Water Power: Baltimore’s Economic Engine
This historic sign describes the “Jones Falls Trail and the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse” that can be seen from this stop along the Inner Harbor Promenade. (The narrative on the historic sign is transcribed below the photo.)
Jones Falls: The best-known and least-appreciated fresh waterway in Baltimore, the Jones Falls River is an important tributary of the Chesapeake Watershed, and the largest of several waterways that empty into Baltimore Harbor. From the time of the first colonial settlements, the Jones Falls River has served Baltimore City as a transportation corridor, a power source for early industry and a source of drinking water. In fact, the mills powered by the swift-flowing Jones Falls played a key role in making Baltimore an industrial giant in the 19th century.
Sadly, much of the natural beauty of this Bay tributary has been obscured by road construction, including the elevated Jones Falls Expressway. one result of the many efforts to restore the Jones Falls is the new Jones Falls Trail, a hiking and biking trail taht follows the river, passing historic mills and the Baltimore Streetcar museum, and winding through the 245 acre Druid Hill Park. When completed, the Trail will extend 12 miles from the inner Harbor to Mt. Washington Village.
Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse: For 133 years, the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse and its beacon provided a safe guide for sailors at the mouth of the Patapsco River. The innovative design of screwpile lighthouses made them easier and faster to build because no underwater masonry foundation was needed. Instead, these lighthouses were suspended above the water by a system of cast-iron pilings with corkscrew-like bases, which were screwed into the Bay floor. First lit in 1856, the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse is the oldest screwpile lighthouse in maryland and was in active use until it’s relocation to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in 1988.
Chesapeake Connection: With access to worldwide distribution via the Chesapeake Bay, by 1827 Baltimore was the nation’s largest exporter of flour, ground by dozens of mills along the Jones Fall. In addition, by 1840, textile mills in the Jones Falls valley produced 80% of the nation’s cotton duck, or sail cloth.