Baltimore west of Park Avenue has long been a center of commerce. The Lexington Markets has been operating since the days of the Revolutionary War. In the1800s the great department stores moved into the neighborhood to join the bustling factories and warehouses down by the harbor.
Our walking tour will start in the middle of Baltimore’s retail district at the intersection of Lexington and Howard streets...
northeast corner of Howard and Lexington streets
Samuel Posner was a longtime Baltimore merchant whose run in the town ended after he constructed this white retail palace in 1900. He was rescued from his financial distress caused by its construction late in 1901 when Louis Stewart of New York purchased the Charles E. Cassell-designed Italian Renaissance emporium. Stewart’s Department Store aimed at Baltimore’s upper crust but was never able to dislodge Hutzler’s as the town’s go-to luxury department store. Stewart’s enjoyed more success with suburban branches beginning in the 1950s as the downtown flagship wound down to is closing in 1978.
southwest corner of Howard and Lexington streets
Samuel Hecht began his retail career in Baltimore in a used furniture store in 1857. Clothing was added to the store along with four of Samuel’s sons and the business grew into the 20th century as “Hecht Brothers.” This store came along in the 1920s and the company remained family-owned until 1959 when it was acquired by the May Department Store Company, which kept the downtown flagship going until 1988, long after its competitors had folded or skedaddled to the suburbs.
WALK SOUTH ON HOWARD STREET AND TURN LEFT ON WEST FAYETTE STREET.
The Brewers Exchange
20 Park Avenue, southwest corner of West Fayette Street
Baltimore was the beer capital of America in the 19th century and the ale and beer brewers guild was flush enough in 1895 to construct the monumental Brewers Exchange as a center for their industry. Architect Joseph Evans Sperry infused his classically-flavored design with elaborate terra-cotta ornament to create a temple to Baltimore beer. Alas the independent breweries were disappearing in an industry consolidation and the few remaining large companies had no use for the Exchange, it was sold to the Mercantile Savings Bank in 1906.
TURN LEFT (north) ON PARK AVENUE.
southwest corner of Park Avenue and Lexington Street
Despite the prominence of the Howard and Lexington stores, there were other players in Baltimore’s downtown retail wars. Julius Gutman was one. He opened his value-pricing store in 1877, with his stock tending towards low-cost items the bigger stores shunned. Gutman’s thrived enough to build this eight-story store in 1928 and Baltimore shoppers could come and ride the town’s first escalators. Gutman’s merged into Brager-Gutman’s and reigned as the leading discount store in downtown Baltimore.
119 West Lexington, southeast corner of Park Avenue
Sebastian Spering Kresge’s first business enterprise was a single hive of bees he nursed into a colony of 32 hives as a young boy. He would keep bees as an adult hobby because, he said, “My bees always remind me that hard work, thrift, sobriety and earnest struggle to live an upright Christian life are the rungs of the ladder of success.” At age 21 Kresge began exploring the business field working in door-to-door selling, insurance, bookkeeping, and baking before settling into the sale of tinware for five years on straight commission. He entered into other retailing partnerships with $8000 he had carefully saved, working in stores in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Michigan. By 1899 he was on his own in Detroit. Kresge put a large number of items on open counters where they could be examined and appraised. The slogan over his door said it all: “Nothing over 10 cents.” By 1914 when he moved his company into this headquarters, Kresge had 150 five-and-dime stores. He lived into his 100th year, long enough to see the first Kmart open in 1962. Kresge’s took over this 1908 building in the 1930s and gave it a streamlined Art Deco exterior. Kresge’s closed here in the 1970s but the retail space has trundled on ever since.
TURN LEFT ON WEST CLAY STREET AND TURN RIGHT ON NORTH HOWARD STREET.
228-232 North Howard Street
Bankrolled by his father, Abram Hutzler opened his first retail store in Baltimore in 1858. When brothers Charles and David were brought into the business in 1867 Hutzler was on its way to Baltimore retail immortality with its one-price, no haggling policy. Property acquisitions and expansions followed, culminating in this Art Deco store known as the Tower in 1932. It opened with five stories and extended to nine in 1941. Hutzler’s navigated the selling waters and reigned as Baltimore’s “place to shop” for 132 years as a family-owned company before liquidating in 1990.
Provident Savings Bank
southwest corner of Howard and Saratoga streets
Provident Savings Bank took its first deposits in 1886 on its way to becoming Maryland’s largest commercial bank with 143 branches at its height. Joseph Evans Sperry designed this classically flavored rusticated stone vault in 1904.
TURN LEFT ON WEST SARATOGA STREET.
G. Krug & Son
415 West Saratoga Street
“There is hardly a building in Baltimore that doesn’t contain something we made, even if it is only a nail.” So boasted Theodore Krug, heir to the oldest continuously working iron shop in the country. For more than 170 years artisans here have hammered out practical and ornamental ironwork that still graces such local landmarks as Otterbein Methodist Church, the Basilica of the Assumption, Washington Monument, Zion Church, Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Baltimore Zoo. The modest beginnings of the shop date back to 1810, when farmers traveling to and from the market stopped to have their horses shod and their wagons repaired by blacksmith Andrew Schwatke.
