the Arts and H.L Mencken (whose house is now part of BSA).
But as our guide was talking a car drove by and the passenger shouted: “We love Bal-Tay-More!”
“Well, at least, they are saying nice things about their city,” Mr. Poe said.
Next, we headed west and north to the Belvedere Hotel (now condominiums) to hear about Henry James stay there in 1906 that became part of The American Scene, and a brief tour of the adjoining Owl Bar which resulted in us being chased outside by a server shouting about lunch specials and happy hour.
A block away was the house where Emily Post was born and further down the street was the home of Gertrude Stein. The latter being where the “abbreviated” tour ended (at 2:30pm), and thus I made my way back towards the festival for a final walkthrough before going home.