New Museum Shines a Spotlight on Baltimore’s Little Known Immigration History

As a preeminent firm in the field of immigration law, one of the most distinctive features of the Murthy Law Firm is our globalized client base. Clients from all over the world seek us out because we share their dreams of immigration and help them come true. On any given day we may review a case for an H1B visa holder working just blocks from our headquarters in Owings Mills, Maryland, or finalize a green card application for a family living thousands of miles away. The opportunity to serve such a geographically diverse client base is a unique and exciting privilege for us. When it comes to immigration history, however, we can’t help but have a little hometown pride. And a new museum opening Sunday, May 8th in Baltimore, Maryland promises to honor the city’s past as a gateway into the United States for millions of immigrants.

Just a few miles from Murthy Law Firm corporate headquarters, the Baltimore Immigration Museum is located in the Locust Point neighborhood of South Baltimore, and offers a glimpse into the experiences of immigrants during the first large wave of European immigration into the U.S. during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During this time, Baltimore was behind only New York and Boston as a port of debarkation for immigrants traveling on ships to the United States to begin a new life. A total of 1.2 million immigrants arrived at a pier in Locust Point, near Fort McHenry in Baltimore. After disembarking and passing through customs, they boarded trains headed to other major cities such as Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis. The majority of immigrants arriving in Baltimore during this time were from Germany, and while most of them did not settle here permanently, some desired a temporary place to sleep, bathe, and enjoy a meal before beginning their journeys to their new hometowns. The Baltimore Immigration Museum, formerly known as the Immigrant House, served as a boardinghouse for nearly four thousand of these immigrants until the beginning of World War I. [See Baltimore Immigration Museum Recalls when Charm City was Gateway to America, by Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun, 22.Apr.2016.]

Originally purchased by the German government, the large building is now owned by the Locust Point Community Church, and was painstakingly restored over three years by Brigitte Fessenden and her husband Nicholas. The Baltimore residents are passionate about history – Brigitte is a historical preservation consultant, while Nicholas is a former history teacher – and volunteered to restore the building in order to educate Baltimore residents about this little known portion of their city’s past. In an interview with The Baltimore Sun in 2014, Nicholas Fessenden explained, “We have an interest in making the history of immigration to Baltimore better known. We want to expand it beyond what historians already know.” Since then, the couple has restored and furnished several bedrooms and bathrooms in the house to reflect the style of the early 20th century, and procured several artifacts such as a steamer trunk inscribed with the name of a German immigrant family and a mid-19th-century guidebook, written in German for new arrivals to Baltimore. The Fessendens are planning future exhibits that will explore AfricanAmerican migration to Baltimore, as well as the history of Baltimore’s Asian and Latino communities. [See Congregation’s Building Being Transformed into Immigration Museum, by Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun, 09.May.2014.]

The Baltimore Immigration Museum is a vital but little known part of American history, and is right in the Murthy Law Firm’s backyard. Beginning May 8, 2016, the museum will open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays. We take pride in sharing Baltimore’s immigration story with the rest of the world, and look forward to serving our clients – whether they live around the corner or across the globe – in a city that has long served as an important immigration touchstone.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.