History and Nostalgia in Downtown Baltimore: The Camden Warehouse and the Pratt Street Power Plant from Original Construction to Adaptive Reuse

Harness, Virginia, Architectural History - School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Wilson, Richard, Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia

This project charts the history of the Camden Warehouse and the Pratt Street Power Plant, two buildings constructed by railroad companies in Baltimore at the end of the nineteenth century. The warehouse, a product of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and the power plant, the central power station for the United Railway & Electric Company, both stand as massive monuments to the industrial glory days of Baltimore. These buildings were erected when the power of the rail was unchallenged and Baltimore thrived as a center of industry and transportation. Unfortunately, their importance in Baltimore’s history soon faded as urban decay set in and the automobile shoved aside the streetcar and the locomotive. For the better part of the twentieth century these buildings lingered in obscurity by Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, until they at last found new purpose through adaptive reuse in the waning decades of the century. Over the last one hundred years, these buildings have transcended their industrial roots and come to serve as objects of nostalgia for Baltimoreans. Charting the history of these two structures through the industrial age, deindustrialization, and finally their redevelopment as adaptive reuse projects shows how the place of these buildings in Baltimore has shifted, turning them from monuments of industry into monuments of nostalgia. As part of the late twentieth century phenomena of heritage tourism, developers largely left the exterior integrity of these buildings intact the marketed them as links to the past. Ultimately, however, the extent to which these buildings offer visitors any substantial connection to their history, and the history of Baltimore, remains minimal.

MARH (Master of Architectural History)
Camden Yards, adaptive reuse, streetcars, warehouse, power plant, Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, railroad, United Railways & Electric Company, industry, deindustrialization, Inner Harbor, American architecture, nostalgia, Baltimore, E. F. Baldwin
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
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