Photographs are available in this Flickr album.
723 West Pratt Street is an early 20th-century four-story warehouse building located within the Ridgely’s Delight CHAP and National Register Historic Districts. The building retains significant integrity and is closely associated with Baltimore Mayor James H. Preston.
Prior to the construction of the existing structure, 723 West Pratt Street was the site of a large dwelling built before the Civil War. By 1860, 723 West Pratt Street was home to Hugh Lawrence then later home to Joshua V. Pedrick at the time of his death in 1868.1 The dwelling was advertised for sale in 1872 at which time the improvements to the property were described, “nice three-story house with two story back building.”2 Instead of selling however, the owner, Mary Amelia Preston assigned the property in her will to pass to her husband and, after his death, to hear sons Walter W. Preston and James H. Preston. This structure was identified as vacant on Sanborn maps published in 1890 and again in 1901. Then in 1903, James H. Preston arranged to sell property in Harford County to his brother in exchange for full interest in 723 West Pratt Street. Following the sale, Preston evidently demolished the dwelling clearing the lot for light industrial development.
Advertisements from 1906 and 1907 suggest the site at least temporarily served as the location of a small foundry or blacksmith. In June 1906, advertisements referencing 723 West Pratt noted, “Wanted- Wagon Blacksmith and Painter” and “For sale- Three Second hand Sandcarts.” In June 1907, advertisements appeared noting, “Wanted- Blacksmith and Helper.”3 James H. Preston was elected mayor in 1911 and served two terms through 1919, concurrently with the construction of the property at 723 West Pratt Street.
Two Sanborn maps from 1914 illustrate the changes to the lot, as the first shows an clear lot with no construction and the second shows a structure filling the lot from Pratt Street to Dover Street identified as a furniture warehouse. This new use followed from the growing industrial function of the 700 block of West Pratt Street. The property immediately to the west served as a plumbing supply warehouse, at the corner of Fremont and Pratt was a construction supply warehouse, and other buildings on the block included a machine shop and a sheet metal shop.
Preston sold the property to Howard B. Smith, who sold it again the next day to Samuel Speert, Robert Seff, and Harry T. Kellman. The warehouse continued to serve a range of function following furniture storage with carpet cleaning in 1922 and the storage of personal goods in 1924.4 In 1924, the warehouse was leased to Hecht Bros. & Co. as a Baltimore Sun article noted:
Increasing demand for warehouse properties is reported by real estate men. The large warehouse at 723-725 West Pratt street has been leased for a term of years by Hect Bros. & Co., department stores, Batimore and Pine streets, through Julus Mintz. The building, a four-story structure, will be used to provide additional storage space for the concern. Lease was from Samuel Speert and Robert Seff.5
By 1930, the building was home to Watcher, Hoskin & Russell Distributors for the Richardson & Boynton heating plants.6 From 1939 through the late 1940s, the building served as the offices of a chauffeur service, Paramount Rug Service, as well as a cabinet shop, H.B. Hirsch & Sons textile factory, and other light manufacturing services. This pattern continued through the 1950s and 1960s, when the building was occupied by the Marlenn Products Company which operated the Packer-Novelty Factory.7 Similarly in the late 1970s, the building was the location of Easter Baskets Wholesale and the Peoples Import Basket Company.8 The property sold quite frequently throughout this period, selling in 1926, 1931, 1945, 1946, 1973, 1976, 1986, and 1988. During the 1940s, while owned by Wood Products, Inc., the property was owner-occupied as a cabinet shop but it was primarily operated as a rental property throughout the mid-20th century.
The structure is located within the boundaries of the Ridgely’s Delight National Register and CHAP historic districts.9 The Maryland Historical Trust website describes the significance of the Ridgley’s Delight Historic District writing,
Ridgely’s Delight Historic District represents a substantial and well preserved fragment of the large neighborhoods which developed during Baltimore’s first period of expansion in the early 19th century. It is furthermore exemplary of the manner in which Baltimore neighborhoods have risen and developed, both socially and architecturally, and covers a span of time equal to any within the city’s history of expansion beyond its original incorporated boundaries. With few exceptions, the street pattern adheres to that surveyed and recorded by Thomas Poppleton in his plan of 1823. The majority of the development occurred between 1830 and 1870, following a rather cohesive pattern that reflects Ridgely’s Delight conception as an urban neighborhood and which was fueled by the bordering industrial development as well as the establishment of the University of Maryland medical facilities. During its heyday in the latter half of the 19th century, Ridgely’s Delight was a prosperous middle class neighborhood, and while it has deteriorated in the 20th century, the historic fabric has largely been protected from modernization, the street pattern left intact, and neighborhood integrity maintained, making this isolated neighborhood an even greater phenomenon in light of its surroundings.
The building was sold in 1994 by the Keyworth Alcott Corporation to the University of Maryland Medical Corporation which remains the current owner. In 2008, 723 West Pratt Street, along with 725, received a permit for the repair/replacement of the rear wall, however no significant repairs appear to have been made.10 While the continued vacancy of the structure has contributed to some deterioration, the structure is structurally sound and retains a high degree of integrity.
More recently, in 2011, A Ridgely’s Improvement Committee (ARIC) circulated an online petition calling for residents to support the demolition of the building. In 2018, the University of Maryland Medical Corporation partnered with a private developer to seek the demolition of the building and the redevelopment of the property.
“DIED,” The Sun (1837-1985), February 25, 1868. ↩
“Classified Ad 19 – No Title,” The Sun (1837-1985), May 20, 1872. ↩
“Classified Ad 12 – No Title,” The Sun (1837-1985), June 5, 1906; “Classified Ad 13 – No Title,” The Sun (1837-1985), June 11, 1907. ↩
“Classified Ad 9 – No Title,” The Sun (1837-1985), June 10, 1922; “Classified Ad 15 – No Title,” The Sun (1837-1985), January 18, 1924. ↩
“REAL ESTATE DEALS AND BUILDING NEWS,” The Sun (1837-1985), February 9, 1924. ↩
“Display Ad 40 – No Title,” The Sun (1837-1985), October 1, 1930. ↩
“Classified Ad 7 – No Title,” The Sun (1837-1985), May 14, 1967. ↩
“Display Ad 33 – No Title,” The Sun (1837-1985), March 27, 1979. ↩
The CHAP Historic District was established by Baltimore City Historic District Ordinance 1175 on 10/19/1979 and the area was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on 6/8/1980. ↩
Permit number COM2007-39024 following plan number 2007-1888 issued 03/24/2008 and expired 09/24/2008 for work described as, REPAIR/REPLACEMENT OF REAR WALL. AS PER PLANS AND CODE." ↩