Stereoview of Barnum’s Hotel by William Chase

Journalist and Baltimore historian Carleton Jones called David Barnum’s City Hotel “by all odds the greatest hostelry historically in city history” (Jones, Lost Baltimore Landmarks, p. 33).

The hotel’s guest register contains the signatures of numerous 19th century worthies, including Confederate spy Belle Boyd, John Wilkes Booth, and some of the Harper’s Ferry conspirators. Barnum’s was Charles Dickens’ favorite American hotel. President John Quincy Adams was a guest when the hotel was new.

Located on North Calvert Street at Fayette, the hotel was built in 1825 and torn down ca. 1889; the Equitable building stands in its place.

Jones learned that the hotel had originally resembled Boston’s Tremont House, but had been “gussied up like some aging dowager” by the 1860s with “bulging iron balconies” (Jones, 33).  The online collaborative project  Maryland’s Digital Cultural Heritage has an 1835 drawing that shows the hotel’s original design.

Its basement, recounts John Thomas Scharf, was “of granite from the Susquehanna, near Port Deposit, and the front appointments of this story were originally used as a post office” (History of Baltimore City and County, p. 516).

It was, writes Molly Berger, “the country’s most renowned hostelry at the time.” Four stories tall, and encompassing 172 bedrooms and suites, “an enormous 86 by 30 foot dining room, plus another room of equal size to accommodate ‘public dinner parties’ and balls. . . a reading room” open to the public, all illuminated by gas lighting, the City Hotel set a new standard for comfort and service (Hotel Dreams: Luxury, Technology and Urban Ambition in America, 1829-1929, pp. 18 ff.)

Philadelphia  architect Norris Gershon Starkwether gave the hotel its makeover in the late 1850s. The details Jones loathes were drawn from Starkwether’s fanciful designs of Italianate villas (Hayward and Shivers, The Architecture of Baltimore: An Illustrated History, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004, pp. 132-133).

Published by William Moody Chase, this stereograph was probably made ca. 1862-1876, the period, according to McCulloh, when yellow mounts dominated and card stock had grown thicker (McCulloh, Card Photographs: A Guide to Their History and Value, 1981, p. 79)

Neither a monument, a public institution nor a personal mansion, the hotel was nevertheless a fit subject stereo-optical subject for an armchair tourist. Barnum’s City Hotel, situated in the  heart of Monument Square, was a sign of Baltimore’s coming of age as a great American city.

Stereoview of Christ Protestant Episcopal Church

This stereoview of Christ Protestant Episcopal Church, St. Paul and Chase streets, Baltimore, was probably published by William M. Chase in the 1870s. The view looks east from E. Chase Street, toward St. Paul Street.

Christ Church, organized in 1797, was the second Episcopal church in Baltimore. The congregation occupied a variety of locations before the present church building was constructed at a cost of $125,000 (Henry Elliot Shepherd, A History of Baltimore, Maryland, S. B. Nelson publisher, 1898, pp. 217-218).

E. Francis Baldwin and Bruce Price designed the Gothic Revival structure in the Mount Vernon area in 1869, when the new ecclesiastical architectural style was first being introduced into the U.S.  According to The Architecture of Baltimore: A Pictorial History, this particular church’s style was known as French or Norman Gothic:

Its details are elegantly restrained and carried out in rough-faced white marble–narrow lancet windows, carved stone trefoils, pointed-arch doorways and window lintels, stone columns with leafy medieval capitals, and carved stone rosettes. The massing is symmetrical with a tall main tower and secondary smaller towers and spires (199).

This beautiful and historic church structure has been occupied by an independent non-denominational African-American congregation since the mid-1990s. Today the church is called the New Refuge Deliverance Cathedral.

Christ Church is located three blocks directly north of Mount Vernon Place, and is part of a historic neighborhood rich in cultural and architectural landmarks such as the Washington Monument and the Walters Art Gallery.

The fashionable Mount Vernon neighborhood developed in the 1830s in the elegant streets and parks laid out around the Washington Monument by Charles and William Howard on their father’s former estate, Belvidere (Architecture of Baltimore, 118). The area remained the epicenter of wealthy and cultured Baltimore until the late nineteenth century.

View a contemporary photograph of Christ Church taken by the author of the Monument City blog.