George E. Thomas
Standard Oil Building
501, St. Paul St., Baltimore, Baltimore City
The Standard Oil Building is a 15-story, steel-frame U-shaped office building facing west. The exterior is clad in limestone and detailed in a handsome version of the reserved and dignified classicism often used for significant commercial buildings in the period. The 1/1 windows have metal frames within their limestone surrounds. At the "capital" of the building, metal-clad spandrels in the top two floors and simple pilasters on the piers create a giant order. The "base", consisting of the first two stories, is also articulated by architectural bronze and metal frames and pilasters on the shop windows of the front and the first two bays of the side elevations. A penthouse crowns the building. The exterior and public spaces of the interior survive with a high degree of integrity.
The Standard Oil Building forms one of the landmarks of the skyline of Baltimore. It was designed by Clyde N. Friz (1867-1942), one of Baltimore’s best-known Beaux Arts designers, responsible for many of the city’s classical landmarks. In this instance, Friz adapted the conventions of early 20th century classicism to the office building, following patterns that had evolved during the previous 30 years. The Standard Oil Building forms an important landmark of the downtown business district, defining its eastern edge on one of the principal north-south thoroughfares, set off by the small park in front of the building. It was built by the Standard Oil Company at a time when that business was once of the nation’s principal corporations, the dominant supplier of gasoline and fuels. Its prominence in Baltimore is represented by this great stone-clad skyscraper.