Pennsylvania Railroad Company District Office .PDF

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					   Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS)                                                                                   National Park Service
                                                                                                                               U.S. Department of the Interior

Built to Last                                                                                                                                                    No. 3
Pennsylvania Railroad Company District Office Building
200 East Baltimore Street, Baltimore (1905, Parker & Thomas, architects)
Excerpt from the full report written by Laurie Ossman, Ph.D., for HABS

Built to house the Baltimore branch offices
of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company
following the Great Fire of 1904, this
structure was an early commission of the
architectural firm of Parker & Thomas
(later Parker, Thomas & Rice), the pre-
eminent architects of Baltimore’s Beaux-
arts commercial & financial structures of
the first quarter of the 20th century.

Throughout the 19th century, the
Pennsylvania Railroad vied with the
locally owned Baltimore & Ohio
Railroad for control of rights-of-
way and development rights for
lines in and out of the city. While
the B&O was the older of the two
competing railroads (founded in
1830), the Pennsylvania Railroad                               Pennsylvania Railroad Company District Office from southwest. James W. Rosenthal,
had surpassed the B&O in size,                                 photographer, Summer 2001.
scope, and profitability by the 1870s.
Such was the nature of railroad                                lation prohibiting railroad monopo-                             retained its site and elected the rela-
competition in Baltimore that the                              lies, the Pennsylvania and B&O                                  tively small, restrained building seen
two lines even maintained separate                             maintained separate corporate iden-                             today. The inter-relationship of the
passenger terminals, with Mount                                tities during this period, although                             two companies and the coordination
Royal Station serving the B&O (and                             the “union” of the two companies                                of their post-Fire building schemes
its dominance of lines running                                 was celebrated by Cassatt’s pet proj-                           is attested to by the fact that both
south) and the Pennsylvania main-                              ect, Washington, DC’s monumental                                the Pennsylvania Railroad building
taining a site between Charles and                             Beaux-arts style Union Station                                  and the B&O tower on Charles
St. Paul Streets.                                              (1902).                                                         Street were designed by the same
                                                                                                                               architectural firm, Parker &
In 1900, under the leadership of                               When the 1904 Fire destroyed the                                Thomas. The modesty of the
Alexander Cassatt, brother of expa-                            Second-Empire style B&O head-                                   Pennsylvania’s building (in spite of
triate Impressionist painter Mary                              quarters on the northwest corner of                             the company’s essential domination
Cassatt, the Pennsylvania Railroad                             Baltimore and Calvert Streets, the                              of the B&O) is part and parcel of
merged with the B&O, and the two                               corporate officers elected to rebuild                           the effort to maintain distinct identi-
companies shared a Board of                                    a grand, 13-story Beaux-arts tower                              ties for the two merged companies.
Trustees. Partly in response to                                on a new site, two blocks to the
efforts in Washington to enact legis-                          west. The Pennsylvania, by contrast,                            By 1906—the time of the Baltimore
                                                                                                                                                       (continued on page 2)

Built to Last: Ten Enduring Landmarks of Baltimore’s Central Business District, Historic American Buildings Survey, Washington, DC, May 2002.
Pennsylvania Railroad Company District Office Building (continued)

