Engine House #8
1025-1031, Mulberry St., W., Baltimore, Baltimore City
Engine House No. 8 is a two-story masonry building with a cast-iron street front, erected in 1871. It is located on the south side of West Mulberry Street in West Baltimore. The building is characterized by relatively elaborate architectural detailing, reflecting influence of the Italianate style. The street level has a cast iron front, three bays wide; the central bay is twice as wide as the outer bays, to accommodate fire equipment. Iron columns with lamb’s-tongue chamfers define the bays; the columns are enriched with recessed panels focusing on a central bulls-eye motif, and have molded bases and capitals. Iron pilasters mark the corners of the street front. They are more robust than the columns, but otherwise similar in detailing. The central bull’s eye incorporates the numeral "8" on the pilasters. The three bays of the street front are topped with flat arches with rounded corners, enriched with heavy bolection molding; the central bay has an iron keystone motif. A simple cornice caps the street front, with a central iron element bearing the legend "No. 8", and recessed panels at the ends. The upper story exhibits fine decorative brickwork typical of the Italianate style. The three bays are defined by round-arched window openings with cut stone sills, radiating brick arches, and corbeled brick hoods; the central window is both taller and wider than the flanking openings. The upper façade is framed by projecting brick pilasters, and capped with a row of bracket-like corbeled elements below a paneled brick frieze. Scrolled wooden brackets support a projecting cornice, surmounted by a three-part pediment; the cornice and pediment appear to be constructed of sheet metal. Documentary sources indicate that the building formerly incorporated a fire tower, which was removed in the 1950s.
Engine House No. 8 is significant as representing a cast iron storefront type building. It is the only known extant example in Baltimore of a public building with a cast iron front. This front is identical to the fronts used on commercial buildings. Engine Company No. 8 was established in 1871 in response to rapid development of this northwestern section of Baltimore City. It operated from this building until 1912, when concerns about its structural condition prompted a relocation to the headquarters of Truck Company No. 10, and later to Lafayette Avenue near Stricker Street. The building may have remained vacant until 1928, when it was taken over by the motorcycle shop of Louis M. Helm. The upper story functioned as a clubhouse for a series of boys’ clubs into the 1940s, including the Boy’s Brigade (1928) and the Camp Mil-Bur Cadets (1940). Lou’s Motor Service---presumably a successor firm to Louis M. Helm, motorcycles---occupied the building from 1940 into the 1960s. It is still used for automobile repairs today.