12, Eutaw St., N., Baltimore, Baltimore City
The Hippodrome Theater, constructed in 1914, is located on the west side of Eutaw Street in downtown Baltimore, one property north of the principal commercial intersection of Eutaw and Baltimore Streets. An important city landmark since 1914, the Hippodrome Theater is a significant architectural composition representing the grand style of American theaters in the early 20th century and the transition in theaters from live entertainment to motion pictures. Famed theater architect Thomas White Lamb used ornamental brickwork and terra cotta to frame a central motif on the Eutaw Street façade that created a powerful focal point along this urban streetscape. The façade demonstrates a classically influenced tripartite composition including a base, mid-section, and ornamental top. The overall composition demonstrates the symmetry, balance, and proportion associated with Neoclassical architecture, combined with a free use of texture and ornament characteristic of the architect’s early eclectic style. On the interior, the theater’s 2300-seat auditorium is a curvaceous composition of ovals, domes, and coffers, which retains evidence of its original lavish decorative treatment in the baroque manner of the early 20th century.
The Hippodrome Theater is historically significant both for its association with the Performing Arts and Entertainment in Baltimore, and as an outstanding example of early 20th century theater design. Opened in 1914, the Hippodrome Theater was the premiere vaudeville theater of Baltimore, was one of its first motion picture theaters, and is one of an increasingly small number of remaining buildings in the western area of downtown Baltimore which reflect the neighborhood’s previous vitality as a commercial and entertainment center. The Hippodrome Theater reflects the era of live entertainment for the masses and the memories of its former glory are deeply imbedded in the fabric of local culture. The work of Thomas White Lamb (1871-1942), one of America’s finest theater architects of the period, the building’s design demonstrates a mastery of scale, proportion, and exterior and interior decoration and detailing which was outstanding in its day.