Baltimore Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond
114, Lexington St., E., Baltimore, Baltimore City
The Baltimore Federal Reserve Branch Bank is located at the northwest corner of Calvert and Lexington Streets, just north of Baltimore City’s financial district. The building, designed in the Second Renaissance Revival Style, is ten stories high and five bays wide on each elevation. It is constructed of masonry and steel, with completely rusticated limestone facing. The roof is flat. Like the early Italian Renaissance Florentine palazzi---the source for this design---the exterior is simply detailed. The first floor features limestone carvings and enormous arched windows. The second floor window have surrounds and hoods, while the rest of the windows are undetailed. The interior contains a spectacular, enormous main banking room with floors, teller stations, and Corinthian columns all of polished marble. The ceiling in this room and the elevator lobby to the west have ornate plaster decoration. There is intricate cast and molded bronze detail throughout. The floors above are simply finished. The integrity of the building is almost perfectly intact. The only major alterations have been the addition of offices in the banking room, the installation of more security equipment, and the renovation of the upper stories. The additional security equipment presents the only intrusion to the structure’s integrity.
The Baltimore Federal Reserve Branch Bank is significant for its architecture in the context of Baltimore’s commercial, especially banking, structures. Designed in 1926 by R.E. Lee Taylor and D.K. Este Fisher of the Baltimore office of Parker, Thomas, and Rice and expanded in 1956 by the same architects, the building clearly embodies the Second Renaissance Revival style popular in the early 20th century. It is a distinctive design, because no other commercial building (except for perhaps Provident Bank) in downtown Baltimore is based upon an early Italian Renaissance Florentine Palazzo. The other buildings borrow details from later Italian, French, and English Renaissance Revival buildings or classical Greek and Roman structures. It is also distinctive because the upper six floors are modernistic in style at the same time they harmonize with the existing design. The result is a significant, educating juxtaposition of architectural styles, which very few other commercial structures possess in the city. (The only other significant examples are the Baltimore Gas and Electric Building and the Sunpapers Building.) Moreover, there is no better example in the city of early 20th century bank design, especially as applied to a small bank. The exterior possesses the monumentality and dignity desired by the bankers, and the interior possesses the grandeur and magnificence of scale combined with the rich detailing that bankers also preferred. Only three other banks today have a main banking room of comparable scale, detail, and integrity. Finally, the bank is an example of a small urban bank building, a building type which flourished in the early 20th century in America, and especially in Baltimore.