May 8, 2014

Theatre Tour

The Baltimore Architecture Foundation, where I am Board Chair, frequently gives tours of buildings which are still in the construction phase. One of our Board members arranged for us to tour the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s “new” headquarters, which is actually a building that’s more than a century old!

The building was used as a bank for about the first 100 years and then it was renovated and became a series of progressively worse nightclubs before it was finally shuttered. The most jaw-dropping thing about the space is its incredible ceiling. ceiling3

The entire building is coffered in these ceilings and they are just simply stunning. The bank had dropped the ceilings by about 2/3 and the nightclub owners had received historic tax credits to take out the drop ceilings to expose these. These probably aren’t the original colours, but the ceiling was in such good shape, the CSC decided not to repaint.

I was so intrigued that I took loads of images of it. The grid-like structure hanging from the ceiling will be used for some lighting. ceiling

It was actually difficult to get a picture of the whole ceiling because of the stage in the center of the room. It’s going to be a theatre in the round, and should be a fabulous venue from to watch the plays. This is looking into the theatre,

and this is from the opposite angle.

There are many remnants of the original bank, including some serious security measures. All of the windows have quarter-inch thick iron shutters which could be locked from within. The windows also had re-enforced glass with iron bars.



There was a massive safe on the main floor and some bright spark in the nightclub years tried to cut through it.

The ceiling is supported by a number of elaborate columns. You can see their scale here. ceiling2It was fun to see the architectural drawings of them, too.

Even the outside had security measures. There’s a step in this picture with a ring above it. The night patrolman could hoist himself on the step, hang on to the ring and peer inside to see if all was well.

Here’s our friend David modeling the step!photo

The exterior of the building is as interesting as the inside.

It is filled with amazing details carved into the brownstone.

Thanks to the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company and Southway Builders for a great tour.

19 comments:

  1. Wow, what a fabulous building. In another life, I would just poke about looking at old places, the more obscure the better, trying to work out what all the quirky stuff was for. I'd never have guessed the night-watchman-hoister-ring!

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    1. I love poking around! This place is a marvel. Built like a tank with lots of hiding places!

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  2. Always good to see a great building being restored and repurposed. Thanks, Meg!

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    1. This is a centerpiece building in Baltimore, so it's great to have it alive again!

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  3. so cool! and I actually love the ceiling being polychrome like that...

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  4. When I see grand structures of yester year I often wonder where did the bank get the money for that building? ( Today bonds are floated to build stadiums for football games for wealthy football team owners that receive community awards for the money they donate to city projects.).. Oh yeah, the fools that deposited their hard earned money which earned a pitiful interest rate but bankers lead a fabulous life style I suppose... lending huge sums to other hobnobbers, venture capitalists--- and now we have stock market where traders that get information seconds before the average guy to reap vast profits out of another generation of suckers. High frequency traders are offered a feed of information for a fee of course to rip off the rest of us. Retire, how can one , reduce reuse recycle, less is more, live for today spend your children's inheritance or invent the next it thing that Apple will spend 3 billion dollars to buy

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  5. WOW! I am such a sucker for ceilings, anyway. When I was in the Louvre, I took a picture of every ceiling as soon as I stepped into a new gallery, and THEN I looked at the art on display. This one reminds me of Faberge eggs, perhaps due to the color palette. It makes me happy to see historic buildings revived and repurposed respectfully like this -- what a fantastic theatre space this will be! Thanks for sharing it with us!

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  6. That ceiling is magnificent! I'm sure it's even more striking in person.

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    1. It was hard to capture the size and colours of the ceiling.

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  7. Thank you, Meg for these absolutely stunning photos! I love the architectural beauty of historic buildings! I've often told my husband that I wish some of the homes of the early 1900's in New York were still there. I know there are some, but not enough and of course, not feasible in a place like NYC. Thanks again!

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    1. Teri... if you read New York Social Diary, they often feature old houses.

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  8. Such vibrant color. I'm so glad the building will have a life as a theatre.

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    1. It was always outside at an abandoned female seminary, but that's not entirely practical.

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  9. Love the ceiling... the color scheme, not so much. Fab building, though!

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    1. Trust me, it's much better in person!

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  10. Thanks, Meg, Great photos showcasing brilliant use of space and so psyched to have Shakespeare in B'more!

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  11. A superb and great blog on the theatre tour.

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