Lord Baltimore Hotel

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Discover the Lord Baltimore Hotel, which is named after the founder of the Colony of Maryland, George Calvert.

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Lord Baltimore Hotel, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2005, dates back to 1928.

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Listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the Lord Baltimore Hotel has been a cherished member of Historic Hotels of America since 2005. Named for George Calvert—Lord Baltimore and founder of the Maryland colony—the Lord Baltimore Hotel was the last high-rise building developed with classical ornamentation in downtown Baltimore. It was originally owned by Harry Busick, a native of nearby Calvert County who was an incredibly accomplished local hotelier. In fact, he had even managed a business called the “New Howard Hotel” early in his career. Busick had actually operated a much smaller hotel on the site several years prior known as the “Caswell House.” Standing seven stories tall, it had run successfully for some time. Yet, the great Baltimore Fire of 1904 had burnt it completely to the ground. Busick had already considered erecting a much larger facility, though, and used the tragedy as an opportunity to put his plan into action. He spent the better part of the next two decades acquiring enough capital to construct the new hotel, with construction finally beginning in earnest in the late 1920s. For the project, Busick hired the renowned architect William Lee Stoddart to oversee the design effort. A graduate of Columbia University, Stoddart had already created numerous hotels throughout the United States, including the Francis Marion Hotel in South Carolina (which is also a Member of Historic Hotels of America). Many historians today consider the Lord Baltimore Hotel to be among his finest achievements. Designed using a brilliant blend of the Beaux-Arts—with elements of the Italian and French Renaissance architecture—the magnificent hotel was nearly three times as large as its predecessor. At the time, it even dominated the local skyline as Maryland’s largest building!

Harry Busick debuted his beautiful new business as the “Lord Baltimore Hotel” to great acclaim during the winter of 1928. Many in the city attended its opening gala, including Governor Albert Richie, Baltimore mayor William F. Broening, and the oldest living relative of the royal Baltimore family. The ceremonies were broadcast live from a local radio station, WBAL, as well. Busick died shortly thereafter, though, with his sons running the business in his absence. Under their watch, the Lord Baltimore Hotel became immensely popular. Every guest was amazed by the building’s brilliant décor and cutting-edge amenities that awaited them inside. As such, the business remained strong for years, even as the Great Depression and World War II impacted Baltimore’s greater hospitality industry. Dozens of the nation’s leading celebrities visited at one point or another, including the likes of celebrated pilot Amelia Earhart and the legendary Babe Ruth. In 1958, the Busicks defied the local ordinances that disallowed African Americans from staying inside the hotel. Among the first guests to stay were the great baseball superstars Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Frank Robinson, all of whom had traveled to the city to play in that year’s All-Star Game. Then, a decade later, the great civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., reserved a guestroom at the Lord Baltimore Hotel to attend a regional meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Dr. King also gave a lengthy press interview from the building and received the keys to the city from then-mayor Tommy D’Alessandro III. And Democratic candidate Harry Hughes hosted his campaign headquarters inside the Lord Baltimore Hotel amid his successful bid for the Maryland governorship in 1978.

The Busick brothers sold the hotel during the 1960s, which began a period of fluid ownership that lasted for several years. Unfortunately, the business had already started to decline somewhat, as the entire downtown area of Baltimore stagnated. Eventually, a company by the name of “Federated Hotels, Inc.,” acquired the location and tried to resurrect interest with it through a massive renovation. But the plan proved to be futile, and the Lord Baltimore Hotel ultimately closed its doors to an uncertain future in 1982. After a few more attempts to restore the business had failed, Universal Equities purchased the site. It subsequently formed a partnership with Radisson Hotels, and together, they both operated the facility as the “Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore.” The building subsequently underwent a series of much needed renovations, reviving some of its former glory in the process. Yet, the hotel’s true rebirth did not occur until the Rubell family bought the structure in 2013. The owners of Rubell Hotels, the Rubells proceeded to end the relationship with Radisson in favor of relaunching the facility as an independent operation. The Rubells have since invested millions into its upkeep, ensuring that future generations would appreciate its brilliant history and world-class service for years to come. Their time as the hotel’s steward has also received great praise, as dozens of organizations have bestowed onto the business numerous awards and accolades. Among the titles that the Lord Baltimore has earned include “Daily Record 2020 Coolest Spaces,” “U.S. News #7 in Top 25 Maryland Hotels,” “MSN Most Glamorous Hotel Maryland,” and “Tripadvisor Circle of Excellence.” Historic Hotels of America has even granted one of its prestigious Awards of Excellence to the hotel back in 2014!

