Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mr. Vickers' Building and His Inventive Tenants

Vickers Building, 2014
(Photo Credit:
    Much has been said about the Vickers Building (219-231 East Redwood Street, once German Street) mainly associated with 2001 preservationist efforts by the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and the Maryland Historical Trust, in coordination with the City of Baltimore's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) and Preservation Maryland.  Baltimore Heritage highlighted that the permit for this 'new' Vickers Building (to replace the old Vickers Building with ornate Second Empire style with Mansard roofs and complex architecture details) was issued on May 19, 1904, merely 3 months after the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904.  

Old Vickers Building, pre 1904
(Drawing, Courtesy "Monument City")
    Architects like Meyers and Eitelman after the fire took practical approaches to design that focused on cost-efficiency and quick rebuilding practices that focused on fire-conscious planning.  Brick facing, flat roofs, and receding bay windows were employed vs. Mansard roofs, and protruding bay windows which were designs believed to have contributed to the Fire's spread.

    Mr. George R. Vickers, Jr. (1843-1916), whose surname is predominantly etched in multiple places upon the building, was the son of a prominent businessmen of Baltimore by the same name who helped found one of the oldest banks in the city, National Marine Bank of Baltimore (currently at 33 South Gay Street), incorporated in 1810. Like his father, George Jr. was Vice-President of the bank and he was also determined to erect the four-story brick office building replacing his father's previous office building.  It was built costing
Vickers Building Entrance, 2014
(Photo Credit:
$50,000 and Mr. Vickers Jr. first advertised office space as being desirable to stock brokers and bankers in the Baltimore Sun in November 1904.

    While it is well know that a current occupant of the building (since 1950) is Werner's Restaurant, with its remarkably intact example of art deco interior complete with late Moderne lunch counter, there have been a few interesting and odd inventors with historical connections who have occupied its walls.  Five years after opening, a New Jersey-based business by the name of The Collins Wireless Telephone Company established an office in the Vickers Building in September 1909 - it was to demonstrate to Baltimore a novel system that was essentially one of the earliest predecessors of today's modern cellular telephone.

A. Frederick Collins in Newark NJ Lab
(Photo Credit:
    Archie Frederick Collins, resident of New York City, filed Patent Number 814,942, dated March 13, 1906, entitled Wireless Telephony by stating "my invention relates to the art of transmitting and receiving articulate speech electronically between two or more stations without connecting wires."  Indeed, a Baltimore Sun article reported the demonstration resulted in conversation that "could be distinctly heard at both telephones, one being located on a scow off the United Fruit Company's pier, on Pratt Street, and the other on the pier of the Standard Oil Company, a distance of about 500 feet.... Voices at both ends could be distinctly understood and distinguished, being transmitted in a  clear, liquid tone, coming as plainly as over the ordinary telephone."

Collins Wireless Telephone Company
Stock Certificate, April 1909
   An article, published by Collins' assistant in Modern Electronics, August 1908, gave a somewhat odd foreshadowing of today's modern cell phone: The Collins Wireless Telephone will make "it possible to telephone from automobiles to the garage where help is needed... every auto will be provided with a portable wireless telephone. Then in the event of the inevitable accident the phone can be taken out, set up ready for use and communication can be established."

    You can read about Mr. Collin ... Genius or Fraud? but, suffice it to say, in 1911 four officers of the company were indicted for using the mails to defraud in selling worthless stock and he was charged and convicted of giving fraudulent demonstrations of his wireless telephone on October 14, 1909 at the Electrical Show in Madison Square Garden, NY for the purpose of selling stock in the Company.

Thomas Marshall Smith
Inventor (1851-1934)
(Courtesy: Baltimore Sun)
    The Vickers Building hosted another inventor, Thomas Marshall Smith (great-grandson to Chief Justice John J. Marshall), merely a month later in October 1909, demonstrated his Baltimore invention in room 209 - it was known as The St. Margaret's Invalid Lifter.  The British Journal of Nursing featured it in 1910 as being "the nurse's friend."  It was only advertised in local papers for one month having the recommendations of doctors from Johns Hopkins University and the U.S. Government eventually attaining Patent Number 976,307, dated November 22, 1910, entitled Hydraulic Invalid Lifter.  

    By May 28, 1911, while there were numerous lifts for invalids being used, his was hailed by the Baltimore Sun as being "A Boon To The Sick" since the heavy lifting was done hydraulically through a pump with the simple press of a foot on a pedal at the base near the floor.  According to a feature article, Mr. Smith came to his idea through a desire to help his mother, who late in life lost the use of her limbs and was large and heavy.

        George Vickers Jr continued as a well respected businessman, predominantly as Vice President of the bank for 30 years, but was at one time involved in a Court of Appeals of Maryland suit from a judgement he received over a contract land tract 1903 purchase dispute in which he lost in Baltimore Circuit Court against the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore.  Oddly enough, during the State Court appeal, Edgar Allen Poe and Albert C. Ritchie argued against Mr. Vickers on behalf of the City.  He  lived at 1317 North Eutaw Street until his death but his memory lives on as do the novel ideas of the tenants in his building.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Baltimore's Own Toy Story - Schwarz and Schwerdtmann

Frederick A.O. Schwarz,
Land Ownership Plot, c1865
According to land records, just about 1,500 feet to the west of chrome magnate Jesse Tyson's (featured in an earlier CharmCityHistory blog post) Cylborn estate, in a plot of land between the current-day Pimlico and Cold Springs neighborhoods, resided a certain Frederick August Otto Schwarz.  He immigrated from Germany at the age of 20, the youngest of four brothers who also lived in Baltimore.

  Preceding his arrival in America were his three older brothers who
Schwarz Brothers
Baltimore, 1862
were all born in Herford, Westphalia Province in Germany, to a jeweler named Frederick and his wife Frederica Rothe Schwarz - they were Henry, Gustav A., and Richard.  The oldest and first to immigrate was Henry who for a short time owned property in downtown New York but having found it to be too liberal to his taste, by 1858, convinced all the siblings to move to Baltimore.

