- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 3, 2004

BALTIMORE (AP) — Some of Maryland’s most successful business people have tried to renovate historic Fort Carroll, but for now it remains only a bird conservation site — home to hundreds of seagulls, egrets and herons.

Plans for the fortress, located seven miles south of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, have included using the property for a casino, a hotel, a prison and a conference center. But all have failed to capture the public’s interest.

One problem is that the fortress is protected by the state’s Chesapeake Bay critical areas environmental laws, which make redevelopment almost impossible.

Fort Carroll, named after Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, has been in limbo since construction began in 1848 on the military post.

It was designed to strengthen Baltimore’s harbor defenses, along with nearby Forts Armistead, McHenry and Howard. But rapid advances in military technology quickly rendered the plan obsolete, and Fort Carroll was not finished. Though it remained in sporadic military use until World War II, its guns never fired in battle.

In 1958, Fort Carroll finally appeared headed for productive use when local lawyer Benjamin N. Eisenberg bought it for $10,000. His idea was to turn it into a slots venue, taking advantage of legislation that allowed slot machines in four then-rural counties, including Anne Arundel County.

But the plan collapsed after courts ruled that the fortress was in neighboring Baltimore County, which did not allow slot machines. Soon after, the machines were banned statewide.

Mr. Eisenberg then tried sprucing up Fort Carroll by casting fake guns out of cement and promoting it as a destination for tourist boats. But it never became popular.

Mr. Eisenberg then proposed using the fortress in the design of the Key Bridge, part of the Beltway circling Baltimore. Nothing came of that either, nor of a 20-story hotel he proposed for the site. He died in 1974.

According to land records, the island is now owned by Alan G. and Irvin D. Eisenberg. It is assessed at $31,500. Although the Eisenbergs declined to discuss specific plans, they still hope to develop the site, perhaps even with a major resort company.

Developer C. William Struever hoped to turn the fort into a conference center, but gave up 18 months ago, letting his option lapse.

“I still think it’s possible to work out cohabitation with the birds,” Mr. Struever recently told the Baltimore Sun.

A Mississippi casino company looked at the fortress as a possible gambling site, but nothing came of that idea, either.

“It’s a unique and fairly historic piece of property,” said George Williams of Isle of Capri Casinos in Biloxi, Miss. “But I saw a lot of problems — access problems, utility problems, construction problems, not to mention that Maryland law at the present time does not allow slots or casino gambling.”

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