Fred B. Shoken
United States Post Office and Courthouse
111, Calvert St., N., Baltimore, Baltimore City
The United States Post Office and Courthouse, Baltimore, Maryland, occupies the entire city block and measures 238’2" east-west by 279’10" north-south. It is surrounded by Calvert Street on the west, Lexington Street on the north, Guilford Avenue on the east, and Fayette Street on the south. The building is of steel frame construction with concrete floors and tile roof, basement of granite, and outer walls of white Indiana limestone, six stories in height and provided with basement and two sub-basements. Except for a slight change in the hanging of the two entrance doors, the building presents the same outward appearance today as on its completion in 1932. The Calvert Street elevation is 17 bays wide. The façades on Fayette and Lexington Streets are fully developed and number 24 bays. At each corner of the main façade is a rectangular pavilion that projects about 8’ forward. The pavilion effect is repeated at the opposite, rear corners of the building, but on the side streets, the pavilions project only a foot or two. Most of the classical ornamentation is confined to the pavilions. The northwest and southwest pavilions are three bays wide on Calvert Street and five bays long on the side street elevations. The pavilions are provided with balustrades beneath the second story window sills, and fluted pilasters terminating in Corinthian capitals rise from the second-story balustrades to the entablature above the fourth-story windows. Only on the second story are the pavilion windows ornamented with pediments. The two rear pavilions, at the northeast and southeast corners of the building, number three bays on the side streets and five bays on the back street. The side street windows are also flanked by fluted pilasters. The rear pavilions are surmounted with triangular pediments above the fourth story; the tympanums contain a single ornamental circle in slight relief. On this end of the building, the classic ornamentation is not continued around the corner to the drive-in façade on Guilford Avenue, although the cornice is extended along that mainly plain surface. A strip of banded rustication running from the second story through the fourth is applied to each corner of the four pavilions. Each strip ends in a square fret, the same height as the pilaster capitals. On the main façade, the middle section between pavilions is the less adorned portion of the design. The windows are flanked by a screen of faintly relieved pilasters, running from second story sills to the fourth story entablature and terminating in plain capitals. On this façade, only three of the windows (on the fifth story) are pedimented.
The United States Post Office and Courthouse Building was designed in the Neo-Classical style to be compatible to the Baltimore City Courthouse on the west side of Monument Square. It replaced an 1890 Romanesque Post Office building with a central tower. Originally the building housed the main post office for Baltimore City, Federal court rooms, general service office space, and the Third Service Command of the U.S. Army. Many important court cases were held in this building. In 1934, Judge W. Calvin Chestnut became the first jurist to strike down a New Deal Act of Congress. In 1948, Alger Hiss filed a libel suit against Whitaker Chambers here. In 1968 and 1969, the Berrigans were indicted in this courthouse for destroying Federal Office records as a protest against the Vietnam War. The most important event to take place in this courthouse was when Vice President Spiro T. Agnew pleaded nolo contedre to tax evasion and resigned his office on October 11, 1973.