Schwerdtmann & Co.
Holiday Advertisment, 1869
(Courtesy: Baltimore Sun)
   According to Baltimore City Business Directories, by 1860,  Frederick was a salesman and Henry was partnered with Theodore Schwerdtmann as owners of a toy and fancy goods store named Schwerdtmann & Co. at 7/9 N. Howard Street (next to the old "Howard House," currently occupied by Instant Financials and Wireless One businesses) and a location at the SE corner of Baltimore and Calvert Streets.  By 1863, Henry had moved to Baltimore County and Frederick was living at 157 W. Fayette St. (basically the current location of the Liberty Street Dog Park), both partnered at Scwherdtmann & Co. which was now also at 133 W. Baltimore Street.

   In 1863, Frederick was at 157 W. Fayette, Henry in Baltimore County, both partnered with Theodore Schwerdtmann at Schwerdtmann & Co., 7 and 9 N. Howard St (next to "Howard House")
Schwerdtmann & Schwarz
1870 Christmas Display Ad
(Courtesy: Baltimore Tribune)
and 133 W. Baltimore Street.   In 1865, both Frederick and Henry resided in Baltimore County, Frederick was working at the 327 W. Baltimore Schwerdtmann & Co. location and Henry worked with Theodore Scwhwerdtmann at the 327 and 133 W. Baltimore Street locations.

1870 F.A.O. Schwarz
Newspaper Ad
  The last records of Frederick August Otto (F.A.O.) owning in Baltimore was in 1869, when in addition to his Baltimore County property, he last lived at 66 N. Greene Street, later moving with his growing family to New York City where he established his own importing business, the Schwarz Toy Bazaar at 765 Broadway.  On February 1, 1870, Frederick had formally and legally dissolved his business relationship leaving only Henry in copartnership with Theodore as Schwerdtmann & Schwartz toys, fancy goods and novelties (see Christmas 1870 display ad).

Henry Schwarz's Toys
Christmas 1873 Display Ad
(Courtesy: Baltimore Sun)
   All four Schwarz brothers were fierce business minded men with staunch German ways but what united them was their love of the toy business. By the Christmas season of 1873, Henry Schwarz was now separately owning and operating a 'toys and fancy goods'  store at 211 W. Baltimore joined for a time by his brothers Richard and Gustav.   They each determined to separate urban markets in founding their businesses, Gustav opened a store at 106 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia; Richard on Washington Street, Boston, and of course F.A.O's highly prosperous Toy Bazaar, later to be known as F.A.O Schwarz on Fifth Avenue, New York City.
Polio-ridden Margarete Steiff
and her famous stuffed
Steiff Teddy Bear

   By 1880, Schwerdtmann & Co. had ceased to exist in Baltimore, but Schwarz moved his location to 15 E. Baltimore Street in 1888, a place that would unfortunately be in the direct path of Baltimore's Great Fire in 1904.  According to Baltimore Sun articles, Henry's courteous manners and the high-standard of goods he offered for sale attracted the fashionable and wealthy.  It was in that store where among all the assortment of toys that the stuffed "Teddy Bears" of Margarete Steiff's were remembered most - Henry Schwarz was the first merchant in America to import them from Germany.

  As Gustave became older and ailing in the late 1890s, his son Gustave began as a salesman in the store and then owner upon Henry's death on October 11, 1903.  Four months later, the fire would consume the original store but he reopened the Schwarz toy store at 315 North Charles Street (now Maisy's) where he operated it until it and another store location at 327 North Howard Street until 1922 when he became too ill and Baltimore's own toy story came to a close.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Faded Hints of the Past Series: Baltimore's Five and Dime Store

Ghost Ad visible from
the corner of Marion St.
and Park Avenue
    It's been several months since CharmCityHistory has highlighted any of the city's remaining precious faded hints into Baltimore's past.  This time we travel to Baltimore's West Side (U.S. Census tract "401") District and stand at the southeast corner of Marion Street and Park Avenue.  Staring up at what is the back side of the building at 117 West Lexington Street, you will notice a tiled white wall having a rather predominant "S.S." outline of lettering.  Taking a little more of a careful look, the observer will begin to make out another faded part of the clue, "KRES.."

    The front facade of this mostly white glazed terra cotta panel covered building is situated at the southeast corner of West Lexington and Park Avenues, the easternmost edge of what was once known as Baltimore's shopping district.   According to the Maryland Historical Trust the building  with its sweeping curved corner is one of the finest examples in Baltimore of an Art Deco or Modernistic architecture style although it didn't start out looking this way.

117 West Lexington Street (circa 2012)
(Photo Courtesy:
    Within a different but quite similarly sized building since 1894 was the J. Edward Bird & Company, a successful department store owned by J. Edward and his brother Warren C. Bird begun in 1837 on Pratt Street by their father J. Edward Bird, Sr.  According to the Baltimore Sun, the firm grew rapidly and won quite a reputation for reliability, first moving to 211 West Baltimore Street in 1840 and then to 213 West Baltimore Street in 1856, before ending on June 29, 1910 what would be a total of 73 years here.  

Baltimore S.S. Kresge
Advertisement, April 1922
(Courtesy: Baltimore Sun)
    Immediately nearby this location was a hotbed of properties on West Lexington and Liberty Streets  that were owned by once famous firms like Woodward & Lothrop of Washington and gaining the interest of New York firms as well.  As early as December 1909, negotiations were being made for a new leasing occupant at this location by an aspiring young man, Sebastian Spering Kresge.  He graduated from business college in 1889 and, after about eight years of having worked in a five and ten cent store (a business concept first originated by the Woolworth Brothers in 1879) in Tennessee, founded his own company with two similar five and ten cent stores in 1897.

    The S.S. Kresge Company, as it would eventually be known to be, had grown nationally to 19 stores when a Baltimore Sun advertisement stating "WANTED-75 SALESLADIES," soon after officially opening its 20th store at this location in July 1910, complete with soda fountain cafe.  Financial documents reported that the property was eventually purchased on January 6, 1913 by Kresge for approximately $400,000.
S.S. Kresge Department Store,
Baltimore, circa 1940

    Baltimore housewives were flocking to the store throughout the 1920s when it became apparent that a new and improved building was in order.  In a November 1937 Sun news article, plans were announced to replace the original S.S. Kresge building with a new one at the cost of $250,000 - this is the present building of today.

