20, Park Ave., Baltimore, Baltimore City
This three-story Renaissance Revival style building at the southwest corner of Park Avenue and Fayette Street was built in 1896 as the Brewers’ Exchange. The symmetrical main Park Avenue façade faces east and is five structural bays wide and one structural bay deep. Each ground floor bay contains a pedimented full-story arched opening except the center bay which contains a pedimented double doorway. Two arches equal in size to those of the main façade occur on the ground floor of the Fayette Street façade. The entire ground floor of these two façades is faced with terra cotta and a rusticated stone course at the base of the piers between arches. The upper floors are brick with elaborate terra-cotta decoration including two-story half-round Ionic pilasters, cartouches, pediments, window surrounds, a garland frieze, and a balustrade at the edges of a flat roof. The south and west façades are typical common brick faced party walls. Both Park Avenue and Fayette Street façades had been painted at least twice and possibly three times prior to the 1984 painting. Interiors of the second and third floors have been substantially altered since original construction with nothing of historical significance remaining. The ground floor with 17’ 6" ceiling height features an original elaborate pilaster cornice with a continuous guilloche design defining each of the five bays. Six slender Neo-Egyptian cast iron columns with gilded capitals (traces of original gilding remained under layers of paint) support ceiling beams. The ground floor is one single open space. An original wooden stair and an elevator (first cab installed in 1905) occupy a small protruding bay at the southwest corner of the building. A second stair was added in 1984 to comply with fire code regulations.
The Brewers Exchange in the retail section of Baltimore is a Renaissance Revival style building that is important for its architectural merit and for association with the commercial development of the city. Designed by Joseph Evans Sperry (1854-1930), one of Baltimore’s leading architects at the turn of the 20th century, the building is an excellent example of a type of commercial architecture erected in the city at the close of the 19th century when Baltimore ranked among the country’s leading industrial cities and was experiencing rapid growth in population and commerce. The features which separate the Brewers Exchange architecturally from other Renaissance Revival buildings, particularly in the immediate surrounds, are the low horizontal nature of the plan and the elaborateness of detailing of particularly the upper levels. Much of the decoration which includes fluted columns with volute capitals, swag-motifed cornice, and foliated panels and surrounds is executed in terra cotta. Erected as a center for negotiating commodities used by the brewing industry, the Brewers Exchange has association with this important aspect of Baltimore’s history, though used by the exchange for only a short time.