Built in 1928, the Lord Baltimore Hotel is a beautiful example of an early twentieth-century high-rise hotel. Designed by prolific hotel architect William Lee Stoddart, it is reminiscent of such famous American hotels as New York's Vanderbilt Hotel or Chicago's Palmer House. The twenty-two-story steel frame building was the largest hotel building ever constructed in Maryland. However, the Lord Baltimore is also a reminder of the city’s history of racial discrimination and the long fight for integrated public accommodation.
In 1954, the same year the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education called for an end to segregated schools, black players from three American League teams with integrated rosters came to Baltimore to play against the Orioles. White players stayed at the Lord Baltimore, the Emerson, and Southern Hotel downtown. But for their black teammates, the only option was the African American-owned York Hotel in West Baltimore.
A year later, in 1955, students at Johns Hopkins University moved the prom away from the Lord Baltimore to the at the Alcazar Hotel in Mount Vernon in protest to the hotel manager’s refusal to admit black students to the dance and his threat to “stop the dance if Negroes attended.” By the late 1950s, after lobbying by Baltimore’s progressive Mayor Theodore McKeldin, the Lord Baltimore Hotel consented to rent rooms to black ballplayers and some conference attendees. In 1958, Baltimore hosted the All-Star Game and six black All-Stars, including Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, registered at the Lord Baltimore. For visiting black spectators, however, the hotel was not an option. Jimmy Williams, an assistant editor at the Afro American, advised spectators to bring pup tents and box lunches, writing, “The box lunches will be to ease the pangs of an aching stomach… The pup tents will provide a place for them to rest their carcasses after the last door of the downtown hotels have been slammed in their face and the uptown hotels are filled.” Williams predicted visitors would leave “just loving the quaint customs of Baltimore, which boasts of major league baseball and minor league businessmen.”
By the early 1960s, policies finally began to change. After hotel management realized they had rented rooms for the campaign office of segregationist presidential candidate George Wallace in 1964, the management refused to let them stay and the campaign was forced to move to a motel in Towson. In 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr., stayed at the hotel during a meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, where he gave a lengthy press conference and received symbolic keys to the city from Mayor Tommy D’Alesandro III.
The hotel was one of the few historic buildings retained as part of the redevelopment of Charles Center and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.