Completed in 1907, construction of Baltimore’s U.S. Custom House was severely setback by the Great Fire of 1904. Several of the building’s granite blocks were split in the intense heat generated by the inferno. An excellent American example of Beaux-Arts architecture, it was conceived by the Washington DC team of John Rush Marshall and Joseph C. Hornblower. The structure served as the city’s custom house until 1953 when the U.S. government’s Selective Service System moved in. The facility replaced the Benjamin Henry Latrobe-Maximilian Godefroy designed Merchant’s Exchange.
Francis David Millet created the massive mural work inside the Custom House’s elaborate Call Room. The room was the former waiting area for merchants arriving at the Port of Baltimore and is now a museum. Millet’s Evolution of Navigation adorns the high ceiling, depicting the development of sea travel from 1000 B.C. to 1905. Assembled in his studio and applied to the ornate room, the mural is an national treasure. A member of the American Renaissance movement with the likes of Mark Twain and John LaFarge, Millet was a writer and sculptor as well as a painter, his work characterized by sympathetic detail and austere confidence. He died aboard the Titanic. Tours of the Call Room can apparently be arranged through the museum network in Washington. Additional pictures: