Archive for the ‘Downtown’ Category
“Burn the theatre,” was the first thing Edman Spangler heard following John Wilkes Booth’s infamous fatal shot on April 14, 1865. Edman Spangler, sometimes known as Ned or Edmund, was a carpenter at Ford’s Theatre and was an acquaintance of Booth’s, occasionally caring for the actor’s horse which was stabled behind the Washington D.C. playhouse. He claimed to have no knowledge of Booth’s escape route, but his story is contradicted by another stagehand working that night. Jake Rittersback claims Spangler told him to keep quiet when the two spoke after the assassination.
This and other damning testimony about his Confederate leanings and distaste for the president lead to his eventual arrest and sentencing of six years in jail. He traveled on the USS Florida to Fort Jefferson with Samuel Mudd, Samuel Arnold and Michael O’Laughlen, three other Booth co-conspirators.
On December 25, 1868 President Andrew Johnson pardoned the four convicts. Edman Spangler returned to Baltimore with Samuel Arnold and went to work as a carpenter at the Holliday Street Theatre for John T. Ford, his former boss and the previous owner of Ford’s Theatre. In 1873 the Holliday burned down and Spangler moved to Dr. Samuel Mudd’s farm in what is now Waldorf, MD where he lived out his final years. He is buried two miles from the Mudd residence in the St. Peter’s Church burial ground.
The Baltimore Trust Building (or Bank of America Building) is located downtown across W. Baltimore Street from the William Donald Schaefer Tower. Built between 1924-1929 by the architects Taylor, Fisher, Smith and May, the ‘setback’ style skyscraper is a monument to the financial history of Charm City. As the Great Depression materialized the building’s occupant, the Baltimore Trust Company, went into bankruptcy, eventually vacating the tower by 1935. The virtually brand new Mayan Revival structure stood empty just six years after its completion. Maryland’s Public Works Administration moved in shortly after under the direction of FDR and his New Deal. By 1961, with the country’s economy stabilized, the Maryland National Bank purchased the structure. In 1993 the Bank of America acquired Maryland National, turning the 37-floor building into its downtown office.
The skyscraper is decorated inside and out with various sculptures and paintings. Mayan statues stare down to the street from above while significant relief work surrounds the entrance ways to the bank’s main lobby. One relief shows the old Baltimore Trust Bank being protected by a God during the Great Fire of 1904. The bank’s much smaller former building was spared when most of downtown went up in devastating flames. The building’s large open-space lobby contains murals depicting significant Baltimore events by local artists Robert McGill Mackall and Griffith Baily Coale.
In 1930, the Peale Museum was saved from possible demolition. Over a hundred years of varied use had left the Robert Cary Long, Sr. deigned building in disrepair, and the city government was seriously considering its sale. Baltimore residents and journalists rallied to protect one of the first museum buildings erected in the western hemisphere. Eventually the Mayor was convinced and Rembrandt Peale’s Baltimore Museum was targeted for a complete rehabilitation.
Assigned to head the restoration project was local architect John H. Scarff, a partner in the Wyatt and Nolting firm. Scarff studied original drawings and historic photographs of the salon, and restored its original design and floor plan. The portico was rebuilt and a bas-relief sculpture, conceived by R. McGill Mackall and executed by Benjamin Turner Kurtz, was installed above it. In the building’s rear, a courtyard was constructed with pediment from the demolished Union Bank building embedded in its northern wall. The city reopened the museum in 1931.
At the corner of North Holliday Street and East Baltimore Street stands a monument to the first gas street lamp in the United States. Erected in 1997, the lamp is a replica of the early 19th century original. On the evening of June 11, 1816, local businessmen and socialites were invited to Rembrandt Peale’s Museum for a demonstration under the glow of artificial light. During a candlelit period in American history the forward-thinking Peale aimed to form a business around his gas light innovations, the exhibition targeting potential investors.
The gamble worked, and several financiers aligned with Peale, forming The Gas Light Company of Baltimore (the precursor to Baltimore Gas & Electric). Less than a year later, on February 7, 1817, the first public gas street lamp was lit in a ceremony one block south of City Hall. The Gayety Theatre is across the street.