TURN RIGHT ON NORTH PACA STREET.
St. Jude Shrine
308 North Paca Street
The St. Jude Shrine is located in Baltimore, Maryland, and has been staffed and operated by the Pallottine Fathers and Brothers for over 80 years. The Shrine was entrusted to the Pallottines by the Archbishop of Baltimore in 1917. Around the outset of World War II, devotion to St. Jude was reaching meaningful proportions and so it was decided to establish regular novena services.
Mother Seton House
600 North Paca Street, Baltimore
Built around 1807, this was the home of Elizabeth Bayley Seton, the first American-born woman beatified and canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. Seton was not a born Catholic, she converted in 1805 after the death of her husband. She took her religious vows at St. Mary’s Seminary Chapel and founded the religious order of the Daughters of Charity. Afterwards, she established a school for girls in Emmitsburg, Maryland, the first parochial school in America.
TURN AROUND AND RETURN TO WEST SARATOGA STREET AND TURN RIGHT. TURN LEFT ON PINE STREET.
Old Pine Street Station
214 North Pine Street
This exuberant brick building was built in 1878 as the Western District Police Station, a function it maintained until 1951. Architect Francis E. Davis used red brick trimmed with bluestone to create the High Victorian Gothic showpiece with finials and spires and gables punctuating its roofline. It wasn’t just a pretty Victorian face - the Pine Street Station, as it was known in the neighborhood, was a busy place, situated in an district of saloons and houses of prostitution. That it still stands today is testament to the efforts of early preservationists in the city.
TURN LEFT ON LEXINGTON STREET.
651-665 West Lexington
Touring the streets of early 19th century one would have passed rows and rows of streets like this. Two centuries later only this handsome collection of of eight three-and-one-half story dwellings developed wealthy merchant Louis Pascault in 1819, remain. William Small, a busy architect in early Baltimore, normally gets the credit for these townhomes that bridged the Federal and Greek Revival eras. The building at 655 West Lexington Street is the best unaltered example within Pascault Row.
617-631 West Lexington Street
In April of 1880, Joseph Rieman began accumulating land at the southwestern edge of Lexington Market for an eight-unit, block-long commercial and residential development. Rieman planned for the first floors to accommodate high quality businesses with better than average housing units above the shops, which he had outfitted in a fashionable Queen Anne style.
Lexington Street and North Paca Street
Established in 1782, Lexington is the city’s oldest and most famous public market. It began as an open air bazaar before evolving into two commodious buildings. It was the Western precincts Market in those days. Inside, founded in 1886, Faidley Seafood is one of the oldest and best-known purveyors of fresh and prepared seafood in the Chesapeakeregion. Today, it is owned and operated by Bill and Nancy Devine, descendants of founder John W. Faidley.
TURN RIGHT ON NORTH PACA STREET AND TURN RIGHT ON WEST FAYETTE STREET.
Westminster Church and Cemetery
519 West Fayette Street
This was the Western Burying Ground in the early Baltimore days, given to the Presbyterians by Revolutionary War hero John Eager Howard. As the city moved westward members of the church feared the sacred ground would be desecrated so they hired Thomas and James Dixon and Thomas Balbirnie to build an English-style church on the property in 1852. The graves included Revolutionary patriots, veterans of the War of 1812, and many distinguished citizens of Baltimore, including Mayor James Calhoun, Colonel James McHenry. Three modest memorials recall the writer Edgar Allen Poe who whose “The Raven” is the only poem to inspire an National Football League’s team’s name. After his mysterious death in 1849 at age 40, Poe’s relatives erected a small gravestone. Before the stone could be installed, however, a train crashed through the monument yard and destroyed it. The poet is remembered on his birthday every January 19, when a mysterious “Poe Toaster” leaves half a bottle of cognac and three roses at the grave. On the weekend closest to Poe’s birthday, a party is held in his honor. A Halloween tour is also scheduled each year.
Eutaw Savings Bank Building
Eutaw and Fayette streets
Charles Carson was a Baltimore native, born to a builder father in 1847. Carson taught himself architecture and became one of the town’s leading Victorian designers. Eutaw Savings Bank began in the same year and the two came together in 1887 to create this Renaissance Revival banking house, executed in brownstone with a Corinthian entranceway.
Baltimore Equitable Society Building
21 North Eutaw Street
With roots in the 18th century, the Baltimore Equitable Society is America’s fourth oldest fire insurance company, writing its first policies in 1794. Policy holders placed a “fire mark” in the shape of clasped hands on their houses to let firefighters know it was insured since early fire companies would only extinguish fires of insured homes. Charles Carson designed this brick Italian Renaissance building for the Eutaw Savings Bank in 1857 and Baltimore Equitable, the town’s oldest corporation, moved in during 1887. Save for a coat of paint, the two-story structure remains unchanged although Baltimore Equitable has moved on to Charles Center.