  • About the Location +

    Founded at the start of the 18th century, the City of Baltimore is one of America’s most historic locations. The Susquehanna sporadically inhabited the region for centuries, until European colonists started building a small settlement at the site of the present-day Aberdeen Proving Grounds. Even though it quickly became the center of all economic and political activity in the region for the next few years, the village remained sparsely populated, nonetheless. In 1702, the colonial General Assembly of Maryland decided to create the “Port of Baltimore” several miles to the south at Locus Point (known at the time as “Whetstone Point). The politicians hoped that a proper deep-water port on the Chesapeake Bay would give the nearby tobacco plantations and farms an easily accessible harbor from which to ship their products. The colonial administration then decided to charter a town around the port in honor of George Calvert, the 1st Lord Baltimore and founder of Maryland Colony. Called “Baltimore,” the town’s growth remained relatively slow, though, numbering only two dozen homes by 1752. Most people remained skeptical of Baltimore’s supposed ability to effectively transport their wares. But everything changed when one Dr. John Stevenson became incredibly wealthy by shipping his own flour out from Baltimore to customers in Ireland. As such, the town’s population exploded, as merchants began erecting wharves and warehouses to accommodate the amount of people who wanted to ship their products overseas. A few shipbuilding companies also established themselves within the town, too, constructing all sorts of schooners and clippers for local use. Furthermore, many industrialists sought to emulate Dr. Stevenson’s success by building their own flour mills on the small waterways that surrounded the settlement.

    Baltimore had emerged as the dominated economic force along the Chesapeake toward the end of the 1700s. Its commercial prowess remained incredibly strong, even as Maryland found itself embroiled in the American Revolutionary War. Despite British attempts to blockade Baltimore and its harbor, many smugglers managed to elude the roaming bands of pirates and British naval vessels that patrolled the mouth of the bay. The city had grown so much that by the late 1790s, the Maryland legislature formally incorporated it—as well as the nearby communities of Fells Point and Jonestown—as the “City of Baltimore.” Its prosperous harbor and local manufactories had also made it one of the nation’s greatest economic centers in 19th century. But the city’s newfound status as a center for trade and commerce eventually brought it into the crosshairs of Great Britain once more during the War of 1812. After the British had successfully occupied the District of Columbia in August of 1814, Rear Admiral George Cockburn attempted to push north to capture Baltimore’s thriving seaport. Arriving in the middle of September, Admiral Cockburn and his ally—Major General Robert Ross—attempted to invade the city in what would become remembered as the “Battle of Baltimore.” In response, the local residents had hurriedly erected a series of imposing fortifications for over a year. Most of their entrenchments ultimately linked up with the imposing Fort McHenry, located at the mouth of Baltimore Harbor. On September 12, British soldiers under General Ross attacked the city by foot, driving the American militia back to their breastworks. Admiral Cockburn then began a savage naval bombardment the following day, which lasted for 25 hours. After several British marines failed to capture For McHenry—one of the main targets of the barrage—Admiral Cockburn and General Ross determined that seizing Baltimore was too dangerous and departed. The unexpected victory galvanized the nation. Author Francis Scott Key—who had watched the entire battle as a captive onboard a British warship—even wrote a poem in honor of Baltimore’s triumph called, “Defense of Fort M’Henry.” Decades later, Scott’s verses would become the lyrics to America’s national anthem.

    Baltimore continued to grow in economic importance as the century progressed, with its primary industries rooted in shipbuilding, sawmilling, and textile manufacturing. The local countryside also continued to produce tobacco and grain for shipment elsewhere in the world. The development of the historic National Road and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad—America’s first—only further reinforced the city’s preeminence within the country. By the beginning of the 20th century, Baltimore had emerged as one of the most important economic centers in the United States. By then, its factories were also producing chrome, cooper, and steel products, while its ports routinely ferried iron ore and coal. Dozens of fertilizer plants had also opened in downtown Baltimore, as did food processing centers and garment workshops. Baltimore was even the nation’s largest supplier of fresh oysters! Millions of immigrants arrived in Baltimore around the same time, too, making second only to New York City as a national port-of-entry. As such, thousands found jobs within the city’s vibrant economy. This renaissance continued through World War II, as businesses across Baltimore made everything from gas masks to tanks and jeeps. Local shipyards manufactured hundreds of ships for the war effort, too. One local company—Martin-Marietta—even produced the B-26 and B-29 long-range bombers! Today, Baltimore is still one of the nation’s most influential cities. It is home to many fascinating cultural attractions, such as the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Baltimore Museum of Industry, the Walters Museum of Art, and the Maryland Science Center. Its Inner Harbor is one of the most popular heritage destinations in the entire United States, as it contains destinations like the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse, the U.S.S. Torsk, and National Aquarium. Fort McHenry today is open to the public, as well, protected by the National Park Service as a National Historic Landmark. Truly, few places are better in America for a historical vacation than Baltimore, Maryland.