post-Fire rebuilding of both the           ers, who, like their fellow citizens,    Baltimore’s urban past and suggests
Pennsylvania and B&O buildings—            believed that the air pockets beneath    a tradition of refinement that suited
Cassatt was dead, the Republicans          the Second Empire style’s hallmark       both the patron and passersby of
had passed antitrust legislation and       mansard roofs might have con-            1905.
the two companies administratively         tributed to the invisible, unchecked
pried themselves apart once again.         spread of the fire from one building
Thus, what may have begun in 1905          to another in the commercial dis-        The complete report for this structure, including
as a somewhat disingenuous attempt         trict. The building’s completion by      bibliographic citations and references, may be
to maintain the united railroad com-       July 1905 indicates the rapidity with    obtained from the Historic American Buildings
panies’ discrete corporate identities      which the Pennsylvania Railroad and      Survey beginning in September 2002. Copies of
                                                                                    this information sheet may be downloaded at no
through the erection of two sepa-          the city’s other business institutions   cost from the HABS web site:
rate and stylistically and hierarchical-   rebuilt in the area, thus maintaining
ly distinct structures, became an          their association with the part of the 
accurate representation of corporate       city that had functioned as its finan-
separation by the time the buildings       cial and commercial heart since the
were complete in 1906.                     eighteenth century.                      During the summer of 2001, the Historic
                                                                                    American Buildings Survey (HABS) and the
                                                                                    Maryland Historical Trust, in coordination with
The Pennsylvania Railroad Building         The Beaux-arts matrix of Parker &        the City of Baltimore’s Commission for
reflects stylistic and material trends     Thomas’s design is evident in the        Historical and Architectural Preservation
in Baltimore’s commercial and              use of a classical vocabulary applied    (CHAP) and Preservation Maryland, recorded
financial center following the Great       to a non-specific but clearly histori-   ten historic buildings and sites within Baltimore’s
Fire of February 7-8, 1904.                cal form, adapted to contemporary        Central Business District through large-format
                                                                                    photography and original historical research.
Although the Great Fire played the         function. The Pennsylvania               The heart of the downtown area and focus of
leading role in eradicating the pre-       Railroad building refers to the          intensive redevelopment efforts, Baltimore’s
dominantly Victorian architectural         Florentine Renaissance palazzo his-      Central Business District is a designated city his-
character of the larger financial and      torical model with its block-like        toric district and home to a diverse array of his-
commercial institutions located in         form resting on a rusticated street-     toric commercial and civic buildings, churches,
                                                                                    theaters and other landmarks. Many of them
the area, this transformation was          level base and rising through two
                                                                                    predate the district’s Great Fire of 1904 and
partly due to a general shift in archi-    levels to a heavy cornice. As the        chronicle Baltimore’s rise as a financial, com-
tectural fashion during the same           palazzo form was widely adapted          mercial and civic center. This project, resulting
period away from the formally com-         between the Renaissance and 1905,        in more than 150 photographs by Baltimore
plex, visually multivalent and pictur-     the Pennsylvania Railroad building       photographer James W. Rosenthal for HABS and
esque modes such as Queen Anne             may owe its primary associative          ten detailed architectural histories by Laurie
                                                                                    Ossman, PhD., also a Baltimore resident, grew
and Second Empire and towards the          identity to Georgian adaptations.        out of concern about the recent loss of the
more restrained Renaissance-based          The arrangement of commercial            Merchants & Miners Transportation Company
classicism of the watershed White          offices over an open, loggia-like        Building at 17 Light Street and other buildings of
City at the World’s Columbian              ground story recalls—perhaps delib-      architectural distinction in Baltimore.
Exposition of 1893.                        erately—the colonial market house
                                           form, a form exemplified by Peter        Ranging chronologically from the Peale Museum
                                                                                    (1814) to the Bank of America Building (1929;
The Second Empire style, in partic-        Harrison’s 1726 Brick Market in          formerly the Baltimore Trust Company
ular, had fallen most precipitously        Newport, RI, or Baltimore’s own          Building), and in function from Old St. Paul’s
from favor on an international level       original frame courthouse of 1729.       Church (1846) to the Gayety Theatre (1906),
by the turn of the century. Parker &       This application of a historical type    the ten landmarks selected for this study illus-
Thomas’s own design of the nearby          to a suitable contemporary function      trate the architectural diversity of the district
                                                                                    and the myriad forces that have informed the
Alex Brown & Sons Company                  is not only typical of Beaux-arts        district’s growth and evolution over time. The
Building (1901) shows that, even           design, but indicates an element of      exhibit, launched at the Maryland Historical
before the Great Fire, the firm was        Colonial Revivalism in the work as       Society in May 2002 during National Historic
working very much within current           well. As Baltimore has very few sur-     Preservation Month, and the companion walking
international standards of taste. In       viving pre-1776 buildings, drawing       tour provide a glimpse into the architectural his-
Baltimore, this stylistic shift away       on a vanished typological model          tory of Baltimore’s Central Business District. It
                                                                                    is hoped that the exhibit and brochure will
from the Second Empire would               (such as the courthouse) and             encourage further exploration and preservation
have received the support of the           “upgrading” it to brick with classical   of Baltimore’s tremendously rich architectural
city’s business and architectural lead-    ornament effectively romanticizes        heritage.

2 Built to Last No. 3