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City Center

Discover Charles Street > Your Charles Street Journey > City Center

Baltimore’s commercial district was transformed in the 1950s with a series of revitalization projects that brought a new and distinctly more modern skyline to the city. But this was not the first time downtown was transformed. In 1904, a fire engulfed more than 40 blocks of the downtown area. Rebuilding proceeded rapidly and left Baltimore with a very fine collection of intricate and interesting buildings.This part of Charles Street through old downtown is an architectural treat. Roman temples, medieval German halls mingle among Chicago Style and International Style skyscapers.

Things to See in Downtown Baltimore

  • Hopkins, Center, and Charles Plazas (Along Charles Street between Baltimore and Saratoga streets) — These three plazas were developed as part of the revitalization of downtown Baltimore in the 1950s and 1960s. Today they are great spaces filled with public art and plenty of spaces to have a quick lunch and enjoy people watching.
  • Hansa House (11 S. Charles Street) — Built in 1912 and distinguished by its 16th-century German Revival style, the small building served as offices for the North German Lloyd Steamship Company. The steamship company was responsible for bringing millions of immigrants into Baltimore and the nation.
  • B&O Railroad Building (2 N. Charles Street) — The size and robustness of this building symbolized the B&O Railroad’s status as a national rail power and the first long-distance railroad in the world. The wealth generated by the B&O contributed to the founding and funding of many of the attractions along Charles Street. The 20-ton statue over the front entrance is particularly striking and depicts classical and modern depictions of the Roman god Mercury. The building has been carefully renovated and today houses a luxury hotel.
  • One Charles Center (100 N. Charles Street) — Relatively simple in both material and form, this building is a perfect example of the style of its architect: Mies Van der Rohe. The 25-story office building was constructed in 1962. Fortune Magazine named One Charles Center one of the “ten buildings that point to the future.” For many years, the American Heritage Dictionary included a thumbnail illustration of the building adjacent to the architect’s entry.
  • Grand Historic Venue (221 N. Charles Street) — This six-story, lavish, limestone building was designed and redesigned for the Masons by a collection of some of Baltimore’s most important architects. Originally four stories tall, the mansard roof with two additional floors was added to the top in 1909.  The building played a valuable role in both World Wars. In World War I, the building was left open for the reception of all military personnel, and during World War II over 5,000 servicemen slept on 110 cots that filled the grand main hall. The building is filled with incredible period rooms: the lavish Corinthian Room; the ornate Oriental Room;  the Egyptian Room; the Roman Room; the wall of mirrors, evoking the Palace at Versailles; and the Tudor-Gothic Chamber modeled after Edinburgh’s Roslyn Chapel. Today the Grand Historic Venue is one of the city’s most sough-after venues for receptions, weddings, and galas.
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