Baltimore’s Oldest Residence’s Ties To America’s Independence
Baltimore’s Waterfront is stylishly entering its new age of design. This active modernization seen over the last few years continues to produce tall, lavish glass skyscrapers along Light Street, in Harbor East and the entirety of the newly developed work-where-you-live neighborhood of Harbor Point. Its history though sometimes gets lost with all the new architecture sprouting up to glamorously vogue in the sunlight and beam under the stars. The Robert Long House–Baltimore’s oldest urban residence–sometimes gets casually typecast as just another row house when its connection to the Revolutionary War makes it the once home of a national talisman.
Built in Fells Point’s quaint east end in 1765, The Robert Long House was the residential home of the wealthy merchant who purchased three parcels of land from Edward Fell, the man whom this district is named after and whose family owned since the 1730s. Long came from Pennsylvania seeking opportunity similar to the many relocating citizens and arriving immigrants from that time who populated The Monumental City. The acquired land represented the spectrum of Long’s professional ventures and family life. There’s very little historical information about Long. According to Baltimore Heritage, an organization focused on preserving the city’s history, he was a man who gained riches as quickly as he lost them. The cycle of his many fortunes permanently trended upward at the start of the American Revolution in 1775 as a non-combat member of the Continental Army. Robert Long got word that George Washington and his troops were on the front lines in New Jersey languishing during an icy winter with food and supplies running low by the day. He pulled his resources together, along with using his own money, to purchase food and supplies for the army along with the horses and carriages. This good deed went unreimbursed for some time until Long appeared before the Maryland Assembly to remind the governing body of his financial impact on helping to save the original Thirteen Colonies where he was paid handsomely.
Hundreds of years passed and newer buildings garnered the prestige and upkeep The Robert Long House failed to receive. Restoring it was a collective effort at the dawn of the 1970s. By then, it had gone through an identity crisis after the Longs sold it in the late 1800s as it went from being recognized as stately property to a boarding house and then to a space where parts for ships were manufactured by the end of the 1930s. Its ever-changing ownership led to a depreciation in its historical value during the postwar era boom of interstate highways changing urban landscapes by the 1950s and early 1960s with the drafted plans of the Inner Harbor-crossing East-West Expressway. Entering the 1990s, the house had endured two major fires to which all damage was restored into its currently pristine state. Intricate stonework done in the 18th Century Pennsylvanian style of bricklaying sets the The Robert Long House apart from its modern neighbors and the historic interior places you in another time.
Antiquity adds to its charm once inside the home. The decorative fixtures present inside every room are situated to give visitors a true sense of the period through items common in the 1760s. Each was a gift from the Maryland State Society of the Daughters of The American Revolution during the United States’ Bicentennial Celebration in 1976. Splashes of daylight cover items like the desks, tables, molded chair rails, beaded baseboard, eggshell white walls and deep mahogany wood flooring on bright afternoons. The over 200-year-old grandfather clock that survived time and the aforementioned fire in the 1990s is on display. Next door was where Long created the colonial-style garden that remains today in a yard open to the public fresh with seasonal bouquets in full bloom. This historic green space was a retreat into nature for the Longs that helped Robert find separation from the business of his adjoined workshop next door.
A true all-in-one living experience, The Robert Long House is a historic reminder of The Waterfront’s roots and of its untapped potential ahead.