    Business for the Kresge store had expanded to the point where more floor space was needed and in April 1940, the nearby adjacent buildings at 120-122 North Liberty Street were purchased from the New York Life Insurance Company.  Those buildings were later razed in 1955 so as to allow for a new, adjoined, extension retail space.  As a result of this building addition, a year later, the Building Congress and Exchange of Baltimore gave the Baker Cork and Tile Company of Baltimore, Inc. a workmanship award its formica stair walls.
July 1922 Dixie Cup
Advertisement citing
S.S. Kresge Store's
Soda Fountain
(Courtesy: Baltimore Sun)

    By Oct 1967, as reported in the Baltimore Sun, S.S. Kresge's replaced the original fountain with an expanded 124-seat food unit and business continued profitably throughout the 1970s.  Discount stores such as this, like Woolworths on West Lexington Street, began to struggle in the next decade.  By June 1984, rather than merely changing names to its then owner Kmart Corporation, it would close its doors forever, sadly just short of 80 years of business in Baltimore.  By the Fall of the same year, it would be replaced by a Drug Fair on the first floor and upper levels replaced by offices.  The Baltimore Woolworth store closed in 1993.

   This once famous location in Baltimore's downtown shopping experience within what had become known as the Lexington Mall area briefly experienced surge of preservation interest in response to a 1998 West Side Master Plan and Baltimore City Council Ordinance sponsored by the Baltimore Heritage, Inc. and Preservation Maryland.  The revitalization flame flickered, but was short-lived.

    As reported in a recent Baltimore Sun newspaper article, the Baltimore Development Corporation is again attempting to draw interest in this historic area of the city through its efforts to seek bidders on a small group of parcels in hopes to preclude demolition of similar buildings such as the S.S. Kresge department store.  Let's hope that Baltimore can somehow this time keep the fire burning... for  old time sake!

(Newspaper Article Citations: Courtesy of the Baltimore Sun)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

229 Years of Circus History in Baltimore

Rickett's Circus, Baltimore (1799)
Courtesy: Maryland Gazette newspaper
   This week marks the annual arrival of the circus to the Charm City which is historically evidenced by a parade of pachyderms and other beautiful animals set on a course through nearby streets to the Baltimore Arena for 10 days of performances.  While this year's circus is that of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey company, other famous and not so famous companies have traveled to perform in Baltimore for well over 229 years.

  According to Circus Historical Society, the earliest documented circus-like performance in Baltimore was Pool's Circus (June 23 and August 27, 1785) although, according to the Annals of the American Circus, Vol 1, author Stuart Thayer, performances like this prior to 1793 were not true circuses in the accepted sense.  

   A few years later, an equestrian Englishman by the name of John Bill Ricketts accomplished 'feats of horsemanship' by performing the first U.S. circus in Philadelphia (1793) for many early Americans, to include President George Washington, followed by later venues in New York's Battery at the southern tip of Manhattan (1795).   A few years following, Ricketts' Equestrian Circus was advertised for a short stay in Annapolis as early as May 23, 1799 in the Maryland Gazette.  The advertisement states it had performed in Baltimore, though the actual location of the circus grounds has not been determined due to lack of documentation for his Charm City performances.

Col Rufus Welch,
Proprietor of Welch & Delevan
(Photo Courtesy:
  Early circuses in Baltimore were not as large and the grounds on which they set their temporary homes to operate needn't be large spaces.  Some of the earliest newspaper documented circuses were held at was the edge of Baltimore town, near the corner of Eutaw and German (now Redwood) Streets.  Rufus Welch (1800-1856) and William Delevan (1804-1873) were pioneer circus and menagerie proprietors. Welch was a partner with J. Purdy Brown during the 1830s when "the big top" was in its infancy.

  In the early to mid 1800s, many circus troops would travel along the U.S. coastline or upon rivers in steamer ships which were sometimes caught in storms and or seafaring collisions. Newspapers of the day would report on elephants drowning at sea and rhinoceros cages falling overboard in rivers, opening, and them being at large.

  In July 1839 and 1842 Welch & Delevan, which according to circus historian Stuart Thayer was a smaller show, visited Baltimore for several weeks and according to Baltimore Sun articles in both July 1830 and July 1842 it was reported "the Giraffe is the tallest attraction we ever did see."  Despite drawing crowds of only a thousand or two, there was a magic to their appeal to old and young alike; no matter how wretched their performance, the newspapers heralded them with enthusiasm, and the people paid their annual tribute.  Throughout the Civil War and until 1900 these smaller shows would exhibit at a circus house on Front Street near the current Phenix Shot Tower.

Barnum & Bailey Combined Show
Elephant Train,
(Photo Courtesy: TheCircusBlog)
   As Baltimore circuses began drawing crowds in the tens of thousands, their companies grew as well and needed to be as close to active railroads of the time so that the performance troupes and animals could be easily transported from city to city.  On September 25, 1873, P.T. Barnum had only been touring his new "Greatest Show on Earth" for two years when Barnum's Circus and Menagerie arrived into Baltimore setting up in Belair-Edison near the current Baltimore Cemetary - 12,000 circus goers attended nearly each day.

  By May 1894, P.T. Barnum had joined with George F. Bailey such that their Barnum and Bailey Circus was set up their three ring circus tent to perform at the corners of Greenmount and North Avenues for next several years during the spring, arriving to town on the Pennsylvania Railroad after having left performances in Washington DC.

Photo: Courtesy
   Grounds at the corner of York Road and 29th Street were used from 1902 to 1907 to accommodate the Forepaugh Sells Brothers, and Barnum & Bailey Circuses.  The Gentry Brothers Trained Animal Show often used lots at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and North Streets.

Mosher Elementary School,
Location of old Circus
Grounds (1915-1930)
(Google Maps)
   By 1907, open fields at current day Eastern Avenue near Patterson Park were beginning to be used for circus events such as the Ringling Brothers and a Col. William F. Cody (otherwise famously known as Buffalo Bill, or Wild Bill Cody) came to town in May of that year with his "Wild West Show" complete with reproduced indian battles and train holdups.   Buffalo Bill performed at this location in May of 1907, 1910, and 1913.

Children at the Circus -
Stealing a Peek under the Big Top,
Greeting the Elephants
(Baltimore Sun, 11May1925)
 The location near Patterson Park was used one last year, in 1914, when development forced circus venues to find open space north and west of the Baltimore downtown - between Riggs Avenue and Edmonson Avenue, east of Bentalou Street (current neighborhood of Edmonson Terraces, location of Mosher Elementary School).  From May 1915 through 1930, circus trains from various companies such as Barney & Bailey, Polack Brothers, John Robinson, and Ringling Brothers arrived via the Pennsylvania Railroad followed in 4 or five trains loaded with elephants, leopards, bears, wolf hounds, and dogs accompanied by clowns and other circus performers.  In 1927, even an equestrian seal and pigeons were part of the joined company of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey's circus.

