The 200 block of West Lexington Street is in the heart of the “Superblock” redevelopment area on the City’s West Side. The south side of the street is an intact block of historic buildings, a rare occurrence in this part of old downtown. Lexington Street was once a busy shopping hub for Baltimore and is a block away from the renovated Hippodrome Theater. The Baltimore Development Corporation selected developer Lexington Square Partners for the redevelopment of the block bounded by West Lexington Street, North Howard Street, West Fayette Street, and Park Avenue.
Since 2004, Lexington Square Partners has submitted at least five plans for the redevelopment of the site to the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) and each time MHT has concluded that the plans do not meet the required preservation standards (Baltimore Brew covered this issue in February 2010). The most recent proposal this past November requires the partial or total demolition of 14 of 17 contributing historic buildings in the area, including the complete demolition of 9 structures, the demolition of all but facades on 5, and the full preservation of only 3 historic buildings.
Brager-Gutman Building (Epstein’s)
Built in 1929, the Brager-Gutman Building was the first downtown store to feature escalators. First known just as Gutman’s, the store merged with Brager’s, located at Eutaw and Saratoga Streets, establishing the well-known Brager-Gutman’s. The building was later bought by Epstein’s, a local discount store established in 1926. Epstein’s closed in 1991. Current plans call for the preservation of the Brager-Gurman building as part of the new development.
The George Knipp & Brother Building at 121 N. Howard Street is one of less than 25 remaining cast-iron buildings in Baltimore. The Sun Iron Building, built by A.S. Abell in 1851, was the first large-scale commercial building built using all-iron construction. Baltimore’s Bartlett, Robbins & Co. was one of the nation’s premiere architectural iron works facility, produced fronts for buildings in Baltimore, New York, New Orleans, Portland, OR, and more. Later used as a store for McCrory’s this building and the adjoining two are proposed for partial demolition, only preserving the facade.