Thursday Doors – Baltimore & Ohio Offices

Another minor entrance. LoC photo

As much as I see Baltimore as a rivalry city to my hometown of Pittsburgh, there is no denying the fact that Baltimore is one of America’s great railroad cities. Everybody who has ever played Monopoly has coveted the B&O Railroad, and with good reason. The Baltimore and Ohio was the first common carrier railroad in the United States and, when it ceased operation in 1987, was the oldest railroad in the country.

I was recently in Baltimore for a short series of meetings. Our meetings were held in the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Baltimore. At first, that sounds a lot like the kind of hotel that would host business meetings and other snooty affairs. However, to my pleasant surprise, the hotel is also the historic B&O Railroad Headquarters. This ornate, 1906 Beaux-Arts building once was alive with the comings and goings of the rich and powerful of the Gilded Age and served as the railroad’s headquarters for 75 years. According to the research arm of No Facilities, a.k.a. Wikipedia:

The building’s beauty and elegance of its marbled lobbies, ornate stairs and Tiffany stained-glass windows became an instant landmark in downtown Baltimore and it symbolized the power and prestige of America’s largest and oldest railroad. The impressive building includes seven different kinds of marble imported from six countries representing four continents. The first 3 floors of the exterior façade are clad in New Hampshire granite, while Bedford stone is utilized from the fourth floor and above. The trim is terra cotta tile. The building’s H shape design provides for a large number of window offices. The ornate main lobby contains two white marble staircases, grand chandeliers and many decorative details…

The building’s entrance is adorned by two sculptures: Mercury, the Roman god for commerce, and a figure named Progress of Industry, which holds a torch and a locomotive.”

When the building was renovated in the 1980’s most of the historical character of the building’s upper floors was lost. The lower level, with its iconic marble floors and staircases was largely preserved. This may seem sad, but when you consider the enormous effort to retrofit modern plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems into a turn-of-the-century building, you can understand.

This post is part of the fun weekly blogfest known as Thursday doors.

The main gallery of Thursday Doors has been established in the grand marble lobby of the administrative office building of the N&F Railroad in Montreal. The CEO of the railroad, Norm Frampton, is also a participant in the weekly blogfest. The head of railway operations, the blue frog, is in charge of managing the gallery. If you want to join us, take the next train to Montreal and tap the blue frog on the shoulder. Be sure to look at Norm’s doors!

The B&O Administrative Building is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, but only as part of a large Historic Business District. However, there are some historic pictures in the Library of Congress’s collection. These are included in today’s gallery.


90 thoughts on “Thursday Doors – Baltimore & Ohio Offices

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  1. What a beauty this building is! Beaux Art? Art Deco? The lines seem to blur, which is fine by me. The mailbox, the elevator….oh, Dan–this place is gorgeous. And I saw Dunkin Donuts in the background… :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sharp eye, Lois. There was a Dunkin Donuts across the street. That’s how you get all those great pictures.

      I’m not focusing on what style it is, I thought it was beautiful. It must have been grand to go to work in those days. I realize we have so many more conveniences, but traveling by train seems like a dream to me.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The building is in the shape of an “H” so 8 corner doors were possible – good design, in my book.

      I do pay more attention to light fixtures. Wait until the next chapter from Baltimore, it’s like it was a dream Joey had.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The first 3 floors of the exterior façade are clad in New Hampshire granite

    Your readers of a certain age may remember a time were most of the buildings in the commercial districts were stained black by coal pollution. This especially true in northern cities. Much of this was removed by sandblasting, which also took a toll on the facades. In the 1980’s, a more gentle (and less expensive) chemical treatment was developed that returned these beauties to their former glory.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Some nice shots of this beautiful building and LOTS of interesting history in post.
    Also, I had never pictured myself as a railway baron. I like the idea of it but I’m not quite sure I’m ruthless enough to be any good at it ;-)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Norm. Those guys did have to be ruthless. The B&O was trying to connect to the Erie Canal but also trying to put canals in general out of business.

      I have too many sets of railroad related doors, I’m running out of characters for you 😏

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a fabulous building with such an interesting history. Love it all, especially that mailbox and the elevator and the staircase. Great photos Dan. Happy for you that Dunkin Donuts was close by. Lol.
    🔹 Ginger 🔹

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ginger. I compare that to the lobby of our office building and it makes me a little sad. The building we’re in is actually nicer than many others today, but nothing like that.

      I love those old mailboxes.

      Like

  5. Wow, oh wow! Absolutely fascinating photos of a gorgeous building with double value, Dan!
    My step-grandma worked as a secretary for the railroads so I was thrilled to hear stories of her travels on the rails. She had an outstanding collection of match books with the railroads, including of course, the B & O. This post made me miss my Grandma Vergene, in a loving, nostalgic way. Thank you, Dan! 🚂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Dan – I love our railway buildings … they have/had incredible workmanship … and fortunately many have been restored and retained. Yes – for that reason I’d like to visit Baltimore and Pittsburgh – to see the magnificence of ‘then’ … cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you liked this, Hilary. I think railroads were so important to our history, that anything that remains from that period should be maintained or preserved. Stations, freight terminals and offices can all still be found, especially along the east coast and midwest.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks – I wasn’t staying in this hotel – I was in a much cheaper hotel about a block away, but at least I had a reason for being inside beyond “I think these are beautiful doors.”

