One of the things I love most about being on the boards of the AIA and the Baltimore Architecture Foundation is the opportunities I have to see buildings that I’d never otherwise have the chance to visit. One such opportunity presented itself with a tour of the former national headquarters for Monumental Life, later Aeon Insurance.
The building has just undergone a year-long conversion from an insurance cubicle farm to a health-care provider, Chase-Brexton Clinic. Chase wanted to remain in the same neighbourhood where they started, and Aeon wanted to move into new office space on the Harbour, so a deal was done and work began.
The building, or actually three buildings take up almost one full city block. This part of the building was built in the 1920’s, while money was still abundant. It’s long and skinny, really only about 40-50 feet deep. The entrance, as I said, is rather plain.
What’s an insurance company without a fancy board room?This Tudor-style board room still retains the scent of many smoked cigars and cigarettes, but there’s no evidence that there was every a fire in the fireplace.
The 1939 building is slightly fancier, but after the Depression, I am sure they didn’t want to give the impression of being too opulent. There are some beautiful book-matched pieces of marble, which the renovation architects proposed to paint over (the horror!). The two bronze doors lead into the former cashiers’ office, where people would come to pay their bills. It’s hard to tell, but there’s inch-thick bullet-proof glass on the cashier stations, and when they tried to remove it, they found they would have to take the whole wall down.
Interestingly, perpendicular to the cashier stations is this odd window. It was the paymaster’s office, and the round hole was for a machine gun.If anyone tried to rob the cashiers, security would stick the gun through the hole and mow them down! EEK! Seems like there would be a lot of collateral damage to that!
Special lights were created for the main floor, and they’re much more effective here (because all of the bulbs are lit) and really glisten in the reflective surfaces of the polished marble walls and floors and the gold-leaf ceiling.
All of the medical spaces are ultra modern and every convenience is seen to, including this spinner with the bathroom on one side and the lab on the other, so you don’t have to carry your urine specimen down the hall.