  By the 1930s, circuses were commanding crowds in the 30,000-40,000 range and by1943, the Boumi Temple Masons sponsored the Boumi Shrine Circus which they held at the 5th Regiment Armory performing to nearly 7,000 participants. World War II forced a hiatus of this venue until 1946.

   In the 21st century, Baltimore has mostly hosted only the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Brothers Circus, usually at indoor arenas such as the 1st Mariner Arena.  In 2008, the Baltimore Sun noted an interesting escape of three circus zebras that, having spotted a door ajar, found themselves in the bustle on Hopkins Place downtown.  They were quickly corralled back to their circus home as part of an institution which continues to thrill children and adults alike for over 229 years here in Baltimore.

(Newspaper Articles Courtesy of the Baltimore Sun)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Baltimore's Son of "Big Sam" to Mark His 125th Anniversary

Joshua Regester (1816-1906)
"Big Sam's" Creator
   In the Summer of 1875 Baltimore's City Hall was being built and nearing completion.  Joshua Regester, who was born of Welsh immigrants on the Eastern Shore, apprenticed as a bell maker, and established Joshua Regester & Sons Bell Founders and Brass Finishers in 1856, was busy casting (only a half block away at the present day location of 53 and 55 North Holliday Street location) brass plumbing materials and a 6,500 pound bell in preparation for the grand building's dedication on October 26, 1875.  It was a prestigious undertaking, one of his firm's largest creations costing the city $2,590, and as he stood to admire it upon removing the bell from its mold determined to name it "Big Sam" in honor of his uncle Samuel W. Regester (who would later become Baltimore's Fire Commissioner from 1876 to 1883).  Joshua Regester & Sons was well known and its company's bells were placed across the country including the Naval Academy in Annapolis (1886), North Carolina State University (Withers Hall), and St. Dominic's Cathedral in Washington D.C - all made with every intention of lasting forever.

Advertisement of 1873
    City Hall's Big Sam, managed under the auspices of the Fire Department and operated by electricity, principally served as the city's primary fire alarm but dutifully sounded the passing hour throughout each and every day to passersby since set upon its commanding post that fall day in 1875.  On December 28th that year, Mayor Latrobe directed that the grand new bell would lead every other bell of the Fire Department to celebrate a new century in the life of our Republic by ringing at midnight on the evening of December 31, 1875 and every half hour until morning as it was to be illuminated high atop the City Hall dome - this would be its second curtain call of sorts.  According to The Sun reports, for reasons undetermined, while every church and fire alarm bell pealed in jubilation, Big Sam would however miss his first chance to speak out on such a New Year's occasion - and this would be an omen to come.  It performed its function well otherwise stepping up to the New Years celebration of 1876 and the following years to come.

   For 14 years, Big Sam solemnly and respectfully tolling for the passing of many of its notable citizens and national dignitaries like that of General Ulysses S. Grant on 24 July 1885 when it tolled for a full hour upon his death and again during his funeral.  As these events transpired, they were reported in newspapers as also being acknowledged by Big Sam.  He went on to summons firemen to duty, mark the passing hours, mourn deaths, and joyfully ring until May 1889 when suddenly, according to Baltimore Sun reports, its silence would become oppressive - something was terribly wrong with Big Sam.  His missed voice was the talk of the town for three weeks and it bugged the heck out of Mayor Ferdinand C. Latrobe who was determined to find the cause and solution to Sam's muted condition. A fissure crack was deemed the problem and the Mayor secretly agreed to take up the offer of a Mechanicstown, MD contractor by the name of K. Kappes along with two assistants (city firemen) to attempt a fix by cementing the crack on June 27th.  At first, they deemed their experiment a success having clanged Big Sam for five clear sounding strikes, but at the sixth an awful tone reappeared.  Upon further examination, a new crack of 18 inches appeared to have marked the death of Big Sam who had given its last ring.
Henry McShane & Co
Advertisement of 1878

   The Board of Fire Commissioners was authorized by the Baltimore City Council to seek bids for a Big Sam's successor and since Samuel Regester was still a member his nephew could not bid. According to the Baltimore Herald, the McShane & Co., who's founder Henry McShane (born in 1830, Dundalk, Ireland) had just passed away in February at 58, was the only bid received bid on July 10th.  City Council No. 149 Resolution "appropriating $2,943 for a new bell in the belfry of the City Hall" was adopted allowing the new bell to be cast on August 24th, 1889, removed from its mold two days later, and weighed in at 7,403 pounds (nearly 1,000 pounds heavier than its former) in the presence of the Mayor and other city dignitaries four days later.  McShayne & Co Foundry (then at 147-161 North Street, at the current location of the Baltimore Sun headquarters on Guilford Avenue) molded it with the name of "Lord Baltimore" alongside of "F.C. Latrobe, Mayor"

Henry McShane (1830-1889)
Lord Baltimore's Creator
   A few days prior, McShane & Co. made preparations to remove Big Sam from his lofty position according to Sun newspaper accounts by first removing the beautiful stained glass forming the ceiling of the City Hall rotunda, part of the floor of the landing above where the clock works rested, and taking down the 60 foot staircase leading to the cupola.  Through a rigging attached to the roof of the belfry, fourteen hundred feet of 1 and 1/2 inch rope passing through six pulleys, he was lowered to the ground on the 27th of August and taken to the foundry in a large three-horse wagon.  Despite persistent rumors, no part of Big Sam's materials went into the making of Lord Baltimore, nor any other bell after it was smashed to smithereens.  The original striker remained and Lord Baltimore was first heard early on the morning of September 9, 1889 at 6 o'clock.