12 North Eutaw Street
Beginning in 1835 this was the site of one of the town’s grand luxury hotels of the 19th century, theEutaw House. Entertainment impresarios Marion Pearce and Philip Scheck replaced it with the Hippodrome Theatre in 1914. The two showmen had gotten their start hauling a projector and reels of film to local community halls and church basements in the area before opening their first nickleodeon on Eutaw Street. Pearce and Scheck ran the town’s first store selling motion picture equipment and even made their own movies. For their new movie palace they hired one of America’s most famous big-city architects, Thomas Lamb. The Hippodrome had seats for 3,000 patrons and by 1920 ticket sales exceeded over 20,000 per week which helped cover the $225,000 construction costs. The Hippodrome followed a familiar life arc of downtown theaters into decline in the 1960s while battling suburban malls and television but dodged the wrecking ball long enough to experience a rebirth.
329-335 W. Baltimore Street, corner of Eutaw Street
George A. Frederick, who designed Baltimore’s City Hall when he was in his early twenties, blended classical and Italianate style for this warehouse in 1879 brick, bluestone, white marble, cast iron and terra-cotta trim. The money man was Arunah Shepardson Abell, the founder of the Baltimore Sun. Strouss Brothers, one of the town’s largest clothing concerns, operated here for years. Its days as garment warehouse long gone, the exuberant workhorse has been re-adapted as residences.
Loft Historic District
400 block of Redwood Street, west of Eutaw Street
After the ravages of the Civil War finally came to an end there was an explosion in the demand for ready-to-wear clothing. Baltimore was ideally situated to service the boom and thousands of garment workers flooded the town to fill jobs in brawny brick Victorian factory buildings. This block contains the finest collection of the breed remaining in Baltimore, most still sport decorative brickwork and stone trim and cast iron storefronts can still be seen. While some industry still flourishes in Baltimore’s Loft Historic District most of the buildings that have survived have been imaginatively converted to residential and office uses.
Emerson Bromo-Seltzer Tower
corner of South Eutaw and Lombard streets
The iconic Emerson Bromo-Seltzer Tower was erected in 1911 from a Florentine-inspired design by Joseph Evans Sperry and reigned as the town’s tallest building until 1923. Isaac E. Emerson was born on a North Carolina farm in 1859. After obtaining a degree in chemistry from the University of North Carolina Emerson migrated to Baltimore and opened a small apothecary where he developed a head and stomach pain relief remedy he called Bromo-Seltzer. He formed the Emerson Drug Company in 1887. It was the dawn of the age of consumer product advertising and Isaac Emerson became a prime player. Bromo-Seltzer ads could be seen everywhere - newspapers, magazines and, most conspicuously in the pain reliever’s hometown, on a 51-foot tall, glowing blue bottle that rotated above the 288.7 foot high tower. A clock face was adorned the letters B-R-O-M-O S-E-L-T-Z-E-R. For safety reasons the bottle was pulled down in 1936; the tower itself was abandoned but in early 2007 the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts began renovations to transform the building into 33 artists’ studios.
TURN RIGHT ON WEST LOMBARD STREET.
410 West Lombard Street
This warehouse carries an elite architectural pedigree. It was designed in a Romanesque style in 1890 by Charles Carson, rendered in brick, sandstone, terra cotta and iron. In 1914 Joseph Evans Sperry, who decorated Baltimore streets with buildings for over 50 years, tacked on an addition here.
Inner Harbor Lofts
northwest corner of South Paca Street and West Lombard Street
Three separate Victorian era buildings were cobbled together for these residential lofts. In the bustling factory days a shoe manufacturer, the nation’s leading straw hat company, (M.S. Levy), one of the largest lithographers in the south, (Isaac Friedenwald and Company), and E. Rosenfeld and Company, manufacturer of sleepwear hummed with activity here.
College of Medicine of Maryland /Davidge Hall
522 West Lombard Street
Nowhere in America has medical instruction been offered longer than under this green-domed structure built in 1812. French-American architect Maximilian Godefroy is credited with designing the dome and the wooden Doric portico. The dome served as a skylight to illuminate the anatomy theater where students worked on cadavers.
RETURN TO SOUTH PACA STREET AND TURN RIGHT.
South Paca and Pratt streets
This early 20th century industrial design was the “world’s largest clothing factory” when it opened in 1906; it is the earliest steel and concrete building in Baltimore.
TURN LEFT ON NORTH CHARLES STREET.
The Wilkens-Robins Building
308-312 West Pratt Street
Cast iron enjoyed a brief flurry of popularity as a building material in post-Civil War America since it was easy to mold into ornate forms, quick to assemble and inexpensive. Industrial Baltimore boasted one of the largest foundries in America producing architectural ironwork but most of the town’s cast iron-front buildings were destroyed in Baltimore’s Great Fire of 1904 and most of the rest were razed as the facades fell out of fashion. The Wilkens-Robins Building, constructed for a brush company (Wilkens) in 1871 and later occupied by a paper business (Robins), is one of the souvenirs of that era.
TURN LEFT ON SOUTH HOWARD STREET TO RETURN TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT.