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.