Archive for the ‘Great Fire of 1904’ Category
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.
At 10:48 am on February 7, 1904, Baltimore’s great fire started with an explosion at the Hurst company building on the western side of the city. Just over twenty-four hours later the flames were under control, but most of downtown was destroyed with few structures surviving the intense heat. The conditions were so extreme that entire city blocks were gutted, while others were spared as the fires swept over them. Remarkably, City Hall, the Courthouse and the Old Post Office were left untouched. Charm City rebuilt rapidly, using the opportunity to improve the town’s design. The Great Fire of 1904 marker is attached to the west side of the Port Discovery building. The Centre Market Tablet and General Booth Fountain are nearby.
I’ve been tracing the cause and path of Baltimore’s Great Fire of 1904 and was thinking of mapping the area of the blaze, comparing pictures from then and now. This great website has already done all of this and much more, plotting the stages of the fire as it rolled north, east, and south through downtown. The event was apparently caused by an explosion at the Hurst Company building, the blast occurring at 10:48 am on an otherwise peaceful Sunday morning. Due to extreme winds and very narrow streets the flames were able to jump entire city blocks, leaving some areas untouched amidst the devastation.
Several buildings survived the fire including the Union Trust Company (or Jefferson Building) at the corner of Charles and Fayette Streets. The structure’s windows had been blown out by nearby attempted preventative dynamiting, leaving the building vulnerable. The inside burned completely out but the steel frame survived and the building is still in use today. This picture shows the grand old post office, city hall and the courthouse just at the edge of the fire’s devastation zone. A last and sudden change in the direction of the wind towards the south saved the historic buildings from destruction.
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.