African Americans in the Law Collection

A Legal Historian's Tour of Baltimore

View and print the walking guide map


University of Maryland School of Law at night(1) The University of Maryland School of Law is at the corner of Baltimore and Paca. The school is linked on that same block to the Westminster Burial Grounds at the corner of Fayette and Greene streets, which is the most historic plot in Baltimore. (2) Walk around the block from the entrance to the law school and enter the burial ground at the northwest corner of the block. (If the weather holds, it is possible to grab lunch from the Lexington Market and sit out among the monuments and eat). While most people come to look at the grave site of Edgar Allan Poe near the front gate, the historian may be more interested in that of James McHenry at the southeast corner. Dr. McHenry was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, and his notes of its deliberations provide our best check as to the accuracy of Madison's. McHenry also was elected as delegate to the ratification convention (along with Dr. John Coulter who is buried beneath the manse of Westminster Church), receiving more votes in fact than there were eligible voters because the city registrars did not enforce property qualifications in the election.

Nearby in the burial grounds, you can find the grave of Samuel Smith, the general in charge of defenses at the Battle of Baltimore. Samuel Smith was also well known as a financier and politician. As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee he had been Jefferson 's intermediary with Bayard to persuade the delegate not to vote for Aaron Burr. Smith declined Jefferson 's offer of a cabinet position, but his brother Robert did secure the position of Secretary of Navy and later Secretary of State. Robert Smith is buried in the vault at the northeast corner of the cemetery. Sam was in general partnership with James Buchanan, who is also buried in a vault at the northeast corner of the cemetery. Buchanan was the president of the Second Bank of the United States in Baltimore. He and his colleagues George Williams and James McCulloch bought most of the stock in the bank so that they controlled (through proxies) its operations. By controlling the bank, Williams, Buchanan and McCulloch were able to pay for their stock with bank notes by unsecured borrowing from the bank itself. One of the notes issued to George Williams was not on the stamped paper required by the state of Maryland and was the subject of McCulloch v. Maryland , 17 U.S. 316 (1819). The Williams family was scheduled to be buried in Westminster and had their vault in the area which is now in the catacombs beneath Westminster Hall but when the Green Mount cemetery across town opened in 1836 it became the place to go and later generations of the Williams' were interred there.

(3) Much of the land in this part of town was owned by John Eager Howard. On some occasions gentlemen acquired lots from Howard and employed a builder to construct a custom home. Perhaps the most infamous example of this occurred when as part of John Eager Howard's effort to relocate the seat of Maryland government from Annapolis to Baltimore he gave influential Delegate (later U.S. Supreme Court Justice) Samuel Chase ten building lots near the proposed capital site. Chase took the booty and build a comfortable three-and-a-half story brick house at the corner of Lexington and Eutaw Streets - near the Lexington Market - which served as his principal residence for the remainder of his life (but never delivered a quid pro quo). Chase's grave is in St. Paul 's Episcopal Churchyard at Lombard and Martin Luther King. It is not far away, but the graveyard is not generally open to the public. Justice Chase became a staunch and somewhat intemperate supporter of the Federalists and of the anti-Republican laws in the early Federalist period. The failure of the attempt to impeach him has become a hallmark of judicial independence. The Chase Mansion was where Jerome Bonaparte was introduced to Betsy Patterson in 1803. Their grandson, Charles Jerome Bonaparte, became Attorney General of the United States from 1906-09.

(4) Take Fayette Street east to Charles Street. Hooper's Restaurant used to stand at Fayette and Charles. A group of African-American students sat in at the restaurant and were arrested for trespassing. Their case went up to the Supreme Court where their counsel argued that police eviction from public accommodations was state action. The Court divided in Bell v. Maryland, 378 U.S. 226 (1964) and remanded the case to the Maryland Court of Appeals to consider the impact of the subsequently enacted state public accommodations statute. The Court of Appeals initially held that the statute was inapplicable, but then reversed itself and dismissed all the cases. While the case was winding its way through the courts, the first named appellant, Robert Mack Bell, was winding his way through Harvard Law School. He became an attorney and rose to his present position as the Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, the very court that had considered his case.

(5) Continue for another two blocks along Fayette. To your left at Calvert Street is the Battle Monument, which stands on the site where the old Courthouse was once located. Today the Clarence Mitchell, Jr. Courthouse is next to it at 100 North Calvert Street. The Library Company of the Baltimore Bar, better known as the Bar Library, is located on the sixth floor of the Clarence Mitchell, Jr. Courthouse.  Established in 1840 as a membership library by forty-four attorneys, the Bar Library is one of the oldest dues supported law libraries in the country. The Baltimore Musuem of Legal History is also in the Courthouse on the second floor at 111 N. Calvert, (open Tue., Wed., Thurs., 12:00 - 1:00 p.m. & by appointment).

