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A slim woman at our table yells "Bingo!" and splits a $50 pot with someone else. A woman in a green sweatshirt at the next table wins $1,000. So does a third woman several tables over. "N's," Leber says, shaking her head, "are my nemesis."

2. Craziest Repetition of Marble Steps: The cheek-by-jowl rowhouses in the 2600 block of Wilkens Avenue between Brunswick Street and Millington Avenue. This Baltimorish phenomenon shows up in some guidebooks as the "city's longest continuous row of rowhouses." It is a breathtaking cookie-cutter sight -- more than 50 sets of marble steps, each three blocks high, most with black wrought-iron rails, leading up to doors, most of which have stained-glass dormers.


Bingo knight: It's not Baltimore's oldest attraction, but in a city of superlatives Bingo World may rank as gaudiest. (Grant L. Gursky For The Washington Post)

3. Oldest Church: The Old Otterbein Church has been in continuous use since 1785 (Sharp and Conway streets). In the shadow of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the brick building has a distinctive white cupola. Handmade nails and ballast bricks from ships in Baltimore harbor were used to fashion the Methodist sanctuary. Put into place in 1789, the bells were cast in London by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, the same company that made the Liberty Bell.

4. Narrowest Rowhouse: "The Little House" is what local folks call the skinny brick home on East Montgomery Street in Federal Hill, a block from Battery Park. Less than nine feet wide, the two-story building was built in the mid-1800s and looks like a residential afterthought, squeezed between two townhouses.

5. Oldest Residence: Built in 1765, the Robert Long House on South Ann Street is a solid brick thing with green shutters. It's now the Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fells Point. The Wharf Rat alehouse is across the street. A block away is Ann Street Wharf, an enticing group of shops that includes the Bonaparte Bakery, where you can stop for coffee and a pain raisin. And the Fells Point Maritime Museum is just around the cobblestone corner.

6. Cheeriest Sight: On Ann Street, I happen upon a rollerblading woman in an orange sweater gliding along the sidewalk with a prancing dog mouth-carrying a Frisbee. (The dog, not the woman.)

7. First Tallest Tower: The best view of the long, tall Phoenix Shot Tower is at the corner of East Fayette Street and North Caroline Street, on the east side of downtown looking west. Between 1828 and 1892, the 234-foot-high tower -- built with more than a million bricks -- was used to make gun shot. In the process, molten lead was released from the top and plummeted through a sieve into a vat of water.

Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1972, the tower sits in a small park that also has a police memorial dedicated to Baltimore's finest. The tower -- also known as the Baltimore Shot Tower and the Merchant's Shot-Tower -- is thought by Baltimoreans to have been the tallest building in the United States until 1884, when D.C.'s Washington Monument was completed. Today it is dwarfed by the Legg Mason Building.

8. Most Gorgeous George: Before the pointy headed monolith that we know as the Washington Monument was raised on the Mall, another tribute to the first American president sprang up in Baltimore in 1829. The Washington Monument, at Charles and Monument streets in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, is a majestic tower with a stately statue of Washington on top. During the holiday season, the monument is adorned with long strings of lights and fresh evergreenery. In an adjoining park, philanthropist George Peabody -- in statue form -- sits cross-legged admiring the heroic Daddy of Our Country.

9. Most Valuable Painting: To me, it's "Saint Apollonia," by Bernardo Strozzi. The information lady at the Baltimore Museum of Art tells me that the huge, honking Van Dyck painting, "Rinaldo and Armida," might be the most valuable in the collection. A painter friend says Rembrandt's portrait of his son Titus would fetch a pretty euro. The museum also houses the world's largest collection of Matisses.


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