   Lord Baltimore performed admirably for nearly 8 years but, given the striking machinery began to frequently break, it often was mute for periods of up to a year at a time.  He also suffered a bit of an identity crisis as indicated by reports in The Sun on June 6, 1900 when a City Councilman introduced an interesting resolution:
"Whereas the city of Baltimore some years ago decided to erect a monument to be of everlasting beauty and be one of the places of interest to the citizens of Baltimore and its visitors, and did erect the building known as the City Hall; That said City Hall was erected at a very large expense; that a large and magnificent dome was placed in the center of said City Hall, towering above the surrounding buildings and country and upon which were placed four clocks, so that the citizens to the north, east, south, and west might see the time of the day or night, and upon the top of said dome was placed a large bell, formerly known as "Lord Baltimore," and latterly as "Big Sam" is still there; That "Big Sam" for some reason fails or refuses to announce the hours of the days and nights to the citizens of Baltimore who patiently pay there taxes year by year to hear such announcement, therefore, be it
Resolved.  That the Committee on Ways and Means on City Property of this Council be required to look into this matter and to see that "Big Sam" strikes; that is, strikes the hours and nothing less."
Hattie Howard Brown, Poet
   Appropriation in the amount of $1,400 was made to fix the striker mechanics and Lord Baltimore was able to ring in the new century by December 1900.  A poem was written by Hattie Howard of Baltimore in 1904, entitled "The Bell(e) Of Baltimore" as an ode to "Big Sam (Lord Baltimore."

   The Sun reported on August 5, 1917 of "Big Sam's (Lord Baltimore's)" 12 booming strokes signaling the end of the Maryland National Guard when it was rebirthed as the 2nd Brigade, 29th Army Division of the National Guard of the U.S.  He then led celebrations at the occasion of Baltimore City's 200th anniversary as a city on September 12, 1929, and again on April 6, 1933 when he announced the end to prohibition.  He tolled in sad tribute for President Warren G. Harding's death in 1923, however since then, Lord Baltimore has rarely performed for such momentous occasions.  Perhaps the Mayor of Baltimore or the City Council will find it justly appropriate to let Lord Baltimore joyously sound 125 rings on August 24th of 2014 as we all celebrate his birth.

(Note: Newspaper articles referenced are courtesy of: The Baltimore Sun and Baltimore Morning Herald)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Baltimore's Secret Order of the Oriole and the Oriole Pageants

Postcard for the first "Oriole Celebration & Pageant, 1882"
(Courtesy: Flickr)
    Civic celebrations commemorating notable historical events of Baltimore were commonplace and from October 11-16, 1880, there had been a spectacular festival celebrating the 150th anniversary of the settlement of Baltimore where, according to the Baltimore Sun reporting, the parade procession was nearly 10 miles long.  

   Some have postulated that the Baltimore Oriole baseball club name may have attained its roots in a little known and mysterious benevolent-based citizenry group from the late 19th Century called the Order of the Oriole whose membership was composed of about 400 members of prominent men of the City.  Organizations of this type were quite common in Baltimore until the 1920s and developed mainly as a way for people with common interests to make fraternal bonds usually for the benefit of society.  The thing that kept the Order of the Orioles apart from other organizations was that these men kept secret the very fact of their membership.

   The City had the desire to further the success of the 1880 commemorative festival and had formed an executive festival committee, chaired by nature of holding the mayoral office, Mayor Ferdinand C. Latrobe (he monumentally held a total of seven terms from 1875-1895, elected only twice), where the planning of a follow-on festival occurred in meeting rooms of the Merchants and Manufacturers' Association.  

   Essentially Baltimore City's first organization that fulfilled the goals and purpose of a modern-day Chamber of Commerce, evidence on the Order's beginnings are sparse but the birth seeds of its  rather short existence were germinated within planning meetings having their earliest documentation found in a Baltimore Sun article of August 5, 1881.  The details of the planning, as directed by Mayor Latrobe, were under absolute secrecy but wealthy businessmen and governmental officials the day earlier resolved to call the event "The Baltimore October Celebration, or Oriole."

   The significance of the oriole to the festival's namesake was owed to the black and gold or orange plumage matching those of George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, paternal coat of arms.  (A historical side note: it is during the 1880 festival that Calvert coat of arms, which is now diagonally represented on the Maryland state flag, began to be flown.)

Baltimore & Ohio Train Ad for the "Baltimore Oriole, 1881"
(Courtesy: The National Republican Newspaper)
  The 1881 "October Oriole" was to be a three day affair, incomparably finer than the previous year, and the National Associated Press determined that it expected to exceed anything ever held New Orleans, possibly in the country.  B&O train service ads announced the expanded service for throngs of visitors from far and wide.  Oddly enough, it began on Monday, October 10th with a parade on the evening of the 11th from the northwest extremes of the city that contained twenty-four floats contracted by Mr. T. C. DeLeon of New Orleans Mardis Gras fame, and was illuminated along parts of the path by the Brush Electric Light Company.  Mr. DeLeon's orchestration was highly dramatic and with an air of mysticism, after all it was billed as the Mystic Pageant which was divided into three major themes consisting of a procession of twenty four tableaux or allegorical scenes in total.  The famous Gilmore band from New York gave a grand open-air concert and at the Mask Ball.  It all concluded on Wednesday evening with the grand ball held in honor of distinguished French visitors who were already in Virginia celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Yorktown.

  While reviews of the 1881 event pronounced it of substantial benefit to the city attracting thousands of participants, those prominent and wealthy business members of what would make up the Order of the Oriole felt that it "was crudely designed, hurriedly and imperfectly prepared and unsatisfactorily executed or managed."  This was evidenced by debacles like the resulting lighting along the route did little to illuminate the magnificent moving panoramas.   It was clear more marketing was needed and The Order had the idea that the 1882 event would be the "mother of all festivals in the country," one that would rival all that preceded it.

   They determined that 1882 event would run for three days beginning on September 12th 1882, the 68th anniversary of the successful defense of the city from the attack of the British and the Battle of North Point in 1814.  Evidence of the formation of this secret society for this purpose was found within an elegantly scripted invitation that seems to have been passed to prospective members within Baltimore society in early 1882 which read:

Program Cover from the
1882 Oriole Festival depicting
Lord Baltimore atop a
Baltimore Oriole
(Courtesy: Enoch Pratt Library)
"For some time there has been an earnest desire on the part of our Citizens to have every year during the fall season, and entertainment such as will attract the attention of the entire Country and bring within our borders a larger amount of trade than is now enjoyed.  With the numerous resources at our command our friend very naturally look to us to be entertained in a manner as attractive at least as they are in sister cities.  To meet this need and surpass it, which is possible, the Order of the Oriole has been organized and a charter in accordance with the laws of the State granted.  All that is now required is the hearty co-operation of every man who has the interest of our City at heart.
You are earnestly requested to sign the blank herein at once and forward in accordance with the envelope enclosed.
Robert Garrett, President
Baltimore, Feb 1st 1882"
   The 1882 Official Programme of the Oriole Festival  described the First Day as "Military Day" consisting of a parade of numerous military divisions ending in a drill competition at Druid Hill Park.  The Second Day was "Lord Baltimore Day" consisting of a grand parade of seventy-five tug boats around the entire circuit of the harbor, and then steam down to Fort Carroll, where the steamer bearing a likeness of Cecilius Calvert, Lord Baltimore, would be met and convoyed to Brown's Wharf amidst the salvos of artillery, ringing of bells and blowing of whistles.  The Third Day was to be "Mystic Day" consisting of a spectacular night pageant, comprising thirty-six beautiful carriage floats or Tableaux depicting Mystical Societies, headed by "Lord Baltimore" and followed by no less than sixteen of the grandest floats ever presented that depicted the Epic of India, ending with a Grand Reception and Ball at the Academy of Music.  It was a wild success and attended by tens of thousands of  participants from across the country and the world who arrived by railroad and steamer lines.
Programme Cover from the
1883 Oriole Festival depicting
the arrival of Lord Baltimore
(Courtesy: Enoch Pratt Library)

  The Order of the Oriole were successful in making one more annual civic pageant in 1883, this time the Oriole programme occurred exclusively during three evenings, beginning on Tuesday, September 11th.   According to the Baltimore Sun article of August 7, excursions were being planned from states as far away as Iowa, Wisconsin, Kansas, Nebraska and Minnesota.  Circulars stated that "Lord Baltimore" would arrive in the harbor again upon one of the finest and largest steamers which will be literally a blaze with ten of the largest electric lights the first evening.  In various colors, upon the steamer, in addition to the enormous focus electric reflectors and other illuminations would abound.  His steamer would be preceded by from forty to sixty tugboats, four abreast, each burning electric lights. The harbor was described as being transformed into a fairy scene with bombs, rockets, roman candles. A thousand soldiers would be armed with
Extract from the 1883 Oriole
Programme depicting
two parade scenes
(Courtesy: Enoch Pratt Library)
electric lights in ten different colors and electric lights would be upon the heads of the horses attached to Lord Baltimore's carriage that would be escorted to City hall having courtiers, attendants, and household.  All of the electricity to create this spectacle was conferred with none other than Thomas Edison himself.

   The last evening was the Oriole Mystic Pageant parade consisted of 42 carriage tableaux/scenes depicting the "The Lost Continent" and "The Lost Kingdom," all conceived by Ignatius Donnely, a interesting writer who published his theory that Atlantis mentioned by Plato was once a mid-ocean continent.   The cost of the entire festival amounted to near $40,000, or $1M in todays value.  It was reported in newspapers across the country as being the 'handsomest pageant ever seen in America."

(Note: Newspaper articles are courtesy of the Baltimore Sun and Harper's Weekly)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Lackey Island: Baltimore Harbor's Only Island

  During a short period in the Spring of 1910, the Baltimore Harbor and Basin would have its only island appear as a rather prominent geographical feature only to disappear from existence a few months later.   It would be a real life instantiation of the fictitious Devon Island author James Michener wrote of in his famous book Chesapeake.

Baltimore Harbor, 1901
(William Flamm map)
  Dubbed as Lackey Island, it was located off shore in the Harbor Basin immediately to the east of Hughes Street (now Key Highway) and directly south and opposite  from the Union Dock (now Pier 6).  As reported by the Baltimore Sun, it was created as a result of dredging machines cutting away about an acre or so of land from the triangular point occupied by the original Old Bay Line, now only a memory.

  The island's namesake is owed to the Chief Engineer of the Harbor Board at the time, Oscar F. Lackey, who designed the bulkheads of these three piers in the Baltimore Inner Harbor.  From earliest geographic history, prior to this design, there was a peninsula that existed connecting from the present Piers 5 and 6 and extending in a southeast direction (refer to the 1901 map, left) which made for a rather narrow and precarious passage for most ships entering the Basin.

Baltimore Harbor, 2014
(Courtesy of Google Maps)
  As a result of Mr. Lackey's design, from 1908 to 1910, the north side Harbor front was becoming transformed by the building of the piers known today as Pier 4, 5, and 6 which are currently occupied by the National Aquarium extension, McCormick & Schmick's, and the Pier 6 Pavilion, respectively (refer to the 2014 map, right).

  According to 1993 Historic American Engineering Board of the National Park Service records, they were among the first reinforced concrete structures erected in seawater in the United States. An interesting side note which distinguishes Pier 6 from the others is that the concrete bulkheads on the east side facing the Jones Falls outlet were faced with granite rather than reinforced concrete.

  Given the time of year, during its brief existence, the once barren spot had begun to sprout green weeds and become inhabited by water fowl.  Before Lackey Island could be incorporated into any Harbor navigation charts, its remains would be removed bucket by bucket and destroyed by the Sanford-Brooks Contracting Company which was responsible for the Piers' construction.

  Their designer, Oscar F. Lackey, was born in 1875 in Washington D.C., moved to
Baltimore with his family when he was 13 years of age. He went to Rock Hill College, and later graduated from Johns Hopkins University with an electrical engineering degree.

Oscar F. Lackey
(Portrait Courtesy:
Baltimore Sun)
  On July 6, 1899, at the age of 25 while employed as a civil engineer in the U.S. War Department, Mr. Lackey arrived into the Port of New York aboard a United States transport vessel named the McLellan back from Santiago, Cuba having contracted a severe case of yellow fever.  His case was reported in the New York Times given he was one of the earliest patients to have been treated with a yellow fever serum and was the first person to have fully recovered as a result of the treatment.  Despite this close call with death, he returned to Cuba and continued working for five more years.

  Only five years later as part of the Isthmian Canal Commission as an assistant engineer in construction of the Panama Canal, Mr. Lackey had his back broken while supervising the rock crushing plant at Bas Obispo, Canal Zone, Panama on November 21, 1905.   Although an Act of Congress on February 18, 1913 provided financial relief through payment in the amount of $1,500 for this injury, apparently he never applied for the payment over his remaining lifetime.

