The highly ornamented Mercantile Trust Building was constructed in 1885 by architectural firm Wyatt and Sperry. The architecture conveys a sense of impenetrability, characterized by its massive, heavy stonework and deep set windows and entrance. Ads at the time boasted that the building strong enough "to resist the invasion of armed force." The hardened building survived the 1904 Baltimore Fire, but sustained damage when bricks from the Continental Trust Building fell through the skylight, setting fire to the interior. Despite this, the building's survival reaffirmed what the bank had been saying all along in its ads. The Mercantile Trust was Baltimore's first "department store bank," a concept spearheaded by Enoch Pratt. In years before, customers had to go to different banks to get loans, access savings, or open a checking account. Mercantile Trust ended this by introducing Baltimore to one-stop banking. The bank was also involved in raising capital to rebuild many cities in the South during Reconstruction. Later, the bank acted as co-executor for the estate of Henry Walters and as a trustee for the endowment that established the Walters Art Collection. Mercantile Trust occupied the building for almost 100 years. The company left in 1983 and the building has been a nightclub, and more recently, the new location of the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company.
Watch our Five-Minute Histories video on this building!