Baltimore’s Phoenix Shot Tower, also known as “the Old Baltimore Shot Tower,” was the tallest structure in the United States when it was built in 1828. Its cornerstone was laid by Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the last living founding father and one of the richest men in America at the time.
Shot towers were the most common method of producing shot balls for muskets from the late 18th century to the 1960s. From the very top of the tower workers would pour molten lead through a sieve. While falling through the empty tower, the lead would cool and form into perfectly round balls. These would land in a basin of water to be cooled further.
The Phoenix Shot Tower’s average annual production was about 10,000 bags of shot a year, much more during wartime. In 1924 the Union Oil Company announced plans to demolish the Tower and replace it with a gas station. The citizens of Baltimore strongly objected and raised $17, 000 to purchase the building. Baltimore City took ownership of the tower in January 1925. After being used as a bomb shelter in the early 1960s, the tower was opened to the public as a museum in September 1976.
The Phoenix Shot Tower was one of Baltimore’s first National Historic Landmarks.
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