MHT File Photo
501-515, Charles St., N. & 4 Franklin St. E., Baltimore, Baltimore City
This building sits on the corner of East Franklin and North Charles Streets. The Charles Street side has seven bays with store windows and entrances on the first floor, and office windows on the upper floors. The first floor bays are separated by piers with plain capitals, each ornamented with a geometric pendant. The recessed storefronts have bronzed aluminum infill panels above and below the glass panes. Each elevation has a recessed entrance. The Charles Street entrance has two infill panels. The Franklin Street elevation has three bays, with the entrance in the easternmost bay. The door is off-center against a wall of dark brown brick on which are letters identifying the "IPC Building" and its logo. A staircase curves down to the basement level. The first floor is separated from the upper floors by a flat frieze and a band course. The upper floors have identical windows in three parts. Diamond-shaped relief panels separate each floor. The fourth floor openings have shallow segmental arches with keystones. The slope of Charles Street toward the north is compensated by additional height in the fourth floor windows of the two northernmost bays. This provides a uniform cornice line at the top of the building. This cornice has modillions and dentils.
The Benson Building is an excellent example of early 20th century commercial architecture. It is stylistically tied to both classical architecture and the Commercial style which flourished generally from 1890 to 1915. It features modern elements of its era, such as large windows and geometric ornamentation, but its size, non-skeletal appearance, and classical elements relate to earlier architectural styles. The site of the building was previously occupied by the William Howard residence, built in 1830. It later became the Athenaeum Club, which had among its members most of the city’s elite. It was razed in 1910 for the erection of the present structure by Thomas O’Neill. The principal original occupant was C.J. Benson and Company, a local interior decorating and furniture establishment.