July 22, 2012

Hunting up History

It was a rainy weekend, so I was content to stay inside and do some work for the Baltimore Architecture Foundation. Last week, we were all set to leave a meeting there when the skies opened up and we got about 1.5 inches of rain in an hour. So while we were waiting for the rain to end, the other members of the Board and I went through some boxes of archival materials which had been donated to us.

Some of the boxes were filled with 8x10 black and white images of buildings around the city, none of which were marked. So on this rainy afternoon, I set to work identifying the buildings and putting labels on each of the 200+ pictures.I could identify about 2/3 of the buildings just by sight. Another dozen or so took some hunting for clues. And each person who’s looked at the images has provided me with an additional piece or two of information.A number of the pictures were of churches, and some of those had signs like the one above. But in an 8x10 picture, that piece was probably about 3/4 of an inch. So I pulled out my camera and took a picture of the sign on the macro setting. I enlarged it on my computer and in most cases I was able to read it. However, in the 30+ years since these  images were taken, there have been many changes. Churches have moved or are no longer in existence, or building have disappeared altogether. In other pictures, I could figure out the location from the surrounding buildings.

I thought I had an idea of where this lovely little place was, but took a drive downtown to confirm what I thought – that the building being erected in this image is an “air rights” building. The new building occupies the air rights over the older one, so it has more space and keeps a smaller footprint, and an old building is not demolished.

I did have a couple of favourites amongst this group if images…

Furness House has always been one of the top buildings on my love list. Every single thing about this (except the car) just ticks my boxes. I can’t remember if the urns are still along the roofline, so I will have to check next time I am down that way. I’d convert this to a house in a heartbeat. It looks like something you’d find down a narrow lane in London.

I fell madly in love with this building, but I can’t identify it. It appears to be a café of some sort, and there’s a sign right above the center doorway, but since it’s at a right angle to the building, I can’t read it. The other signs on the right side don’t tell much, and there’s a reflection in the windows saying “Hardware Fair” but I can’t locate any information about where that would have been in the early 1980’s.

The thing I loved about this building was the series of drawn shades on the second floor, as well as the cast iron arches above all of the windows and the goose-neck lamps illuminating the front of the café. I think that the person who lived above the café must have been pretty interesting if they made the effort to have Greek Key style shades in all nine of the windows. I also imagine that it was a pretty big space.

I am searching for more clues about the location of this building and am hoping that it’s still extant somewhere in Baltimore. If you’ve got any clues, let me know!

24 comments:

  1. I guess it's possible the second floor is also part of the cafe/restaurant. Or an obsessive boarding house owner. What a fun job though. I would love to do that detective work.

    Going to look for shades like that so I can have them throughout my entire house.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do love those shades, too! And if I was more confident that Connor wouldn't rip them from the windows, I'd investigate them for my south- and west-facing windows.

      Delete
  2. Furness House was built in the Nineteen Teens to a design by architect Edward Glidden, if I am not mistaken. I think all the urns were still there when I recently saw it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's about the right age. Anything in that particular area was destroyed by the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904. I am curious about the interiors, too!

      Delete
  3. Oh my, the mystery might be solved if one consults the delightful book series Then and Now. I stumbled upon these books (new) in a used book store in St. Pete FL. it too was a rainy day, but I was to end the day visiting this book store which Martha Stewart featured on her blog. Anyway the morning was spent touring the Salvidor Dali art museum, a pure treasure-- a trolley ride to the pier, a delicious cup of coffee and almond croissant to be had on the walk back to the museum parking lot. As we crossed each street looking west through the canyons of downtown St. Pete, we could see the dark clouds building in intensity-- we were smart to pay to park in a covered garage as it provided needed refuge as the rain poured down. On the spur of the moment we returned to the museum with its egg shaped glass wall/roof to experience a South Florida summer thunder and lightening display the Dali has a fantastic web site.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Then & Now books are great, but this building is probably not of such significance to be included. The remainder of the pictures are also smaller churches, and as such, also not in these books. I am going to rely on the memories of my fellow board members to help identify some of the stragglers.

      Delete
  4. There is a clue. The angle of the shadows cast by the scaffolding suggests an early morning or late afternoon photograph. That detail also suggests that this is an E/W street, because a N/S street would either be in full shadow or full light (at least at the upper stories) at those hours.

    The age and use seem to suggest one of the streets down near the harbor that would support retail. I'm thinking Pratt, Fayette, or Baltimore streets.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's sort of what I thought, too. I am also thinking Gay Street near the Fallsway. I am trying to find out where the Hardware Fair stores were located in the 1980's.

      Delete
  5. BAF is so blessed to have you, Meg + those shades are amazing as are the arches over each window. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! The arches over the windows are cast iron.

      Delete
  6. Great rainy day project. Now, what I need is a rainy day. Have a great week. Mary

    ReplyDelete
  7. http://www.furnesshouse.com/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, that's new! When I last researched this building, there was no information!

      Delete
  8. Why don't you ask the newspaper to feature one of these photos every week? Or more often. I'll bet there are still people alive that could identify these buildings. The cafe one - perhaps the greek key shades are from a ballroom or some such space connected to the cafe. Maybe it is a meeting place owned by an organization, or social club. Like the Sons of Italy, or something like that. What year is that car? Do you think the photos are all from the same era? You live an interesting life, Meg. Ann

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our local paper has all but ceased publishing stories about local architecture. They used to have a very active architecture critic, but with all of the layoffs, and buyouts...

      Delete
  9. Most large cities had an annual City Directory-- a cross reference of streets and residents and business listed alphabetically. by street etc a fascinating reference ---This City Directory publication, was a commercial enterprise advertising was sold on the front cover, back cover, inside pages etc no doubt a directory exists for Baltimore, and simply looking up the listing for Hardware fair ...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had no idea about this. I will have to check it out.

      Delete
  10. OM gosh city directories have been digitized from years past thank goodness for UM grad students

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Really! That will be a huge help! I love the internets!

      Delete
  11. I think it's this building at 202 W. Pratt. http://beerinbaltimore.blogspot.com/2011/01/expansion-underway-at-pratt-street-ale.html There was a Hardware Fair at 201 W. Pratt.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are truly a star. Next breakfast is my treat!

      Delete
  12. Ohh Julie spot on. Color photos grrreat. What a pretty piece intact that super duper glass structure in the back ground progress so they say

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our Julie! She's a clever one to find this.

      Delete
  13. The building with the urns (still sitting proudly along the roof0line) is at the intersection of Redwood Street and South Street (next to the restaurant/bakery Au Bon Pain.
    Avid and charmed reader

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for reading and commenting on Pigtown*Design. I read each and every comment and try to reply if I have your e-mail address.