September 3, 2015

Baltimore's The Horse You Came In On Saloon

The Horse You Came In On Saloon sign

photo by: Mirsasha, Flickr

The Horse You Came In On is Maryland’s only bar to operate before, during, and after Prohibition.

The Horse You Came In On Saloon, located in Baltimore’s Fell's Point Historic District, is the only bar in America that can boast the dual attractions of live music every night of the week and the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe.

The bar that originally inhabited the Colonial-era building occupied by “The Horse,” as it’s known today, was founded in 1775, and the building has operated continuously as a bar and saloon ever since. It also claims the distinction of being the only bar in Maryland to operate before, during, and after Prohibition.

In 1972, Howard Gerber purchased the Thames Street establishment formerly known as Al and Ann’s, coercing a friend to don a cowboy hat and ride into the bar on a horse during the bar's first hour of business. The Horse You Came In On, as Gerber named it, soon earned its stripes as a popular tourist destination in the bourgeoning Fell's Point neighborhood.

In 2006, it was sold at auction to its current co-owners Eric Mathias and Ioannis and Spiros Korologos. They’ve maintained the theme, down to the bar stools with saddle-shaped seats. “The Horse” lures in tourists and keeps locals coming back with specialties like the B-more Boh-Garita (a margarita with an upside-down bottle of the city’s signature beer, National Bohemian, stuck in the middle,) as well as crab cake bites and “Wild West Wings.” A standout is the “Famous Crab,” a 10-ounce Philly cheesesteak served with crab dip on the side.

The Horse You Came In On Saloon interior

photo by: The Horse You Came In On Saloon

“The Horse,” as it’s called by locals, features live music seven nights a week.

Besides a rich heritage and loaded menu, “The Horse” is rumored to have been one of Edgar Allan Poe’s favorite watering holes in Charm City, as well as the place where the poet quaffed his last drink before taking to the streets on the night of October 3, 1849. There he was found, wandering and delirious, and taken to the Washington Medical College, where he died four days later. A sign designating the spot as “Poe’s Last Stop” hangs above the seating area. (Editor's note: there's no real proof to confirm that it was, in fact, his last stop.)

According to accounts from bartenders over the years, from time to time cash register draws fly open at random and chandeliers swing mysteriously. In order to appease “Edgar,” as the ghost (believed to be the Poe's restless spirit) is affectionately called, staff will sometimes leave a glass of whiskey out for him at closing time.

The Jack Daniel’s Bottle Club, which lets regular patrons purchase a bottle of the famous Tennessee whiskey and keep it at the saloon for return visits, is another big draw. Daily live music skews toward country rock, as well as covers of songs both contemporary and timeless.

The Horse You Came In On Saloon exterior

photo by: James Cridland, Flickr

The Horse is located on Thames Street in the city’s Fell’s Point Historic District.

Historic Fell's Point, founded around 1730 by William Fell, whose son Edward began laying out streets and selling plots of land in the district in 1763. It incorporated with Baltimore Town and Jones Town in 1797, and an influx of money from the tobacco, flour, and coffee trades through the 18th and 19th centuries helped it grow.

Libations, a haunting or two, and a healthy dose of equine wordplay -- what more could you possibly want in a drinking establishment? Here’s what you’ll need to know before saddling up.

Location: 1626 Thames Street, Baltimore, MD 21231

Hours: Open daily, 11 a.m. -- close

You’re having: An infused Jack Daniel’s on the rocks. Choose from apple, honey, lemon, vanilla, maple, and Tennessee Fire flavors.

Best Yelp Review: “Very cool bar. Picture a dive bar with old oak wood from floor to bar to ceiling. Saunter your old western chaps in and straddle one of their wooden saddle seats at the bar. Or chill out sipping Jack Daniel’s at a table while listening to some good live music (Pat Owens is great.) We really love coming to this bar. It’s not trendy…but know for sure that this divey-old bar is so much cooler than trendy.”

Katherine Flynn is a former assistant editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys coffee, record stores, and uncovering the stories behind historic places.

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