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Old Baltimore from a new angle – the May Day Roll

Our fourth annual labor history bike tour of Baltimore

Above: Last year, Mark Reutter showed cyclists a Stone Hill company house. We went from that leafy historic spot . . .

If you want to see post-industrial Baltimore as you’ve never seen it before – over the handlebars of your bike and through the eyes of journalist and historian Mark Reutter – check out the fourth annual May Day Roll, co-sponsored, as always, by Baltimore Brew and Baltimore Bicycle Works.

Held on May 1 – the internationally-recognized day dedicated to workers of the world – the Sunday morning Roll is meant to give participants an up-close and personal experience of Baltimore’s rich labor and industrial history.

Riders will crisscross the city and see some amazing sights – from the stone houses above the old Hampden-Woodberry mills (you’ll think you’re in Vermont) to the interior of the eerie, hulking Crown Cork & Seal building in Greektown (a century-old former bottlecap factory now partly rented out to intrepid metalworkers and musicians.)

We’ll take you back to a time before Baltimore went to work in office cubicles and instead toiled in factories and sweated in shipyards.

. . . to this gritty Post-Industrial one. Cyclists last year rolled through the 107-year-old Crown Cork & Seal building, once a workplace for 5,000.

. . . to this gritty post-industrial one in Greektown. Once again The Brew will take cyclists through the spooky 100-year-old Crown Cork & Seal building, onetime workplace for 5,000. (Photo by Fern Shen)

Here’s what we posted after last year’s roll. This year’s will be similar, but with a few new twists listed below. We are charging $25 a person for the tour, which will include a special luncheon at Ikaros Restaurant in Greektown.

We ask that you preregister at http://maydayroll.eventbrite.com. You can pay online here or on the day of the trip at BBW.

A couple housekeeping rules — for safety reasons, we can’t allow riders under age 18 and we require everyone to wear a helmet.

Workplace safety was serious business at Crown Cork, which had its own steel mill on site. (Photo by Fern Shen)

Workplace safety was serious business at Crown Cork, which had its own steel rolling mill on site. (Photo by Fern Shen)

The Itinerary

Get to the Baltimore Bicycle Works, 1813 Falls Rd., no later than 8:30 a.m. Mingle with your fellow cyclers over coffee, juice and doughnuts as we sign people in and collect the dough. Wheels will roll promptly at 9.

We’ll end at Ikaros Restaurant about 1 p.m. Last year’s lunch included Greek salad, assorted appetizers, entrees and homemade desserts. Our friend, Ikaros owner Xenos Kohilas, promises another mind-blowing feast.

By that time, you’ll have earned your repast. In between breakfast and lunch, we’ll be biking quaint and gnarly streets and alleys of the city, taking in some cool lore and thought-provoking ideas as we get a street-level view of working-class history.

Here’s our itinerary, subject to change, but not likely to:

• First, we’ll bike up to Mt. Vernon Mill, Chestnut and Falls, and check out the company houses built along little-traveled Puritan, Field and Pacific streets.

• Then back down the bike trail along Falls Road and through Mt. Vernon to Red Emma’s (about 10 am) to pick up additional riders.

• We’ll head for Old Town and stop at the former Labor Lyceum on East Baltimore St., a gathering place for buttonhole stitchers and pants makers from the days when the neighborhood was mostly Russian Jews.

• Then a “new” stop: the Frederick Douglass houses to discuss black shipcaulkers in Fells Point.

• On to Ann and Aliceanna streets in Fells Point to talk about 1936 seamen’s strike.

• In Canton, we’ll discuss the “model” industrial complexes built there.

• Then we’ll bike through Crown Cork & Seal, past old “Work Safely” signs and other remnants of busy times.

• We’ll hit the “under-the-radar” site for steelworker organizers who were not welcome at the company town of Sparrows Point, arriving about 1 pm at Ikaros.

After lunch, it’s up to you to get home, though we’ll be happy to provide directions.

The $25 charge includes the coffee/donuts/juice breakfast, the Ikaros meal, on-the-road shepherding from the skilled cyclists of Baltimore Bicycle Works, and the guided tour by Mark Reutter, Brew reporter and editor and author of “Making Steel: Sparrows Point and the Rise and Ruin of American Industrial Might.”

If you want to bone up on local labor history before the trip, contact Mark for a copy of his book (for $25) at reuttermark@yahoo.com.

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Links to the Brew’s series: BIKING INTO BALTIMORE’S HISTORY

Part 1 (4/28/10): Born by the Falls

Part 2 (4/29/10) : The Bottlecap Capital of the World

Part 3 (4/30/10): Conflict on the Docks

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