  He recuperated nearer to home and from 1906 to 1915 was president and chief engineer of the City Harbor Board. It is during this period that much of Baltimore's present Inner Harbor piers were developed.  By October 1916, Mr. Lackey became employed by Poole Engineering Company to manage a munition plant in LaFayette, Indiana, later becoming its vice-president.  During World War I, Mr. Lackey was made supervising engineer in the U.S. War Department under Major General George W. Goethals (of which the NJ to Staten Island, NY bridge is named) for the construction of Boston, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Norfolk, New Orleans, and Charleston port terminals.

  Although Mr. Lackey would go on to serve from 1924 to 1927 as the head of Baltimore's Bureau of Transportation and later the State Roads Commission to examine the plans for a proposed bridge over the Chesapeake Bay connecting Baltimore with the Eastern Shore, he would ultimately be appointed by Maryland Governor Albert C. Ritchie to head the State Roads Commission in late 1928.

  Unfortunately, this man who was in effect Baltimore's Robert Moses of the Inner Harbor, successfully survived yellow fever and a broken back, ultimately succumbed to pneumonia on December 19, 1928 at a rather young age of 54.  As a Baltimore Sun article aptly stated "Mr. Lackey will have a recollection in after years that the only island ever seen in Baltimore harbor was named in honor of him when he was the directing spirit in the greatest improvements ever made in this port."

(Note: Newspaper article sources are courtesy of the Baltimore Sun)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Tyson's Baltimore Chrome Works - Harbor Point's Toxic Past

   Harbor Point has been in the news for the better part of 25 years since the manufacturing plant that processed chrome from chromite ore at this location from 1845 until it was to cease operations under  Allied Chemical in 1989.  Ever since 1999, when Honeywell completed a ten year remediation effort that consisted of a 5-foot multi-acre clay cap, waterside perimeter embankments with a deep vertical hydraulic barrier to reduce flow to the groundwater and Harbor, this peninsula of land has been eyed by developers as another lucrative waterfront location immediately east of Baltimore's Inner Harbor.  Despite a City Council go-ahead this summer, environmental questions remain and rightly so.

Harbor Point site (2013),
Courtesy: Google Maps
   The 27-acres was declared by the United Stated Environmental Protection Agency and Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) as a Super Fund site due to a culmination of 144 years of processing that left the industrial buildings, soil and groundwater contaminated with chromium (including hexavalent chromium - recall, Erin Brockavich fame).  Environmental studies confirmed the chromium was the source of the 'yellow ice' in the harbor in the winter and the MDE entered into a Consent Decree with the final owner to demolish and clean up hazardous contamination which cost a total of $100 million.

Topographic Survey (1898)
Courtesy: JHU Map collection
   The history of this location is quite interesting and it seems that the hazards of chromium production at this location on a small peninsula jutting into the North Branch of the Patapsco River have been not long after it began operation.  Potable water study as conducted by the New York board of health were reported in the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer on June 22, 1872 where many European cities were contrasted with Boston, Chicago and Baltimore for parts of inorganic and organic matter - Baltimore, in general, was on par with that of Chicago.  Chemists then (and to this day) would use potassium permanganate as an antiseptic and in treatment of waste water.  The newspaper reported, without much uproar at the time, the amount needed to "decolorize" samples of water from Swann Lake (now known as Lake Roland) requiring four and one half to 1,000 volumes, surprisingly compared with the pump water in Block Street taking 22 volumes!

U.S. Geologic Survey 1960 Map of
Serpentine Deposits where
Chromite Ore was mined.
  Chromite ore is a black to brownish black mineral generally found in combination with iron (2 parts chromium to 1 part iron) within serpentine rock deposits in very limited locations within the United States - northwest of Baltimore and a little just north of the Pennsylvania-Maryland border.  According to a U.S. Department of the Interior Geologic Bulletin, it was Isaac Tyson, Jr. (1792-1861) from a well-known Maryland family line of Quakers, who first discovered chromite.  He realized its chemical significance, began mining the ore as early as 1808 on his farm in Bare Hills, and later Soldiers Delight (just east of Liberty Reservoir, Owings Mills, MD) in 1827.  He bought up many of the deposit locations which supplied all of the world's chromite until the late 1800s. Most of the chromite was refined and processed in England until 1845 when he built the Baltimore Chrome Works on what is now known as the Harbor Point peninsula site.

Jesse Tyson (1826-1906)
Photo Courtesy: Cylburn
Asoociation Archives
   One of Isaac's two sons that carried on the family business, Jesse Tyson, lived at the family's winter home at 6 East Franklin Street, became President of the Chrome Works, yet was a bachelor millionaire at the age of 65. As noted in The Sun, he became the subject of a great deal of high society gossip when he started dating Edith Johns, daughter of a local Baltimore bar owner.  The disparity in their ages caused a bit of a stir given Edith (one of the famed "Ten Beauties of Baltimore" at the time) was nineteen, but it didn't stop their marriage which occurred at her father's home on January 26, 1888.  Shortly thereafter, he moved into what is now known as the Cylburn Mansion that was recently completed as architected by prominent Baltimore architect George A. Friedrich.

Edith Johns Tyson (1868-1942)
Photo Courtesy: Cylburn
Association Archives
   In the mid 1890's the plant was either known as the Tyson or Baltimore Chrome Works.  It's main manufacturing building was on streets bounded by Block, Point, Dock, and Will Streets, where The Sun reported a boiler explosion in January 1875 and and major fire on October 6, 1895 which started at the carpenter shop on Block and Philpot streets burned for over an hour where several thousand tons of chrome ore were in the yard along with chrome in barrels damaged along with nearby rigger shops and two fishing skiffs.  Oddly enough, another fire caused $10,000 in damage on December 5th of the same year.

Allied Chemical (Chrome Works),
Photo Courtesy: Mark Layton, c1980
   Chrome production here was enormous by the early part of the 20th century, effectively supplying chrome to nearly the entire U.S. and most of the world.  The safety record was questionable with such a rigor of capacity as evidenced by two fires in five years, the first being on August 2, 1900 which caused approximately $60,000 in damage however, the value of this plant was not to be underestimated.

   On August 6, 1902 after extended negotiations with two Glasgow, Scotland companies and one of Philadelphia, PA, ownership transferred from Jesse Tyson to the latter, when the Kalion Chemical Company purchased the plant for $1,000, 000.

   Just after midnight on the morning of January 22, 1906, fire erupted at the Baltimore Chrome Works and resulted in a heavy financial loss amounting to near $200,000 of the plants' $1M worth at that time according to Washington's Evening Star.  The event was reported in newspapers across the United States and, along with Jesse's death that year, signaled the end of a prosperous line of
Baltimore families.

