For­mer Noxzema plant is get­ting a face-lift

In­dus­trial build­ing is be­ing re­de­vel­oped for apart­ments

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - Jac­ques Kelly jac­ques.kelly@balt­sun.com

I’ve been wait­ing for some­thing to change at the Fox In­dus­tries build­ing, the in­dus­trial plant built into the east side of the Jones Falls Val­ley in the Ham­p­den-Rem­ing­ton-Stone Hill sec­tion of North Baltimore.

News ar­rived re­cently that this 90-year-old build­ing would be con­verted to apart­ments — fol­low­ing a decade-long trend that has seen the neigh­bor­hoods’ old work places trans­formed into res­i­dences.

Do­minic Wicker, de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor for The Time Group, the Baltimore firm that pur­chased the build­ing, fore­casts an “ex­cit­ing project” that will re­tain some its fea­tures.

“There are ceil­ing heights in ex­cess of 14 feet, and we are look­ing to pre­serve the pol­ished con­crete look of the floors,” Wicker said. “The win­dows will be a com­bi­na­tion of glass block and hop­per win­dows that open out.”

The build­ing has been used pri­mar­ily by Fox In­dus­tries, a con­crete ad­di­tives firm, but nearly a third of it was rented by lo­cal ar­ti­sans. As it’s re­fur­bished, space will be re­tained for artist-work­ers when it re­opens in 2018.

“There’ll be more or less 10,000 [square] feet of rentable stu­dio ar­ti­san space in the build­ing,” Wicker said.

While it’s been known as Fox In­dus­tries for decades, I al­ways think of this build­ing as the old Noxzema plant.

It was here the skin cream was man­u­fac- tured from1926 to1966. Af­ter that, the com­pany that evolved into the Nox­ell Corp. moved to Hunt Val­ley.

Noxzema, which has the scent of oil of eu­ca­lyp­tus, is tied to the patent of Ge­orge A. Bunt­ing, the class of 1899 vale­dic­to­rian at the Univer­sity of Mary­land Col­lege of Phar­macy.

He had a drug­store on North Av­enue, just west of Charles Street, and by Baltimore cus­tom was ad­dressed by the cour­tesy ti­tle “doc­tor.” Ac­cord­ing to his obit­u­ary in 1960 in The Sun, Dr. Bunt­ing was ex­per­i­ment­ing with van­ish­ing creams when he came up with the fa­mous com­pound. The story goes that a cus­tomer named the cream, pro­claim­ing: “It sure knocks eczema.”

By 1925, sales of the prod­uct topped $100,000. It was then be­ing made in a row­house at 102 E. Lafayette Ave., and the Noxzema work­ers were lit­er­ally knock­ing into each other in the crowded lo­ca­tion.

Dr. Bunt­ing found a tri­an­gu­lar lot in the Jones Falls Val­ley in 1926 where he built a new home for Noxzema. Par­tially on Roland Av­enue, Falls Road, 33rd Street and Falls Cliff Road, his con­crete-walled plant never tried to be beau­ti­ful. It was just prac­ti­cal.

It joined in­dus­trial neigh­bors, in­clud­ing the Sti­eff sil­ver plant and the Mount Ver­non mills, which made can­vas prod­ucts from cot­ton shipped in by the Penn­syl­va­nia Rail­road, now the Cen­tral Light Rail Line. The Fox In­dus­tries build­ing on Falls Cliff Road was built in the 1920s for the man­u­fac­ture of Nox­ema, the lo­cally orig­i­nated skin cream.

By 1931, as the coun­try was suf­fer­ing eco­nomic woes, Noxzema Corp. took out an op­ti­mistic ad­ver­tise­ment in The Sun with the head­line: “There’s no De­pres­sion for Noxzema.”

The ad was tied to an ex­pan­sion of the orig­i­nal plant. “With the new, mod­ern an­nex just com­pleted, the Noxzema fac­tory is now work­ing full blast sup­ply­ing more Noxzema Cream than ever be­fore.”

The ad con­tained an “in­quir­ing re­porter” sec­tion with tes­ti­mo­ni­als from Baltimore users. Winifred Cas­sard, of Suf­folk Road in Guil­ford, stated she used the cream for blem­ishes. Charles Rein, of Baker Street in Cop­pin Heights, said it soothed a shav­ing rash. Catherine Holmes of North Av­enue in Oliver called the cream “re­fresh­ing.”

In my own fam­ily, the stuff was pop­u­lar. My grand­fa­ther, Ed­ward Jac­ques Mon­aghan, went to the Falls Cliff Road load­ing dock and bought an enor­mous blue glass tub of the stuff — Noxzema was sold in blue-glass jars, like its fel­low Baltimore prod­uct, Bromo-Seltzer.

Pop Mon­aghan pur­chased the jumbo size that was nor­mally used in bar­ber­shops. His Noxzema stash was so large he kept it on the floor un­der a dresser. As a child, I was amazed at the num­ber of peo­ple who helped them­selves to his sup­ply.

He smoked cigars and chewed to­bacco too — but the quar­ters he held were for­ever scented by the oil of eu­ca­lyp­tus.

KIM HAIRSTON/BALTIMORE SUN

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