His­toric Eutaw Street bank be­ing trans­formed into ho­tel

Re­de­vel­op­ment pro­gress­ing apace through­out district

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - Jac­ques Kelly

There is one fewer empty build­ing near the Lex­ing­ton Mar­ket and Hip­po­drome Theatre this sum­mer. The grand old Drovers’ and Me­chan­ics’ Na­tional Bank that stood empty for decades is be­ing made into a Springhill Suites. The 1894 fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion (it was char­tered in 1874), named for the live­stock drovers who brought their sheep and cat­tle into Baltimore in the 19th cen­tury, is be­ing trans­formed af­ter a long pe­riod of dis­use.

Whit­ing Turner con­struc­tion crews, fol­low­ing plans of Mose­ley ar­chi­tects, have been at work for months at the struc­ture where tell­ers hung a per­ma­nently closed sign nearly 40 years ago.

This is a busy Au­gust on Eutaw Street even if Ori­ole Park at Cam­den Yards is not do­ing much busi­ness with base­ball fans. The bank is be­ing brought back to life; the Lex­ing­ton Mar­ket re­con­struc­tion, at Eutaw and Lex­ing­ton, is pro­gress­ing in full swing; and the Four Ten Lofts, at Mul­berry Street, are out of the ground. That’s ac­tiv­ity on a street where old Baltimore seemed to re­treat to take a nap.

This is an old part of in­tact Baltimore — the Great Fire of 1904 spared the im­me­di­ate area, as did Baltimore’s tear-it-all down ur­ban re­newal en­thu­si­asms of the 1960s. It’s a com­mer­cial neigh­bor­hood that speaks to the pros­per­ity that Baltimore en­joyed 125 years ago. Just across the street from the Drovers’ and Me­chan­ics’ are the old Baltimore Eq­ui­table So­ci­ety and the Every­man Theatre.

To­day we call it Mar­ket Cen­ter or the Bromo Arts District. It has taken a while for things to hap­pen here. The Drovers’ project was first an­nounced in 2007, a few years af­ter the Hip­po­drome re­opened as a the­atri­cal play­house.

Not every build­ing here was saved. In 1964, de­mo­li­tion be­gan at Ford’s Grand Opera House, to­day a park­ing garage.

Ford’s was the scene of the 1872 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial con­ven­tion, at which Ho­race Gree­ley was nom­i­nated. Cole Porter’s mu­si­cal, “Kiss Me, Kate” was set at Ford’s. The show in­cluded a song, “Too Darn Hot,” a jab at Baltimore’s weather but nev­er­the­less a catchy tune

The Drovers’ and Me­chan­ics’ had a pedi­gree. Its cur­rent bank­ing house was built in 1893-1894 to give the ex­pand­ing bank larger quar­ters. It was de­signed by Joseph Evans Sperry, who also cre­ated the Emer­son Drug Bromo Seltzer Tower, two blocks to the south.

The Sun rhap­sodized about ar­chi­tect Sperry’s “bold and vig­or­ous treat­ment with re­fine­ment of de­tail.”

It’s re­ally a large brown stone bank with a proper, stolid-look­ing ap­pear­ance. It’s one of those struc­tures where you would feel safe en­trust­ing a cash pay­roll or a life’s sav­ings.

The Sun’s ac­count of its con­struc­tion noted that a sec­tion of the bank­ing floor would be re­served for ladies who wanted to clip ne­go­tiable coupons in pri­vate or re­move their jewels from a safe-de­posit box.

The bank once had a lot of com­mer­cial ac­counts re­lated to Baltimore’s gar­ment­mak­ing in­dus­try. Its vice pres­i­dent was Leopold Strouse, who owned a suc­cess­ful whole­sale cloth­ing busi­ness and gave a Semitic li­brary to the Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity.

Strouse had a work­ing re­la­tion­ship with Sperry, the ar­chi­tect, whom he had hired to de­sign the Oheb Shalom Temple on Eutaw Place. That struc­ture is now the home of the Prince Hall Ma­sons.

The bank is be­ing trans­formed by de­vel­oper Shaf­fin Jetha, who con­verted the old Pat­ter­son Park High School into apart­ments and un­der­took the restora­tion of the old Franklin Street YMCA into the Ho­tel In­digo, cu­ri­ously, also a Sperry de­sign.

In ad­di­tion to a Springhill Suites, the project will in­clude a new con­struc­tion project, Pros­per on Fayette. This new build­ing will house stu­dent apart­ments and is a short walk to the Univer­sity of Mary­land down­town Baltimore cam­pus. The Pros­per on Fayette site was once an Elks Lodge and, decades ago, was a gath­er­ing point for the Ger­man com­mu­nity at the Ger­ma­nia Club.

KARL MER­TON FER­RON/ BALTIMORE SUN

The his­toric Drovers’ and Me­chan­ics’ Na­tional Bank on Eutaw Street is be­ing re­mod­eled into a Springhill Suites ho­tel.

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