$5M Harbor Point Development Concept
Photo Courtesy: Ayers-Saint-Gross
  Shortly before his death, unable to continue operations, it was sold and formally merged in May 1906 with Henry Bower Chemical Manufacturing, the Kalion Chemical Company and the Ammonia Company, all of Philadelphia.  In 1985, it was acquired by Allied Chemical (later known as Allied Signal, and then Honeywell) and we have come full circle around from a messy and toxic past on this once scenic peninsula - the streets are nearly all wiped from the map, having been replaced by an environmental dome of protection.  Developers  and Baltimore's Mayor and City Council see the future as "a jewel in the crown of development that encircles Baltimore's Inner Harbor."  Just how long the glimmer will last is anyone's guess.

References: U.S. Geologic Bulletin 1082-K, 1960; MD Dept. of the Environment; and articles from the Baltimore Sun, Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, and Washington Evening Star.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Skeletons in Baltimore's Closet

Adam Horn (1792-1843)
NYC (Staten Island) and
Baltimore Serial
"Hatchet Killer"
   Being the time of the Halloween season, when talk of carved pumpkins, baseball playoffs and the World Series are interspersed with that of haunted houses and ghouls, it seemed appropriate to bring to light some of Baltimore's macabre past. While there have been some mysterious visitors to Edgar Allen Poe's grave and odd apparitions that were supposedly witnessed at a few of the city's notable tourist locations like the U.S.S. Constellation, Fort McHenry, and some of the bars in Fells Point said to harbor ghostly inhabitants, there are no historical accounts of documented haunted homes with any notoriety.

  Over the last two centuries, whether their ghostly spirits have remained nearby or moved on to more temperate climates, what is fact is that Baltimoreans have been unearthing skeletal remains with surprising frequency. Slightly more bizarre are the locations where these discoveries have been made - backyards, construction sites, and the basements and closets of Baltimore homes.

   In many cases, urbanization has encountered the city's old or forgotten cemeteries or private burial sites and in earlier times often trumped their preservation only to result in the relocation of what was supposed to have been final internments. For those that believe that ghostly paranormal activities and hauntings are the result of the departed whose eternal rest had been disturbed, be forewarned of the following locations - they may just be the grounds under which you live, work, or walk.
Northwestern District Police Station -
Corner Penna Ave and Lambert St
(Photo: Courtesy,

  Corner of Broadway and Monument Streets (currently bounded on 3 corners by Johns Hopkins University Hospital and Mama Mia's Restaurant and Carry Out on the other) - A Baltimore Sun article from April 1860 eerily described one such event when workmen were laboring for weeks to remove a graveyard and the "disgusting spectacle of exhumed decayed remains has been presented to the gaze of the passer-by...the skull of a human being, evidently a female, with long hair flowing from the bone, was exhumed and exposed to the gaze of the public...It is a shame that such things should be.

   Corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Lambert street (currently a playground) - In April 1873, according to an article in The Sun, workmen engaged in excavating the site where the North-western district police station was being built came across a skeleton from a grave when it was formerly a graveyard.

Old Cemetery Closure - Baltimore Sun
(Notice of April 1873)
   Old Cathedral Cemetery (1816-1876 burials of those from St. Peter's pro-Cathedral) currently in the residential area immediately east of Bridgeview-Greenmount and north of Harlem Park neighborhoods - Newspaper accounts from December 1877 reported on ten to fifteen disinterments each day for over a year.  Among hundreds of skeletons were the remains of Charles Carroll of Carrollton (already transferred once from Dougherton Manor), 28 Sisters of Charity, 13 Oblate Sisters of Providence that were all moved to Bonnie Brae (or the New Cathedral Cemetery). For a year or more, ads (like the one pictured in this post) were placed in The Sun as notice to those whose loved ones may need to have their remains transferred or risk being forever lost.

   In a lot on the 1900 block of McCulloh Street (currently homes between Robert and Presstman Streets) which was formerly the burial place of St. Alphonsus's Church, in April 1881 a Sun article reported a man was engaged in digging to get brick off his lot when he came upon a vault containing a coffin containing human remains. "The man on discovering the skeleton dropped his tools and fled" before the police were called and properly secured the premises. It is said that the celebrated Andrew Hellman (aka Adam Horn), a NYC and Baltimore famous cold-blooded hatchet and ax serial killer of the 1840s, was buried in this long forgotten cemetery location.

   149 North Calvert Street (current location of the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse) - In July 1883, the bones of an infant were found in a box under the back of a building as reported by The Sun.

   In a Canton lot between Boston, Clinton and Tome Streets, was excavated the skeleton of a human person buried in an upright position about three feet from the surface.  According to a May 1895 Sun news article, the skeleton was that of a body placed in a box and buried on what was the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad Company.

SW Corner Pleasant St and Courtland St)
(Photo: Courtesy MD Hist. Society)
   City Jail Tower - In the heat of July 1896, inmates of the Baltimore City Jail were put to work removing trash and refuse from top of the central tower when they discovered a human skull which was partially crushed.  It's a mystery as to how it ever got there according to a newspaper account in The Sun at that time.

  432 West Pratt (currently the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards) - Found beneath the kitchen in a home at this location was a four and one-half square foot vault built of bricks containing the full skeleton of a man, according to a July 1897 Baltimore Sun account.

   Southwest corner of Courtland (currently St. Paul) and Pleasant Streets (near the location of Mercy Hospital) - Likely to have been what remained of an earlier horrible murder was the skeleton of a full-grown man  in a coffin located between the ceiling and the roof of the old one-story building.  It was reported by The Sun as found by a carpenter in November 1904 shortly before the referenced photograph.
The Biltmore, Corner Fayette and Paca Sts
(Photo: Courtesy,

   Biltmore Hotel (once at the corner of Fayette and Paca Streets) - In March 1955, a skeleton was
reported in The Sun as being found by perplexed hotel employees in the closet of a room at the Biltmore Hotel.  The 6-foot set of bones had been reported as missing by the 104th Medical Regiment Armory for 19 days but, after two Chicago truck drivers had occupied the room and checked out, it was now suddenly found.  The incident ended when two Armory men retrieved it and, with one holding the head and another its feet, marching the wayward skeleton back along Fayette street to its original resting place.

(Note: Article sources are courtesy of The Baltimore Sun.)