Historically a working-class port town, Baltimore has sometimes been dubbed a "city of neighborhoods", with 72 designated historic districts traditionally occupied by distinct ethnic groups. Most notable today are three downtown areas along the port: the Inner Harbor, frequented by tourists due to its hotels, shops, and museums; Fells Point, once a favorite entertainment spot for sailors but now refurbished and gentrified (and featured in the movie Sleepless in Seattle); and Little Italy, located between the other two, where Baltimore's Italian-American community is based – and where U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi grew up. Further inland, Mount Vernon is the traditional center of cultural and artistic life of the city; it is home to a distinctive Washington Monument, set atop a hill in a 19th-century urban square, that predates the more well-known monument in Washington, D.C. by several decades. Baltimore also has a significant German American population, and was the second largest port of immigration to the United States, behind Ellis Island in New York and New Jersey. Between 1820 and 1989, almost 2 million who were German, Polish, English, Irish, Russian, Lithuanian, French, Ukrainian, Czech, Greek and Italian came to Baltimore, most between the years 1861 to 1930. By 1913, when Baltimore was averaging forty thousand immigrants per year, World War I closed off the flow of immigrants. By 1970, Baltimore's heyday as an immigration center was a distant memory. There also was a Chinatown dating back to at least the 1880s which consisted of no more than 400 Chinese residents. A local Chinese-American association remains based there, but only one Chinese restaurant as of 2009.
Baltimore is in north-central Maryland on the Patapsco River close to where it empties into the Chesapeake Bay. The city is also located on the fall line between the Piedmont Plateau and the Atlantic coastal plain, which divides Baltimore into "lower city" and "upper city". The city's elevation ranges from sea level at the harbor to 480 feet (150 m) in the northwest corner near Pimlico.
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