Baltimore City Courthouse

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Baltimore City Courthouse
Baltimore courthouse.jpg
Site Information
Address100 N. Calvert Street
Geo-reference39°17′27″N 76°36′48″W / 39.29083°N 76.61325°W / 39.29083; -76.61325
OwnerMayor & City Council of Baltimore
Building Data
Building TypeGovernment
Architectural StyleBeaux-Arts Classicism
MaterialBeaver Dam Marble
Number of Floors6
Architecture FirmWyatt & Nolting
Groundbreaking Date1896
CompletedJanuary 1900
OpenedJanuary 8, 1900

"Opposite the Post Office formerly stood the old Court House, finished in 1809. It has been taken down to make way for a splendid new Court House now in course of erection, which will cover the entire block bounded by Lexington, Calvert, Fayette and St. Paul Streets.

"This magnificent public building will be finished in 1899. It was much needed by the growing business of the Courts, and will add another to the many beautiful buildings, public and private, which have been erected in this city. Nothing more elegant could have been placed on the western side of the old Monument Square than this great building, which, while transforming the entire character of the locality, has also obliterated all traces of that older order of things which has departed forever.

"The dimensions of the new Court House will be in keeping with its character and adornments, the Calvert street front being two hundred feet with a depth of three hundred and twenty-five feet to St. Paul street. The exterior will be built of 'Beaverdam' Baltimore county marble with the exception of the basement story, which will be of Maryland granite; possibly the colonnade and recessed loggia on the Calvert street facade will be the most interesting feature, and here will be placed the largest monolithic columns in the United States. They are thirty-one feet, two and five-eighth inches high exclusive of the base and capital, diameter at base four feet, two and one-half inches; at top, three feet, five and one-fourth inches with flutes, bands and mouldings. They are purely Ionic and have richly carved bases and capitals. The entasis is drawn according to the usual methods employed by the ancient Romans. The diameters for about one-third of the length vary but little, while for the remaining length the beautiful swell can be readily seen.

"When quarried each stone weighed about eighty-nine tons, and as the block was separate from the main lodge it contained two columns, making a mass of about 180 tons; the size of these monster shafts can hardly be understood or appreciated unless seen. There are eight required in all. They were scrabbled or roughed at the quarry and then shipped on a specially built car to Baltimore, where it required twenty-five teams and two trucks, weighing about ten tons each, to convey them to the site of the new Court House, where the cutting is being done in a shop specially designed for the purpose, lighted by electricity and supplied with hot water for rubbing and finishing.

"These splendid specimens of the stone worker's art were obtained from the Beaverdam quarries. The rest of the exterior is created with Ionic pilasters supporting an enriched entablature, crowning the whole. A special feature of the St. Paul street entrance and the Criminal Court vestibule will be the various richly colored marble columns and lining.

"In this great building will be located the Superior Court, additional Superior Court, the two Courts of Common Pleas and the two Circuit Courts and their offices. On the third floor will be located the Supreme Bench, a domed room about forty feet in diameter, the dome being carried on sixteen monolithic columns and sixteen pilasters of a rich yellow brown veined vermilion marble. This room is lighted almost solely by a large eye or window in the centre of the dome. The Supreme Bench will occupy the centre of the Calvert street facade. The Bar or Law Library will occupy the whole of the St. Paul street facade. The great room will be one hundred and five feet long and thirty-five feet wide; the ceiling will be very beautiful. At either end of the library will be three reading rooms, finished in mahogany. The prisoner's entrance is through the archway on the Lexington street side, and the prison van will be driven to the prisoner's entrance in the lower court yard; a staircase leads directly to the guard rooms, which will be surrounded by the lock-up.

"The guard rooms will be floored with marble and will be lined throughout with enameled brick, so that they can be kept very clean by flushing with hose. All the passages and corridors through which prisoners pass will be lined with marble. All the jury rooms will be in direct communication with their Court rooms and can be entered only through the Court room so that when the jury has gone to its room for consultation there is no opportunity for outside communication.

"The staircases from the Calvert street entrance to the second story are entirely of marble, lighted by skylights. Electricity will be used in every available way, and private telephone wires will be established from one office to the other. In all the rooms where records will be filed, fire-proof vaults will be provided, in fact, the whole building will be as near fire-proof as modern skill can make it. A recent description truly says: 'This building, grand and imposing, will be without dome, tower or spire of any kind; the charm of its simple yet grand and dignified exterior leaves nothing to be desired, and the commission of gentlemen who, without money and without price, have given days, weeks, and months of serious thought to its planning and construction deserve and will receive the unstinted thanks of the community.' "[1]

Cross Section of Courthouse, Baltimore City Archives

A copy of the original drawings for the courthouse are to be found on microfilm at the Baltimore City Archives,

BRG12_1_210_399 ff.

  1. Love, Col. William H. (1898). History of Baltimore, Maryland from its founding as a Town to the Current Year. S.B. Nelson. pp. 1034–1035.