Baltimore Building of the Week: Baltimore’s Columnar Monuments

This week’s Baltimore Building of the Week is not, in fact, a building. Instead, it is three of Baltimore’s notable “Columnar Monuments.” Both the Battle Monument and Mount Vernon’s Washington Monument have also been featured on the Monument City website. Visitors can take a tour of the Shot Tower’s ground floor exhibit, sound and light show, and informational video are available with appointment at 10:30 AM on Saturday or Sunday. The Washington Monument is open for visitors Wednesday to Friday 10 AM to 4 PM and Saturday and Sunday 10 AM to 5 PM up until Memorial Day.

Battle Monument, Image courtesy Jack Breihan
Battle Monument, Image courtesy Jack Breihan

Completed during the 1820s, two of these towering structures established Baltimore’s distinction as “the Monumental City.” Maximilian Godefroy’s Battle Monument, depicted on the City flag, commemorated the Defenders who died beating off the British attack in 1814. It combines Egyptian and Roman themes, including a giant set of fasces. A gigantic Roman Doric column, Robert Mills’ Washington Monument portrays the Father of Our Country, dressed in a toga, performing what its builders considered his most heroic act. (What was it? answer next week!) The contemporary Phoenix Shot Tower was a monument to Baltimore’s growing industrial sector; it manufactured lead shot for the Chesapeake Bay duck-hunting industry.


Washington Monument, Image courtesy Jack Breihan

Shot Tower, Image courtesy Jack Breihan

6 comments

  1. There are 42 names on the Battle Monument to honor those who fell at North Point and Fort McHenry. On the bands of the fasces are the names of 39 men including Wells and McComas who are often given credit for mortally wounding Gerneral Robert Ross. In a separate section just above are the names of three officers who were killed also.

    The Washington Monument was originally to stand where the Battle Monument is today. However, once people saw the proposed plan, there was the familiar cry of “not in our neighborhood!” John Eager Howard came to the rescue donating a piece of land at the south end of his Belvidere estate. Enrico Causici was low bidder ($9,000) to carve the Washington figure. However, when he failed to raise the sculpture to the top of the monument, his commission was cut by $1,500. Causici may have had the final laugh though. Some said that Washington’s likeness looked more like Causici than George! Decide for yourself. He looks a little like Jimmy Cagney to me! Robert Mills was also retained to lay out the four squares which became the center for the Mt. Vernon community. The final cost of the monument was over $203,000, double the original estimate.

    With regard to the Shot Tower, there were four of them in Baltimore: Fayette & Front, Conway & Eutaw, Montgomery & Howard, and Gay and Saratoga. All four can be seen in Nicholas Calyo’s 1837 painting of the city at the BMA. One of the earliest preservation battles took place in 1920s when plans were announced to raze the Shot Tower for a gas station. A Committee for the Preservation of the Shot Tower was organized. Also, city newspapers conducted a Shot Tower poetry contest to generate interest in saving the structure. So many were published in support of the Tower (John Dos Passos and Lizette Woodworth Reese to name two) and so much public interest was raised, that the campaign to save the Shot Tower succeeded. The city bought the tower from in 1924 and money was later appropriated for repairs. Oh yes, the proposed Union Oil Co. gas station was built nearby.

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