Photo credit: J. Fitzsimons , 06/2004

Property Name: Lion Brothers Company Building
Date Listed: 12/7/2006
Inventory No.: B-5093
Location: Baltimore, Baltimore City

Description: The Lion Brothers Building is a multi-level building that once housed the operations of the Lion Brothers embroidery company. The original building, fronting South Poppleton Street near the intersection of Boyd Street in West Baltimore, was constructed c. 1885; it was expanded several times over the subsequent 75 years, ultimately encompassing the majority of the block bounded by South Poppleton, Boyd, Hollins, and Callender Streets. The surrounding neighborhood is primarily residential in character, and the Lion Brothers building shares the block with two rowhouses on 1200 square foot lots. The factory comprises six interconnected masonry buildings constructed from c. 1885 through c. 1960: (1) the original building at the corner of Poppleton Street and Body Street (a narrow alley); (2) the 1920 addition north of the original building at the corner of Poppleton Street and Hollins Street; (3) the 1935 addition directly east of the 1920 building along Hollins Street; (4) the 1938 addition directly east of the original building along Boyd Street; (5) the 1948 addition east of the other additions spanning from Hollins Street to Boyd Street; and (6) the c. 1960 loading bay east of the 1948 addition on Boyd Street. The original building is three stories high and four bays wide. The 1890 Sanborn Map shows that the building was then a two-story-high livery. By 1914 the livery stable and hall had been converted into the Lion Brothers Company embroidery factory and a third floor had been added with floors and roof supported by a steel frame. A major two-story concrete-and-steel addition was constructed to the north in 1920. This addition features tan brick walls, wide multi-paned industrial windows, and a corbeled brick cornice surmounted by stone band course and coping wall. Between the floor levels, ceramic insignia panels represent the embroidered patches produced by Lion Brothers Company. Fifteen years later, in 1935, the factory expanded to the east with the construction of a two-bay addition, nearly identical to the 1920 building. It features identical insignia panels, cornice line, and tan brick walls. In 1938, another addition was built directly east of the original building. Although similar materials were used, this alley side addition lacks the exterior symmetry, insignia decorative panels, and expansive interior column spacing of the earlier additions. In 1948, the building expanded yet again to the east with a two-story buff brick addition. The last major building element, an alley side garage opening east of the 1948 building, appears to date from c. 1960. Projecting above the roofline of the factory are four large skylights, the top of an elevator shaft, and a square chimney. Painted signs on the chimney advertise "Marcus & Farber," a garment business that owned and occupied the building from 1961 to 1978. The interior of the factory features a large open floor plan. Columns spaced from 18 to 20 feet apart in the 1920 and 1935 additions support the floors and roof. Angular 18-foot-high columns on the first floor feature industrial-style rounded capitals supporting concrete plinth blocks at the ceiling. The 10-foot-high columns on the second floor are squared off, lacking the capital detailing. Multi-paned windows along exterior walls and rooftop skylights provide daylight and ventilation for the open work areas. The interiors of the original building and the 1938 addition have been extensively subdivided on the ground level. Upper floors on the original building are supported by steel posts and feature open work areas. It is partitioned only at the stairs and at the restrooms located in the corners of the second floor. The column spacing on the 1938 addition does not line up with the previous additions and this building section lacks the second-floor skylights of the additions on Hollins Street. The narrow 1948 addition houses partitioned offices along the Hollins Street ground floor level and warehousing spaces in the rear.

Significance: The Lion Brothers Company Building is historically significant for its association with the Lion Brothers Company, the world's largest manufacturer of embroidered emblems and insignia. The company was established in 1899 in Baltimore, and played a significant role in the city's prominent garment industry. Its steady growth throughout the early to mid-20th century is reflected in numerous campaigns of expansion to the manufacturing facility, which grew over the course of 75 years to encompass the entire city block. The period of significance, 1899-1958, corresponds to the Lion Brothers Company's occupation of the property.




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