Thursday, December 22, 2011

Weird Start to Winter

The Winter Solstice was this morning (Midwinter and Yule are other names) when we have the longest night and the shortest day of the year, in other words the first day of the winter season. However, it really didn't feel like that today in Charm City. Rather it was mild. Today's high was somewhere in the low 60s, and instead of a potential White Christmas, it's grey and raining. Feels like spring more than anything else.

Honestly, it's tough getting in the Christmas spirit when the weather doesn't cooperate. Sure, it's rather rare that we would get snow at Christmas in Baltimore, but the colder weather still puts you in the right state of mind. This warm streak is just playing with us!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

When Club One was the House of Welsh

House of Welsh in 1943. Note the Guilford Elevated streetcar line.
At one time, what was 301 Guilford Avenue (at some point over time the address was switched to 300 E. Saratoga St) was called the House of Welsh a long time Baltimore steakhouse and restaurant. Originally opened in 1900 it occupied the corner buildings for 98 years. A 1998 article in The Baltimore Sun details the history of the House of Welsh on the eve of its closure. With the demolition of these three buildings yesterday marks the end of some of the oldest houses that stood near downtown. The houses were build in the 1830s, some of the only other houses of the same period were on St. Paul Street and were demolished to make way for the new Mercy Medical Center tower.

Inside these buildings make have taken place some of the more little known, but nonetheless interesting stories in Baltimore's history. In 1904, at the height of the Great Baltimore Fire, a telegraph line was hooked up inside the building so news reports and requests for firefighters could be sent, since the city's telegraph office had been destroyed by fire. Later on, it wasn't uncommon to see city council meetings going on in the upstairs dining room.
At one point the buildings were painted black, adorned with advertisements as can be seen by the pictures. Eventually, by the time the restaurant closed it was covered with the dull gray formstone that we were more familiar with.

House of Welsh in 1947, courtesy of The Baltimore Sun

These photos from the 1940s show a side of Baltimore that has faded away in many ways. With the demolition yesterday the last of these buildings are gone, the others in the background have long since been replaced with the massive parking lot. Unfortunately, this has happened all too often in our downtown; buildings knocked down for future development that does not materialize. While we cannot bring back the way these buildings used to look like, let's hope something that adds to the fabric of downtown actually gets built, so we aren't left with an addition to a surface parking lot.

More Club One Demo in Photos

I was able to continue taking pictures throughout Saturday, December 3rd as what was left of Club One came crashing down. Turns out, I had an excellent vantage point.

Streetview of the demo

Crane gets ready for another wall smacking

Most of the building along Saratoga is gone.

Steel support structure now visible

Tearing off the roof

The pile of rubble on the sidewalk would get much deeper

A Swing, A Hit, and a Shower of Bricks

...And Gone

By the end of Saturday, only one broken wall remained

Saturday, December 3, 2011

So Long Club One

Club One at 300 E. Saratoga Street closed earlier this year after a long notorious life. Billed as Baltimore's "premier night spot" and "upscale club", it was the spot of at least one stabbing and one shooting (plus another incident of gunfire that did not result in any injuries) during it's time. Today brings the end of the actual building.

Work starts right before sunrise
Demolition claw gnawing at the roof.

More roof demolition

Tear down the back wall.

Bringing down the Saratoga Street entrance.

Second floor mostly crushed.

The club originally composed of three older formstoned rowhomes plus a small addition along Saratoga St. These three buildings represent the last remnants of the houses, buildings, and warehouses that lined the eastern side of Guilford Avenue along the Jones Falls and across from the Northern Central Railroad tracks whose remains are now underneath the elevated JFX. Until 1950, the Guilford Avenue Elevated brought streetcars right past these houses as they descended down to street level at the corner of Saratoga. As a last gasp of the onetime impressiveness of these houses, a lone wrought iron handrail and boot scraper are still attached to the long worn marble steps that lead to the street. In time these too while be gone to join the rest of what was on Guilford into the collective memory of Baltimore past.