Discover Baltimore’s Changing Skyline
As commerce and industry expanded, the business district transformed itself again. In 1857, the Baltimore Sun noted: “The city of yesterday is not the city of today. The dingy edifices that for half a century have stood …are one by one being removed, and in their places new and imposing fronts of brown stone or iron present themselves.” The Sun Iron Building (1851) introduced cast-iron architecture to Baltimore and the nation. Its five-story cast-iron façade, iron post-and-beam construction, and sculptural detailing were copied in cities worldwide. Twenty-two new downtown Baltimore buildings incorporated cast iron into
The Great Fire of 1904 decimated the central business district, forcing the next great transformation. By then, the skeletal steel-framed system, the elevator, electricity, and advances in plumbing had ushered in the era of the high rise. Business practices had evolved as local firms merged with national corporations while office and manufacturing activities separated. With industrial buildings now relegated to the outskirts and office buildings dominating city centers, the skyscraper had become the icon of urban America. Though Baltimore’s post-fire landscape included an eclectic mix of older and newer styles, high rises increasingly predominated. Modernism reigned during the mid-20th century, later giving way to ever-larger and taller buildings, now clad with a postmodern sensibility.
(Inscriptions under the images on the left)
(Image 1) Kaminsky’s Tavern, a wood frame gambrel roof house, was situated at Grant and Mercer Streets. Originally a one-story detached house, it was built around 1752. As the downtown area developed, the street was lowered and the stone foundation was added. This picture was taken around 1870 before the tavern was demolished.
(Image 2) This view of the Lovely Lane Methodist Meeting House by Thomas Coke Ruckle provides an early 19th century glimpse of downtown. Built around 1774
(Image 3) Baltimore Street looking west from Calvert Street, 1850. During the first half of the 19th century, residences and businesses shared the same architectural styles and often the same buildings. Large storefront display windows and awnings helped differentiate shops from residences.
(Image 4) The Sun Iron Building (1851), southeast corner of Baltimore and South Streets. A local locomotive machinist fabricated the ornamental detailing, and local foundries forged the post and beams. By 1880, Baltimore’s cast-iron building components were found in cities and towns throughout the country, including the columns, windows, and doors of the U.S. Capitol.
(Image 5) The Sun Iron Building and the News-American Building (both destroyed in the 1904 Fire) exemplified mid-19th century changes in architecture. Used strictly for commercial purposes, these structures were built on a much larger scale than residential Baltimore.
(Image 6) The Continental Trust Building, at 1 S. Calvert Street, is Baltimore’s first steel-frame high rise. Designed by Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, it was built in 1901. It once housed the Pinkerton Detective Agency, where novelist Dashiell Hammett worked as a private detective from 1915 to 1922. Local folklore suggests that the black birds above the building’s entrance inspired Hammett’s novel, The Maltese Falcon.
Location. 39° 17.374′ N, 76° 36.751′ W. Marker is in Baltimore, Maryland. Marker is at the intersection of East Baltimore Street and South Calvert Street on East Baltimore Street. Touch for map. The marker is located on the southwest corner. Marker is in this post office area: Baltimore MD 21202, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Alex Brown Investment Banking Company (here, next to this marker); Alex. Brown & Sons Company Building (a few steps from this marker); Continental Trust Building (within shouting distance of this marker); The Munsey Building (within shouting distance of this marker); The Lovely Lane Meeting House (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Equitable Building (about 300 feet away); The Battle Monument (about 400 feet away); a different marker also named The Battle Monument (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Baltimore.
Categories. • Architecture • Colonial Era • Industry & Commerce •
Credits. This page was last revised on May 8, 2017. This page originally submitted on May 7, 2017, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. This page has been viewed 113 times since then and 32 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on May 7, 2017, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.