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love, LOVE this doors post, Dan. My life of trains is partly / mostly because I grew up in Huntington where the C&O was predominant. My great grandfather was head of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and trains and mining go hand in hand. You already know childhood train stories in the mountains of WV. So, the old doors of the B&O building are a a delight, not to mention architecturally gorgeous. Thanks for adding another photo of the B&O logo on the glass in the restaurant.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Considering the cost of modernizing old buildings it’s great that the ground floor has been preserved. I had to research the history of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania railway line for one of my books so it was nice to see your photos, Dan, thanks.

    Like

    1. Most of the cities that anchored the industrial era have fallen on hard times. They seem to be working their way into different economic bases, but it’s hard work. I graduated form Pitt’s Graduate School of Business in 1977, but no companies from Pittsburgh were recruiting that year.

      Like

  9. Dang! That building is SWANKY! :D I loooove the lamp(s)! Thanks! Staircase window marble excellence! Love the black and whites, too! That’s quite a fancy addition for you :)
    I like Baltimore. My husband thinks I’m insane, but I do. I also like Memphis and he doesn’t. And Louisville….
    You know… Hmm…
    I just like things :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love it when I can find historic photos that I can share. I wish this building had been added to the Historic Registry on its own, then there would likely be a ton of information about it and pictures over time.

      It looked like one of the lamps on the staircase was missing, but the ones that were there were pretty cool to walk by. I’m really happy they saved as much as they did. I didn’t stay in this hotel, but I gather that the rooms are all modern.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I was disappointed that the bar wasn’t seeing food that day, but the reflection made up for it. The bartender also recommended two other places I could get lunch.

      I took that staircase at every opportunity. I take the stairs at work, but the fire exit just isn’t the same :(

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Is this (outside of) the building top right in your collection?The shape looks like that I know as “the flat iron building?” Do yo know if this is the same or another building? Quite a dazzling description. Would like to see the marble lobbies!

    Like

    1. That is the building but it’s taken at an angle that gives it that appearance. I know the building you’re referring to. This building is in the shape of an ‘H’ so it has four narrow portions.

      The lobby is an amazing place to visit. I just stood and looked.

      Like

  11. It’s a beauty! Rounded corners with doors, grand marble staircases, the impressive elevators … what’s not to love?!!

    The railways helped build our countries. Without them, we’d likely be a carved out mess. I’m glad railroad history is kept alive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Joanne. You really can’t separate our history from railroad history. Our countries are so big, that we had to have the railroads to make the progress we did. Without them, we would have never gotten off the coasts and the rivers.

      I love that they designed the building to have corner doors. They don’t seem to be operable today, but they look great!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Dan, I’m sorry to be late to this spectacular post. What a shame that they didn’t keep more of the original stuff on the upper floors. The description had my imagination flying on gilded clouds. I really enjoyed these photos. Yes, I like the corner doors too. TGIF hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. what a cool hotel and you are right about remodeling – there is only so much that can be saved to keep things safe.

    and the door to the pub with the armless chef – ha!
    but the fold mailbox door is my fav of this post
    :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually, I stayed a block away at a less expensive and somewhat funky hotel, but it felt wonderful walking through the lobby and up those stairs to our meetings. Thanks for stopping by, Amy.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. When I see such buildings and architecture I wish I was born a few centuries ago when these buildings were being constructed. Thankfully, we have such buildings in downtown Mumbai so I can relish those. Also, every year when the monsoon strikes Mumbai the new building collapse while old buildings are still standing for centuries. That speaks for itself.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Well, you certainly managed to score with work integrating your interest in all things with trains! Great shots; those white staircases were really impressive and great finds on the doors and other things! Thanks for sharing and we’ll have to search for that Canadian station, the F&N!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! This was the perfect place for me to have to go for a meeting. Those stairs are so worn by thousands of footsteps, that they feel like an old slipper. The F&N might be hard to find, but worth looking for.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. It’s one of those building where you want to just stroll through it marveling at all the details that went into it. The state capital in Denver is like that, although some people seem to be blind to the inside because of its golden dome on the outside.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right. I wandered around the entrance level for quite some time, just imagining what it must have been line in its day. The lobby now is one floor up from that level, so the area near the entrance is actually fairly quiet. The thing that amazed me is the number of people who would take the elevator down that one level, as opposed to using those grand stairs.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. You lucked out in Baltimore since there is so much history packed in the city. This building is really something. I get to see Baltimore through my daughter’s eyes and the more I discover the more I like it. Rich history for sure. And for a train fan, yep, this is the place to be.
    I wish we could have these gorgeous mailboxes again. But there are less and less plain ones already, so it won’t happen :(

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did get very lucky. They could have held these meetings in any one e of a dozen “modern” hotels. One of the very first times I was invited to a meeting with this group, it was in Union Station in Dallas, TX – a very nice and well restored train station.

      I think those mailboxes are a memory, unless they have been restored. I often stay at the Courtyard Tremont in Boston, and they have the letter box and they still have a working chute on each floor.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I come from a railroad family and enjoyed the post. The railroad has significant contribution to our nation and I appreciate some of the history you shared. The images provide excellent insight to the history of B&O as well as the architecture. I can just imagine the beauty of the old structure and the ornate work. It would be neat to preserve all the history but I guess some of it has to make room for upgrades. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I”m so glad you enjoyed this. I’ll wrap up my visit to Baltimore this week (save for a few random doors) with another railroad post.

      You can’t separate this country’s history from the men, women and machines that were the railroads. I wish they could preserve all of it, and I wish they would fund rail operations better than they do.

      Liked by 1 person

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