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The Passano Files

Then and Now: Pratt Street – A View From the Power Plant

Aerial view looking northwest from the roof of Pratt Street Power Plant, ca. 1905, MdHS, MC4734.

Today’s “Then and Now” photograph was taken from the roof of the Pratt Street Power Plant, ca. 1905. The three-story buildings shown here on the 500 block of East Pratt were built to replace a row of four-story buildings, most likely involved in maritime supply or wholesale commodity trades, that were destroyed by the Baltimore Fire of 1904 (see photo below).

The devastation caused by the Baltimore Fire can be seen here on Pratt Street. This photo is looking southeast from the Continental Trust Building. The power plant can be recognized by its four smokestacks rising above the roof-line. “Looking Southeast from Continental Trust Building,” MDHS, PP179.174.

Amazingly, by the time the featured photograph was taken in 1905 much of the area had been rebuilt. The northeast corner of Pratt and Gay Streets became a waterfront lodging call the Marine Hotel, later demolished in 1973.

The Power Plant was designed by architect Henry Brauns of the firm Baldwin and Pennington,  to generate the electricity used to power Baltimore’s trolley cars. Though it endured the fire and several ownership changes over the 20th century,  it was finally closed 1973, when the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company concluded it had no further use for the plant. In the 1980s the power plant held both a short-lived amusement park and then a dance club. Since 1997 it’s been home to  chain stores such as Barnes and Noble, ESPN zone (now closed), and the Hard Rock Cafe (surprisingly not closed).  Today it is also the headquarters for the Cordish Company Developers, and the architecture and planning firm Design Collective. Were it not for the recognizable shell of the Power Plant,  this section of Pratt would be hardly recognizable today. (Eben Dennis)

Looking northwest along Pratt Street from the 3rd floor of the Power Plant. Photo by Anna Dennis

Sources:

The Passano File, Maryland Historical Society

Peterson, Peter B. The Great Baltimore Fire. Baltimore, MD: Maryland Historical Society Press, 2004.

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