Lincoln Was Here: Planning a Better Future for Baltimore's President Street Station

By John A. O'Brien

Denver, Colorado

Friday, September 30, 2022



The last place where President-elect Lincoln stopped on his way to Washington was the B&O Railroad President Street Station at Baltimore Harbor. He arrived in the middle of the night without his family or usual entourage. This was a surprise deviation from his schedule on the advice of the head of railroad security. Allan Pinkerton had information of an assassination attempt if Lincoln kept to his publicized plan for arrival later that morning. Efforts were made to conceal his features. Lincoln would always regret the later characterizations of his "disguise" as either a "Scotch cap" or a woman's coat.

A city ordinance prevented the B&O Railroad from running locomotives through the city. Passengers on the line from Philadelphia would have their cars towed by horses from President Street through the city center to the Camden Street Station west of the harbor. A new engine would then take the cars to Washington. Though Lincoln was saved from this risk, soldiers trying to get to the Union capital two months later would not be as fortunate. The Sixth Massachusetts Militia marched between the stations on April 17, 1861 and was attacked by a secessionist mob.


The President Street Station is now the oldest center city train station in the country. It represents momentous events associated with Lincoln and the history of the Civil War. It houses the Baltimore Civil War Museum ($3 adult admission). It was saved from demolition in the 1990s by a nonprofit public-private partnership, Friends of the President Street Station. But sustaining funds have been hard to come by and its future is in doubt. In 2015, U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin authored the President Street Station Study Act, authorizing the National Park Service to study the suitability of owning the station. All agree that this would be the best longterm solution for this unique piece of American history. The NPS is now gathering input for that study. LGDC has been asked for an opinion. We have submitted a letter of strong support. We will now look for ways of inducing the NPS to follow through and take responsibility for the preservation and interpretation of this important Lincoln site.