Fred B. Shoken
233-239, Redwood St., Baltimore, Baltimore City
The Garrett Building, erected in 1913, is a 13-story, limestone faced office building which combines the Commercial style with Renaissance Revival detailing. It is located at the southwest corner of Redwood and South Streets in Baltimore’s financial district, which is just north of the Inner Harbor. A highrise, concrete encased steel frame structure, it reflects the early 20th century transitional era in American architecture when historical styles were applied to buildings in non-academic ways. Exterior details include rustication, cast iron, pedimented windows, loggias, Chicago-style windows, and a large entablature. The interior has more of a Neo-Classical Revival style than Renaissance Revival, with Greek order employed on the first floor and a grand banking room using the Corinthian order on the second floor. The plaster ceiling is richly detailed with coffering and moldings. The walls and floors are variously finished with polished marble, paneled wood, and molded plaster. On the second floor, adjacent to the banking room, there is a conference room with a decorative plaster ceiling, leaded glass doors, and paneled wood walls. On the upper floors, the office space has been altered throughout the 20th century. The integrity of this building has been well preserved since its construction. The exterior is virtually unaltered, and only some of the significant interior finishes of the first two floors were superficially covered during remodeling in the 1960s. All of the original finishing and molding was restored during rehabilitation of the structure in the 1980s.
The Garrett Building, designed and built in 1913 by the Baltimore architects J.B. Noel Wyatt and William G. Nolting, possesses significant architectural and historical value for the city of Baltimore. A clear example of the early 20th century Commercial style of architecture, it combines 13 floors, flat wall planes, regular fenestration, and flat skyline with Renaissance Revival details such as rustication, pedimented windows, niches, and loggias. Although several other buildings share it style, few possess such a balance between traditional and progressive influences in their design. The building has neither the degree of academism and decoration possessed by the Maryland Trust Building, the Munsey Building, and the Equitable Building, nor the degree of modernism and abstraction possessed by the Keyser Building and the Continental Trust Building. Moreover, no other structure incorporates such strong, dramatic use of cast and wrought metalwork in its design. The architects, Wyatt and Nolting, were a prolific firm who designed many significant structures in the city. This building’s commercial importance lies in its construction for the Garrett and Sons investment banking company. Founded in 1835 as the nation’s second such bank, the firm made enormous contributions to Baltimore’s economy and the success of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Throughout its years in the building, from 1914 to 1974, Garrett and Sons was a leading Baltimore financial institution offering a wide variety of services in several cities. Robert Garrett, who initiated the building’s construction and who was the original Robert Garrett’s great-grandson, rose to a level of unparalleled social prestige and became extremely influential in the civic life of Baltimore. For example, he founded Baltimore’s Bureau of Recreation, began the Boy Scouts of America in the city, and headed the Young Men’s Christian Association, as well as the Society for the Preservation of Maryland Antiquities.