Friday, September 14, 2012

The NW Corner of Baltimore & Calvert Streets

The NW corner of Baltimore and Calvert  Streets has always been a busy one. As a matter of fact, up until the early 1800s, Baltimore Street was called Market Street and was the main shopping district until the Lexington/Howard street area became popular in the later part of the 19th century.

The first notable building to arise at the northwest corner of Baltimore and Calvert Streets was the Baltimore Museum, opened in 1829 by Rembrandt Peale after the sale of his family's original Museum on Holliday Street to the city of Baltimore for municipal offices. For over 40 years the Museum was operated by a succession of entrepreneurs - including, for a time, P.T. Barnum - until it was destroyed by fire in 1872.

Photo of a lithograph from my collection of E. Sachse's view looking west from Calvert Street on Market (Baltimore) Street circa 1850. This copy was made by A. Hoen and Co. sometime in the mid 1900s.
Similar view of Baltimore Street in 2012.
Photo of an original lithograph from my collection of view looking north on Calvert Street from Baltimore Street.
The Baltimore Museum after 1872 fire. Photo source Maryland Historical Society.
The site was purchased a year later by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which commissioned local architect E. Francis Baldwin to design a building capable of holding all its various departments under one roof. Baldwin originally projected a five-story structure with arched window heads on every floor, but the railroad's growth in the late 1890s required that the building grow, too.  By the time it opened in 1882, it consisted of seven floors with arched window heads on only every other floor. Further railroad expansion required the addition of two more floors under a mansard roof in 1888. The building was destroyed in the 1904 Baltimore fire, after which the railroad moved its offices to a new building on North Charles Street.

 The Baltimore Street corner became the site of the Emerson Hotel, Joseph E. Sperry's entry in Baltimore's race to copy New York's Plaza Hotel. The 17-story Emerson opened in 1911 and closed in 1969. It was demolished in 1971.  
The Emerson Hotel was built, legend has it, because one sweltering hot afternoon in 1910 Capt. Isaac Emerson (the Bromo-Seltzer inventor) was dining in the Belvedere Hotel and became so hot that he took his coat off. The management reminded him that it was a hotel rule that gentlemen had to wear coats. So the cantankerous old captain allegedly said: "the hell with you, I'll build my own hotel." And so he did.

After years as a parking lot, the Bank of Baltimore Building was built and opened in 1989. 
Today the building is the main office of SunTrust Bank.
Looking north on Calvert Street towards Monument Square from Baltimore Street in 2012.


CharmCityHistory said...

I believe you mean Rembrandt Peale, not Reuben Peale for the creator and owner of the Baltimore Museum.

BaltoGirl said...

Thank you for the correction. Post has been updated.

Anonymous said...

I love this blog! Just moved to MD a few years back and have made a hobby of looking into my newly adopted city's history. One of my favorite things to do is trying to identify the buildings on the famous 1911 downtown sketch by Edward Spofford. This blog helped me identify some of the more notable buildings that have since been razed, like the Emerson Hotel and Tower Building. It's a shame this blog no longer looks like it's updated.