Battle Monument

(6) Continue south on Calvert Street. From the Courthouse you will be walking down a very historic block for lawyers. Baltimore was the home of many of the nation's first Supreme Court advocates. Downtown Baltimore was the site for the offices of Luther Martin, defender of Samuel Chase and Aaron Burr, as well as the state's attorney in McCulloch. Fourteen of Baltimore's sixteen lawyers in 1800 had offices from Baltimore Street (then known as Market Street) north to the Courthouse, eight of them on North Calvert in the block and a half above Baltimore Street. Luther Martin, Robert Goodloe Harper, William Pinkney, and Philip Barton Key all worked here, men who argued many of the earliest cases before the Supreme Court. For a time Reverdy Johnson also owned a home in this area on the northwest corner at a spot now occupied by the Courthouse. There are no traces remaining of this concentration, because many large firms moved below Baltimore Street to get a better view of the harbor.

(7) If you continue on Calvert Street to East Redwood Street and then turn left for one block to South Street and then go south towards the harbor you will come to the location of the offices and first home of the University of Maryland's Law Institute, established in 1822 by David Hoffman. Unfortunately the building no longer stands. Hoffman also held classes during the 1830s at his office on Courtland Street (North of this location). Courtland Street no longer exists.

(8) Baltimore was Thurgood Marshall's hometown. Many visitors will arrive at BWI-Thurgood Marshall airport where a new exhibit is devoted to him. (If you missed it on the way in, be sure to catch it on your way home). He lived for a time on Division Street, but he worked in the Phoenix Building on the corner of Charles and East Redwood streets for the duration of his legal career in Baltimore. To see the office building where he practiced continue on South Street to Lombard Street and then make a right at Light Street. Walk north to East Redwood Street and then turn left one block to Charles Street.

(9) If you continue south on Charles two more blocks to Pratt Street and turn right heading west, you will find the Thurgood Marshall statue created by Reuben Kramer. The Edward A. Garmatz Federal Bldg. & U.S. Courthouse is at 101 W Lombard St.. Marshall's statute is behind the building and can be seen at the intersection of Pratt and Sharp Streets.

Thurgood Marshall statute

(10) Continue along Pratt to the electric rail tracks at Howard Street . Turn right, heading north (away from the construction and Camden Yards). Turn left on Lombard Street and walk past the Bromo-Seltzer tower. At the northeast corner of Paca Street, you will see the Marlboro Classic apartments, a renovated garment factory building, on your right. For contract casebooks of an earlier era, the classic incidental beneficiary case was Marlboro Shirt Co. v. American Dist. Tel. Co. 196 Md. 565 (1951), where the tenant Marlboro Shirt Company sued the sprinkler alarm system company when the sprinkler alarms failed.

(11) Turn right again at Paca Street heading north past Cider Alley. The next street is Redwood. The University of Maryland School of Social Work sits on Redwood Street between Paca and Greene. The old portion of the School, located on Redwood across from the entrance to the underground parking garage, was the newly built law school in 1934 when the NAACP had its first success in the school desegregation campaign that led to Brown v. Education. Donald Gaines Murray was admitted into the University of Maryland School of Law in 1934 as a result of Judge Eugene O'Dunne's decision in Baltimore Circuit Court. Thurgood Marshall was the local lawyer and Charles Hamilton Houston was the lead attorney in the case. Judge O'Dunne's order was affirmed by the Court of Appeals in Pearson v. Murray , 169 Md. 478, 182 A. 590 (1936). The current University of Maryland School of Law is just across the plaza this building. History of the Law School.


There are numerous other sites of significance in Baltimore. Hopefully you will not have an occasion to visit Johns Hopkins Hospital on Orleans Street, but if you should, you should know that it was erected on the site on Hempstead Hill that was once Luther Martin's home.

If the water taxis are running you can take one to Fort McHenry. Otherwise, try a regular taxi to the other side of the harbor. While most visitors are concerned with the flag that flew over the fort while Francis Scott Key watched the bombardment and penned “the Star Spangled Banner,” legal historians with an eye to the war against terror may be more interested in the prison there where Merryman was held by Lincoln despite the decision of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney in Ex parte Merryman, 17 F. Cas. 144 (1861).

As long as we are talking about Taney, he was the lawyer for the City of Baltimore in Barron v. Baltimore , 7 Pet (32 U.S. ) 243 (1833). Barron and Craig had their wharf at the east end of Lancaster Street in Fell's Point at what is now a nice marina [historic map - PDF]. Street improvements for the city and diversion of the Patapsco water deposited fill and rendered the wharf useless; Marshall 's opinion blocked the attempt to apply the Bill of Rights to the state before the Civil War Amendments.

If you are at the wharf in Fell's Point, you might also walk back along Fleet Street where five row houses built by Frederick Douglas in the 1890s still stand and are marked with a plaque. The Douglass row houses are at 516-524 Dallas Street (nee Strawberry Alley), to the north of Fleet Street between Bond and Caroline.

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