Aaron M. Levin
Old Town Savings Bank
353, Gay St., N., Baltimore, Baltimore City
The Old Town Savings Bank is a three-story loft structure located on the southwest corner of Gay and Exeter Streets in the Old Town section of Baltimore. The building was designed by architect Frank E. Davis and was constructed in 1871. Both the street façades are cast iron, four bays wide on Gay Street and eight bays wide on Exeter Street. The former storefronts have been bricked up; the cast iron framing elements remain exposed, however, and the upper stories remain virtually unchanged save for the infill of the window openings. According to an historic photograph, the Gay Street façade was originally three bays wide at street level, with the bank entrance located in the central bay under a small Classical portico, and flanked by transomed plate-glass windows in segmental-arched openings with paneling below the sills. The portico has been removed, and the street level façade has been altered by the construction of a modern glazed-brick wall, obscuring most of its original features; only the iron piers at the corners remain exposed, with a chamfered inner edge with lamb’s-tongue stops. The storefront cornice, however, remains intact; at the south pier a scrolled console supports a bracketed cornice, probably made of galvanized sheet iron, which wraps around the Exeter Street façade. On the Exeter Street elevation, the street-level openings have been infilled with brick, but the original cast iron structural elements remain expressed, consisting of slender columns framing window openings topped with segmental arches. On the upper stories of both façades, the window openings have been filled with light plywood paneling, but the structural elements are unchanged and remain fully expressed. The large window openings have rounded corners, and are flanked by piers with stylized foliated capitals. The edges of the openings are chamfered, with lamb’s tongue stops. The spandrels are enriched with foliated cartouches. The intermediary cornice between the second and third floors is simply molded; the building cornice has a deep, bracketed overhand above a plain frieze. The two cornices wrap around both façades, and end with a scrolled console at the corner of the Gay Street elevation. The building retains a relatively high degree of integrity in its essential cast iron elements despite modern alterations.
The building at 353 North Gay Street is historically significant as representing a Full Cast Iron Front building. The Old Town Savings Institution was incorporated March 2, 1858. The property was acquired in 1861, and the company first appears in Baltimore City directories in 1868/69, on an upper floor ("over") at the present location. This is most likely a reference to a previous structure on the site. The present building was constructed in 1871 to a design by prominent Baltimore architect Frank E. Davis (1839-1921). In 1872, the name of the institution was changed to the Old Town Savings Bank of Baltimore. Ownership of the property passed out of the hands of the Old Town Bank in 1927,when the institution was absorbed by the Drovers & Mechanics National Bank, a commercial bank prominently associated with providing financial services to Baltimore’s needle trades. The banking facility housed the Monumental City Bank from 1927 until 1930, when a branch of the Union Trust Company was established at this address; the Old Town Merchants and Manufacturers Association also continued to occupy the building. By 1940, 353 North Gay Street no longer appears in the Baltimore City Directory. The building was acquired by the present owner in 1988, and currently houses a wholesale distributor of tobacco and confectionery.