This week’s Baltimore Building from the Week from Dr. John Breihan is the iconic Bromo Seltzer Tower. After you learn a bit about the building, you can see it in person and pick up a few holiday gifts at The Shop at Bromo selling an assorted collection of original arts and crafts by local artisans from now through Saturday, January 8, 2011.
Baltimore’s favorite Beaux-Arts building is modeled on the tower of the fortified medieval Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, begun in 1299. Just over six hundred years later, Captain Isaac E. Emerson, a Baltimore pharmacist, visited Florence and determined to bring a bit of it back to his home town. He had the means to do so because of the success of Bromo-Seltzer, a fizzy cure for various forms of overindulgence. In 1911, he commissioned a replica tower, 20 feet shorter than the original, to be attached to the six-story plant of the Emerson Chemical Co. Unlike the tower in Florence, this was of modern steel-framed construction and equipped with an elevator; its wall were pierced by numerous windows, giving Bromo-Seltzer executives sweeping views over downtown Baltimore.
In 1936, the revolving 30-foot Bromo-Seltzer bottle atop the building (another deviation from the Florentine original) was removed due to structural cracks. In the 1970s, the old selzer plant was demolished and replaced by a brutalist fire station but the huge Bromo Selzer clock still remains and, in 2007, the tower was remodeled for artists’ studios. In its uniqueness and varied history the Bromo Tower symbolizes the successes of historic preservation in Baltimore.