Founded in 1911, the Pemco International Corporation site on Eastern Avenue is a reminder of the enduring environmental legacy of Baltimore’s industrial businesses. First known as the Porcelain Enamel Manufacturing Corporation, the company produced porcelain and enamel coating for kitchen and bathroom appliances and tiles; perhaps most notably, Pemco supplied the orange roofing tiles for Howard Johnson hotels and restaurants. Karl Turk, Sr., a German immigrant who founded the company, became a leader in the porcelain industry after inventing a process for coating iron in porcelain. Turk was also the first to add color to porcelain coatings. In 1926, Pemco won acclaim at the Gas Association Conference for a new a line of kitchen stoves in various colors.
The company continued to grow in the years following WWII. According to a Baltimore Sun article from 1958, “The plant has a battery of eight continuous smelters operating 24 hours a day, several days a week to provide porcelain enamels for appliance makers producing ranges, refrigerators, washing machines, bathroom and kitchen fixtures.” The $750,000 Pemco research lab on Eastern Avenue opened in 1962 and was the first business in the city to have its own heliport.
By the next decade, however, the company ran into problems with environmental issues. In 1979, city officials demanded that the company clean the lead contamination on the complex on Eastern Avenue. The following year Pemco’s owner, Mobay Chemical Corp. had to pay a $10,000 fine for “excessive fluoride emissions.” Currently, the site is in the process of undergoing redevelopment plans. Purchased by local investment group MCB Real Estate, the company has plans to develop the site as a mixed-use facility similar to Canton Crossing.