Baltimore Arena

In 1961, the cornerstone of the Baltimore Civic Center (as it was then called) was laid, enclosing a time capsule with notes from President John F. Kennedy, Maryland Governor Millard Tawes, and Baltimore Mayor Harold Grady. Located on the site of the former Old Congress Hall where the Continental Congress met in 1776, the arena opened a year later to great acclaim as part of a concerted effort to revitalize downtown Baltimore. Through ups and downs and a number of renovations, the arena has become woven into the fabric of the city.

In its early years, Baltimore’s professional hockey team (the Baltimore Clippers) played here, as did the Baltimore Bullets, the city’s former basketball team. In 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King delivered a speech called "Race and the Church" at the arena as part of a gathering of Methodist clergy, and in 1989 the arena hosted the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships. And then there are the concerts. On Sunday, September 13, 1964 the Beatles played back-to-back shows at the arena to throbbing young Baltimoreans, and the arena is reportedly one of the only indoor venues in the U.S. still standing where the Fab Four played. In the 1970s, Led Zeppelin played the arena and shot a few scenes for their movie “The Song Remains the Same” backstage. Also in the 1970s, the Grateful Dead performed many shows here, including a performance where they played the song “The Other One” for a reportedly record forty minutes.

Finally in 1977, Elvis Presley performed at the arena just weeks before he died. The tickets for the show sold out in 2 ½ hours, and although there were no untoward incidents reported while The King was onstage, he did apparently lose his lunch in a corridor in the back.


Baltimore Civic Center (2012)
Video describing the development of the Civic Center. ~ Source: UMBC Practices in Public History course with Dr. Denise Meringolo ~ Creator: Johanna Schein ~ Date: December 2012
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201 W. Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201