The Phoenix Shot Tower is a landmark in downtown Baltimore that has been a part of the skyline since the mid-1800's. It is also known as the Old Baltimore Shot Tower and was originally called the Merchant's Shot Company. The tower reaches 234.25 feet tall and is entirely constructed by 1 million red brick. Completed in 1828, it was the tallest free-standing structure in the United States at the time and remained so until the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. was constructed. In 1971, it was designated a national landmark. Designed by Jacob Wolfe, the first cornerstone of the building was laid by Charles Carroll, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
When in operation, The Shot Tower was used in the production of amunition for pistols, shotguns, and cannons. Molten lead was dropped from a platform at the top of the structure. As it would fall through the tower, it would shape and cool, and would splash into a pool of cold water at the bottom. The water served to harden the shot into a solid piece of lead and it would then be bagged into 25 pound sacks. During a regular year, annual production was 100,000 bags. This number would increase during wartime.
The tower ended its active production in 1892, but reopened briefly in the 1900's. It has since become a part of Baltimore culture, recognized by native Baltimoreans as a significant part of the city's history. It has long been a popular destination for school field trips, and is a great side trip from the Harbor or other downtown neighborhoods. It is a quick trip, and is an excellent photo opportunity. The tower is located at 801 East Fayette Street, and is near downtown Baltimore and Little Italy.
This means once you are finished your visit to the Shot Tower, there are a variety options for activites and dining nearby. You can head several blocks west to the Inner Harbor, the Power Plant, or Power Plant Live! Each area features a number of shopping, dining options. If you are interested in stopping somewhere for a quick drink, try Power Plant Live! There are a number of bars and clubs that also serve food.
If you are in the mood for a more substanitial meal, try Little Italy. Within easy walking distance of the tower, Little Italy offers several blocks of authentic Italian cuisine. There are a variety of establishments that have been Baltimore landmarks for centuries. If your sweet tooth is calling, there are several Italian bakeries that offer cannoli, freshly baked bread, or a variety of Italian cookies. Paired with espresso, this makes for a delicious afternoon treat after a visit to The Phoenix Shot Tower.
While the tower is not a day long event, it is a great tourist attraction near downtown Baltimore. Visiting will give you an idea of the rich culture of Baltimore, the city where the National Anthem was born. This is an excellent educational opportunity for people traveling with children, or anyone who has an interest in history.