Ten Light Street shines bright in new identity
Venerable bank/office building renovated for apartments
Anyone fascinated by local architecture and history should set aside time next Saturday for the free Open Doors Baltimore event, when the city’s remarkable landmarks welcome visitors.
Literally towering above the list is Ten Light Street, the 1929 art deco office building known, at times, as Baltimore Trust, the Mathieson Building, Maryland National Bank or the Bank of America.
It is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with on-the-hour tours of its upper floors. This Baltimore treasure is an eye-popper. Opened in late 1929 as a bank topped by floors of offices, it was for many decades the tallest building in Baltimore.
Ten Light emerged a few months ago remade as apartments and a fitness studio. I recommend visitors explore its heights. Only from the upper floors, which will be open next Saturday, are the rugged architectural elements so visible — they resemble rough-hewn eagles.
On the 22nd floor, you go face-to-face with the gargoyle-like sculptures.
You also get a chance to observe downtown Baltimore from a rare perspective, with views of the harbor and the collection of structures that rose in the years after the 1904 Great Fire.
If you enter from Light Street, there’s a smashing 1929 art deco lobby festooned with a turquoise and gold leaf ceiling. After being whisked up by original elevators — handsome wood-paneled cabs — you can appreciate the pre-1929 stock market crash board room and executive offices. The Battle Monument and the Maryland flag appear in the stained glass windows here.
The 22nd floor, where the building steps back, has penthouse-style terraces once only accessible to the lawyers who had offices here. Now they are the common area for the 455 apartment dwellers.
“Think of your apartment as your bedroom and the rest of the building as your home,” said Don Earl Stedham, the chief operating officer of the building’s owner, Metropolitan Partnership Ltd.
There’s a floor’s worth of gathering places, lounges and a communal dining room. I almost missed the swimming pool. It’s high above Baltimore Street.
The original office halls make for some interesting apartment corridors too. I like the high ceilings and enormous windows.
Visitors who enter the structure from the Redwood Street entrance walk into the Under Armour Performance Center, created out of the old banking hall and accompanying offices.
I did a double take at the spot formerly occupied by the Eddie Jacobs men’s shop. It’s now the Fuel Cafe, a juice and smoothie Jean Winkowski, director of marketing for FX Studios, stands in front of the vault at 10 Light Street, which is now a lounge in the renovated bank building. bar
Jean Winkowski of FX Studios, which runs the performance center, walked me through the massive tempered steel bank vault. It’s now a post-workout lounge. Improved lighting has helped the main banking hall. While I missed artist Hildreth Meiere’s mosaic floors (still there but now covered by a heavy padded rug), the murals by Griffith Coale and McGill Mackall — celebrating Baltimore’s rebirth after the 1904 fire and the defense of the city in the War of 1812 — have never looked better. The cleaned travertine walls are free of years of nicotine stains.
The Open Doors Baltimore event includes dozens of other places that will be open.
These including the Whitehall Mill in Hampden, Baltimore Under Ground Science Space on Haven Street, Clifton Mansion, St. James Church on Lafayette Square, the Institute of Notre Dame, Lillie Carroll Jackson Museum, the Peale Museum on Holliday Street, R House in Remington, and the former Druid Hill Park superintendent’s residence, now the Parks and People Foundation.
Open Doors Baltimore, Oct. 22, runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
A few buildings, including churches, may close early to accommodate afternoon weddings.
The event is sponsored by the American Institute of Architects and the Baltimore Architecture Foundation. More information can be found online at doorsopenbaltimore.org.