Polish Home Hall
Baltimore, Baltimore City
Polish Home Hall is a large two-story masonry vernacular Beaux Arts style building bearing classical features and symmetry, constructed c. 1905 as the city hall, fire station, and meeting hall for the small community of Curtis Bay within the southern limits of Baltimore City. Facing south, the building is rectangular in plan, two bays wide across the north and south facades and five bays deep across the east and west facades. Access is primarily through two pairs of double doors in the south facade. Brickwork is laid in 7-course common bond. A red-painted belt course encircles the base. The building has a low-pitched hipped roof with an overhanging soffit. The south facade is symmetrical with a pair of large entrances with glazed transoms and sidelights at the center of the first-floor level. While the door on the left has been modified extensively, the door at the right side of the facade contains original detailing and wood framing. The transom above each door has a single pane of clear glass. The narrow sidelights have similar glazing and framing and are extended through the transom area. On the second floor, there is one large window opening above each of these entrances. Contained within each of the second-floor openings is a grouping of three sash windows. Below each of the window openings is a projecting sheet metal sill, supported by two small metal brackets. The corners of the building are classically proportioned to anchor the facade, and contain symmetrical features on both floor levels. On the first floor, there is a narrow window on the left side only. The corresponding area on the right side has evidence of an unknown element formerly attached to the building, visible near the header level on the wall. At the second-floor level, aligned above the narrow first-floor openings, there are circular windows. The building is capped with a metal cornice supported on five symmetrical brackets. The two five-bay side facades are similar in proportions and detailing. The east facade is the more public of the two. A fire escape has been added to the west facade, and there are no circular windows here. An exterior brick chimney rises at the southwest corner. The rear facade, facing north, contains a one-story concrete block addition, covered by a brick veneer on the east and west sides. The addition has a low-pitched shed roof. There are four small sliding metal windows located just below the gutter line. On the main building, the north facade has a single window at the second floor level at the top of the rear stair area. The exterior of the building still has the original plan configuration, and circulation patterns, including stairs, are generally intact on both levels. On the first level, preserved features include original columns, wainscoting, window trim and flooring. Preserved features on the second level include pressed metal ceiling, wainscoting, lighting, graining on doors, and original raised stage.
Polish Home Hall derives historical significance for its association with the Polish immigrant community in the Baltimore area. Beginning around the turn of the 20th century, the Curtis Bay community received an influx of immigrants arriving from Eastern Europe to work in the new industrial concerns operating in the area. Constructed c. 1905 to serve the combined functions of town hall, volunteer firehouse, and community center, the building occupies an entire block within the small community, and represents a substantial and highly visible institution. In 1925 United Polish Societies purchased the building and named it Polish Home Hall. Polish Home Hall was central to the Polish experience in Curtis Bay. A Polish school, which had been started in St. Athanasius Church in 1909, was moved into the hall in 1925 and operated there into the 1930s. The property continued to function as a social, educational, and political center for Curtis Bay's Polish community into the 1970s. The property derives additional significance for its architectural character, exhibiting a vernacular interpretation of Beaux-Arts design through its classical symmetry and detailing. The building retains much of its original architectural character and integrity. The exterior remains substantially unchanged in its masonry, fenestration, and detailing, and the building retains its general roof form, deep projecting eaves, and chimney. Numerous large windows allow ample light into interior spaces characterized by high ceilings and finished in pressed metal. Early lighting fixtures survive on the second level and wainscoting and other decorative elements are found throughout the building. Some changes were made c. 1919 when the building was converted from its original function as city hall and fire station to use for the manufacture of sailcloth. The east elevation entrance for the fire wagon was presumably altered at this time, when the firehouse ceased operations.