Baltimore’s Equitable Building was designed by local architect Joseph Evans Sperry. The structure, located at 10 North Calvert Street, was completed in 1891, and is the oldest building in Monument Square. Built on the former site of Barnum’s Hotel, the Equitable was considered the city’s first skyscraper and contained offices, a billiard room, a barber shop and Turkish baths in the basement. The ten-story building is adjacent to Charm City’s two courthouses and the Battle Monument. It’s exterior survived the Great Fire of 1904.
The Alexander Brown Building stands at 135 E. Baltimore Street. Built in 1901 for Alex. Brown & Sons, the first and oldest continuously operational investment firm in America, the structure is one of few that survived Baltimore’s Great Fire of 1904. Damaged stone on the building’s facade is striking evidence of the devastating event. The company’s former headquarters is an important monument to Charm City’s financial significance during the 19th century. The building is also the first in U. S. history to be entirely heated by electricity. In 1997 renovation was completed on the interior, restoring the century old bank to its original layout. The Gustave Baumstark designed stained glass ceiling was cleaned during the process. The historic Continental Building is across the street.
The Zion Lutheran Church (once called German Lutheran Reformed Church) was established in 1755, 25 years after the village of Baltimore Town was organized. The congregation worshiped in private residences and eventually a small meeting house until 1807, when a location was agreed upon and a church was erected.
The original building facing Gay Street and the Jones Falls was finished in 1808 and was built by George Rohrbach and Johann Mackenheimer. When it burned down in 1840 the church promptly erected a second structure that still stands today. The tower and parish hall were added in 1913 by architect Theodore Wells Pietsch. The prominent newer structure is next door to the Peale Museum and catercorner to City Hall. The German-born artist Hans Schuler created several sculptures that decorate the garden area.
Baltimore City Hall was dedicated on October 25, 1875. It replaced the Peale Museum, the forty-six year temporary home for city employees, and was an important step in Baltimore’s development as a prominent American city. Located at 100 North Holliday Street, the French Revival style structure was designed by the twenty-one year old George A. Frederick. Frederick also designed the Druid Hill’s Moorish Tower, Saint Thomas Aquinas Church and Cylburn Mansion during his long and successful career. The Wendel Bollman designed iron dome was fabricated by the Bartlett-Hayward Company of Baltimore.
At the behest of then Mayor William Donald Schaefer, the building’s interior was remodeled in 1976 after signs of dangerous deterioration were noticed. Baltimore’s City Hall is the only building of its kind in America that was renovated to continue as a city hall. In 2009 city government voted to restore and clean the exterior marble of the structure. A half a million dollars was allocated for the project.
On the second floor several statues are on display. Two Hans Schuler pieces, the Centennial Eagle and William Pinkney Whyte statue, along with Edward Berge’s likeness of Thomas Gordon Hayes, dominate the bronze exhibits.
The Peale Museum Courtyard contains early 19th century artwork salvaged from razed Baltimore buildings. The largest sculpture comes from the facade of the razed Union Bank building that once stood nearby. The French artist Augustin Chevalier was commissioned to complete the tympanum lunette, a representation of Ceres and Neptune. The bas-relief dates from around 1807, making it one of the oldest pieces of architectural sculpture in America. John Henry Scarff, the Peale Museum’s restoration architect, designed and installed the garden during the 1930 rebuild. Additional pictures:    
City Hall’s second floor has numerous memorial sculptures and tablets on display. Two statues, one of Thomas Gordon Hayes and one of William Pinkney Whyte, dominate the group. The former Baltimore City mayors were sculpted by Edward Berge and Hans Schuler respectively, adding to the large number of public statues created by the pair. Another Schuler sculpture honoring the 100th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner is across the rotunda. The Centennial Eagle was dedicated in 1914.
Reuben Kramer, who created downtown’s rustic looking statue of Thurgood Marshall, provided the bust of Theodore McKeldin. The Howard W. Jackson memorial was sculpted by Jack Lambert, the artist responsible for the nearby medallions of Herbert Fallin and Dr. Horace Flack.