The Marlborough Apartments is an eleven-story landmark well-known for its architecture and as the home to the famous Baltimore art-collecting Cone Sisters. Before the construction of the Marlborough, the property was the site of a large mansion owned by the wealthy Popplein family. In 1880, only three years after Eutaw Place was extended up to North Avenue, Nicholas Popplein commissioned a massive 24-room brick mansion on Eutaw Place. Popplein was a wealthy paint manufacturer and a local leader in the area's development who owned Eutaw Place from McMechen all the way to Laurens Street. Unfortunately, Popplein died at home in 1885, shortly after construction of the new mansion was complete. His estate sold the mansion in the spring of 1901 to Dr. Thomas Shearer, a local specialist in homeopathy. An adjoining lot at the corner of Eutaw Place and Wilson Street sold to William Cochran in 1905. The two proposed to combine their investments and construct the Marlborough Apartment House, designed by architect Edward Glidden. Glidden designed an eleven-story apartment house, the largest in the city at the time. It was 141 feet wide on Eutaw Place and extended 130 feet back along Wilson Street. One of the first new buildings in Baltimore to be completely wired for electricity, the Marlborough even featured a rooftop garden. Among the 96 suites, a few apartments included as many as ten rooms. Among the many wealthy locals who moved in during the first few years were Dr. Claribel Cone (1864-1929) on the sixth floor and Miss Etta Cone (1870-1949) on the eighth. The sisters were born to Herman and Helen Cone, a German-Jewish family who immigrated to Baltimore in 1871. The family's wholesale grocery business, H. Cone and Sons, prospered and the sisters' older brothers relocated to Greensboro, North Carolina, where they started a successful textile business. While inheritances from their parents kept them comfortable, the profits from their brother's mills during WWI grew their wealth considerably. Etta was the first to start purchasing art, in 1898. She met both Picasso and Matisse while visiting friends Gertrude and Leo Stein in Paris, and was inspired to become Matisse's life-long patron. Claribel was a more experimental art buyer who sought out avant-garde works at high prices, like Matisse's Blue Nude for 120,760 francs. Eventually, the sisters covered nearly every space on every wall in their apartments with their collection. After Etta's death in 1949, the Cone Collection was donated to the Baltimore Museum of Art. It included over 3,000 works, 500 of which are by Matisse, with an estimated value of one billion dollars. The decades following the Cone Sisters were not kind the Marlborough. Absentee owners allowed the building to deteriorate severely by the early 1970s. A substantial renovation that converted the building apartments started in 1973.
Watch our Five Minute Histories video on the Cone sisters!