Kanjr Takeno, 02/2000
Montgomery Ward Warehouse and Retail Store
1000 S. Monroe Street, Baltimore, Baltimore City
Period/Date of Construction:
Engineer: W.H. McCaully; Builder: Wells Brothers Construction Co.
The Montgomery Ward Warehouse & Retail Store is a mammoth 8-story (plus penthouse) concrete structure overlooking Carroll Park in southwest Baltimore. The main building is roughly shaped like a squared-off number "4." It has a 642’ front façade on Monroe Street facing the park. A penthouse tower at the main entrance bay features a balcony and is capped by a flagpole. Sections of the main building are defined by slightly protruding bays and pronounced roof line details. The 8th floor features segmental arched windows capped by keystones and flanked by concrete ornamentation influenced by Art Deco design. The northern building sections flank a former train shed. A narrow bridge encloses an 80’ by 300’ open courtyard above the shed. A second, smaller train shed is located adjacent to the railroad siding on the building’s western elevation. The building houses over 1,200,000 square feet of floor space flooded by light from approximately 1,000 large multi-paned, steel frame windows. Concrete columns 20 feet on center penetrate largely undivided interior spaces. Ceiling heights are approximately 16’ on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 8th floors, and 12’ on the remaining floors. Major alterations include: a 1960s canopy and shuttered ground level store windows on the Monroe Street façade, the enclosure of the train shed on the northern elevation, and drop ceilings hiding original entrance details on the first floor interior. The overall condition of the building is good with the exception of peeling paint and some leaking pipes. The large, 1 story high "north building" dates from c. 1940. It was built as a mail order and retail warehouse adjacent to the railroad switch track.
The Baltimore Montgomery Ward Warehouse and Retail Store is architecturally significant as an example of a type of large fireproof warehouse of the early 20th century. Among its distinctive characteristics are: extensive use of reinforced concrete as a fire safety measure, installation of large multi-paned windows to provide light an ventilation for the building, incorporation of a train shed into the building design for ease of shipping and handling materials, and the early stylistic combination of Commercial style architectural elements with Art Deco details. Designed by in-house company Engineer of Construction, W. H. McCaully, it is one of nine large warehouses built by Montgomery Ward in the United States. The building is historically significant for its association with the growth of the mail order/catalog business in the United States, the role of government and civic associations in attracting new businesses to Baltimore City, and the centralization of retail stores in the early 20th century. This was the 7th of 9 large warehouses built by Montgomery Ward and Company throughout the United States in the early 20th century representing the peak of the mail order/catalog industry. Montgomery Ward located its Atlantic Coast Headquarters in Baltimore largely due to the efforts of the city government and the Industrial Bureau of the Association of Commerce to attract new businesses--an early example of a public economic development program. The building not only housed a regional warehouse, but a major retail outlet. For nearly 60 years, Montgomery Ward was a major business in Baltimore. It employed thousands of people, sent out hundreds of thousands of catalogs emblazoned with the name Baltimore to customers throughout the eastern seaboard, and provided a new shopping alternative to generations of Baltimoreans.