  • About the Architecture +

    According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Lord Baltimore Hotel is architecturally significant for being the last high-rise buildings constructed with classical ornamentation in downtown Baltimore. The agency has also indicated that it was significant at the time: “as the largest hotel building ever constructed in Maryland; one of the four high-rise structures in downtown Baltimore with a distinctive roof line; and the design of a noteworthy New York architect who specialized in hotel buildings.” That prominent architect was William Lee Stoddart, a graduate of Columbia University who had already designed a number of outstanding structures across the United States. Despite the beauty of those respective buildings, many historians considered the Lord Baltimore Hotel to be among his greatest achievements. In designing the hotel, Stoddart used a “U-shaped” foundation to accommodate two large shafts made primarily with red brick. Stoddart reinforced each brick tower with steel and capped them with an octagonal tower and flat roof. The tower that sat atop the hotel also featured a fine granite trim and a separate, copper-covered mansard with carved stone dormers. Similar decorative elements also existed around the exterior of 17th floor, as large medallions depicting the head of a lion defined the space. The base of the building’s façade contained “Indian Head” and “Lord Baltimore” stone medallions, as well. Inside, places like the lobby, the main dining room, and the “Cavalier Room” all displayed elements of Italian Renaissance design aesthetics. Furthermore, when talking about the interior of the building, the U.S. Department of the Interior stated:

    • “It [had] large squared piers with Corinthian capitals, brass chandelier and [was] surrounded by a mezzanine. The main dining room off a marble stairway from the lobby [featured] a high ceiling, mirrored transoms and large windows. The banquet hall on the second floor [could] seat 1,250 people. It [featured] large arched windows and crystal chandeliers.”

    The Lord Baltimore Hotel itself mainly displays a wonderful blend of Beaux-Arts style architecture, which became widely popular in around the dawn of the 20th century. This beautiful architectural form originally began at an art school in Paris known as the École des Beaux-Arts during the 1830s. There was much resistance to the Neoclassism of the day among French artists, who yearned for the intellectual freedom to pursue less rigid design aesthetics. Four instructors in particular were responsible for establishing the movement: Joseph-Louis Duc, Félix Duban, Henri Labrouste, and Léon Vaudoyer. The training that these instructors created involved fusing architectural elements from several earlier styles, including Imperial Roman, Italian Renaissance, ad Baroque. As such, a typical building created with Beaux-Arts-inspired designs would feature a rusticated first story, followed by several more simplistic ones. A flat roof would then top the structure. Symmetry became the defining character, with every building’s layout featuring such elements like balustrades, pilasters, and cartouches. Sculptures and other carvings were commonplace throughout the design, too. Beaux-Arts only found a receptive audience in France and the United States though, as most other Western architects at the time gravitated toward British design principles.   


  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Martin Luther King, Jr., historic civil rights leader of the 1960s-era Civil Rights Movement.

    Amelia Earhart, pioneering aviator who was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

    Babe Ruth, outfielder for the New York Yankees who is regarded today as the best baseball player ever. 

    Willie Mays, outfielder for the New York/San Francisco Giants who is remembered as “The Say Hey Kid.”

    Hank Aaron, outfielder for the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves who is remembered as “Hammerin’ Hank.”

    Frank Robinson, outfielder for the Cincinnati Reds and Baltimore Orioles who is only player to have won the Most Valuable Player award in both the National and America League.


  • Film, TV and Media Connections +

    House of Cards (2013)

    VEEP (2014)


  • Women in History +

    Amelia Earhart: Once a guest at the Lord Baltimore Hotel, Amelia Earhart was a legendary aviator who bore the distinction of being the first female to pilot a flight across the Atlantic. Climbing aboard a Fokker Trimotor dubbed “Friendship,” Earhart and her copilot, Wilmer Stultz, began the historic trip from an airfield in Newfoundland in June of 1928. In just under a single day, Earhart and Stultz landed at Pwll in South Wales. She became an overnight international celebrity for her achievement. When Earhart returned to the United States, she was given a massive ticker-tape parade along the Canyon of Heroes in New York City. President Calvin Coolidge even held a reception in her honor at the White House shortly thereafter. Earhart then followed up her grand achievement five years later, when she completed a transatlantic solo flight from Canada to Northern Ireland. Becoming the first woman to finish such a trip alone, Congress bestowed Earhart with the Distinguished Flying Cross. Her fame only continued to grow, as tales of her accomplishments captivated countless Americans. Earhart’s celebrity status even caused her to development a close friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt during the mid-1930s. When she was not busy flying, Earhart served as visiting faculty member in aeronautical engineering at Purdue University, and vigorously supported the causes championed by the National Women’s Party. Earhart also founded the Ninety-Nines, an all-female international organization that supports the professional growth of female pilots. Yet, her career was tragically cut short in 1937, when she disappeared while attempting a circumnavigational trek across the globe.


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