Copycat Building

For over twenty years, the Copycat - named for the roof top billboard of the Copycat printing company - has offered studio space and living space for countless artists, musicians, and performers. The history of creativity in this local landmark has a long history extending back to the construction of the Copycat Building in the 1890s as a factory complex for Baltimore's Crown Cork & Seal Company.

Maryland native William Painter invented the "crown cork" bottle cap - a predecessor of the bottle cap still common today - at Murrill & Keizer's machine shop on Holliday Street in 1891. A prolific inventor with over 85 patents, Painter established the Crown Cork & Seal Company in 1892 and started producing both bottle caps and bottling machines. The business quickly outgrew their factory on East Monument Street and moved north to Guilford Avenue in September 1897 into a grand six-floor factory with handsome Victorian details.

As with all industrial enterprises in Baltimore, their growth was driven by the labor of thousands of men, women and children who worked at the factory and frequently organized to seek improved conditions and wages. In 1899, for example, 65 boys between the ages of 13 and 18 employed feeding the machines that placed the cork seals into the caps went on strike. Company officials remained unconcerned, remarking that the "places of any who may not come back will be easily filled by other boys." The firm continued to expand, adding a machine shop (now known as the Lebow Building) next door on Oliver Street in 1914, and building new factory buildings in Highlandtown where they moved in the 1930s.

The building on Guilford Avenue remained in use by a wide range of tenants from the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s through a whole host of over twenty industrial enterprises occupying the building in the 1960s. In 1983, Charles Lankford purchased the building and converted the industrial space to art studios. Soon artists began illegally converting their studio spaces into apartments and by the mid-1980s, the Copycat began to host a vital community of local artists and musicians. The building remains an anchor in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District - rezoned as "mixed-used" to accommodate the diverse tenants - and offers a unique perspective on the history of industry in central Baltimore.

Images

Crown Cork & Seal Company

Crown Cork & Seal Company

View of the Crown Cork & Seal Company at 1500 Guilford Avenue. | Source: Maryland Historical Society, The Arthur U. Hooper Memorial Collection, MC9058 | Creator: John Dubas View File Details Page

WPA Project at 1511 Guilford Avenue

WPA Project at 1511 Guilford Avenue

View of women working on a sewing project at 1511 Guilford Avenue as part of Works Progress Administration Project Number 219. | Source: '© Enoch Pratt Free Library, Maryland's State Library Resource Center, mdpa109. All Rights reserved. Used with permission. Unauthorized reproduction or use prohibited. View File Details Page

WPA Project at 1601 Guilford Avenue

WPA Project at 1601 Guilford Avenue

View of women working on a sewing project at 1601 Guilford Avenue (now used as the artist-owned Cork Factory) as part of Works Progress Administration Project Number 304. | Source: '© Enoch Pratt Free Library, Maryland's State Library Resource Center, mdpa110. All Rights reserved. Used with permission. Unauthorized reproduction or use prohibited. View File Details Page

Patent diagram (1892)

Patent diagram (1892)

Patent drawing and diagram for U.S. Patent Number: 468,226, patented February 2, 1892. | Source: HutchBook.com View File Details Page

Cork Factory (2012)

Cork Factory (2012)

Exterior view of Cork Factory. | Source: Baltimore Heritage | Creator: Eli Pousson View File Details Page

Copycat Building (2012)

Copycat Building (2012)

Exterior detail of Cork Factory. | Source: Baltimore Heritage | Creator: Eli Pousson View File Details Page

William Painter (1896)

William Painter (1896)

Photograph of William Painter. | Source: William Painter and his father, Dr. Edward Painter : sketches and reminiscences (1914), Internet Archive, williampainterhi00pain | Creator: H.L. Perkins View File Details Page

Crown Cork & Seal Factory (c. 1914)

Crown Cork & Seal Factory (c. 1914)

View of the Crown Cork & Seal factory on Guilford Avenue. | Source: William Painter and his father, Dr. Edward Painter : sketches and reminiscences (1914), Internet Archive, williampainterhi00pain View File Details Page

Crown Cork & Seal Factory (c. 1914)

Crown Cork & Seal Factory (c. 1914)

View of the Crown Cork & Seal factory on Guilford Avenue. | Source: William Painter and his father, Dr. Edward Painter : sketches and reminiscences (1914), Internet Archive, williampainterhi00pain View File Details Page

Audio

Charlie Duff on the Copycat Building

Audio file of Charlie Duff discussing the use of industrial buildings in Station North neighborhood. | Source: Baltimore Heritage | Creator: Eli Pousson View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

“Copycat Building,” Explore Baltimore Heritage, accessed July 30, 2015, http://explore.baltimoreheritage.org/items/show/79.
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