Baltimore Trust Company Building, 10 Light Street, Baltimore, Independent City, MD
Significance: Baltimore's only "setback" skyscraper, the Baltimore Trust Building is a fine example of the Art Deco commercial style in America. The interior features mosaics by Hildreth Meiere, who designed many decorative features for New York's Radio City Music Hall and St. Bartholomew's Church.
Survey number: HABS MD-1119
Building/structure dates: 1928-1929 Initial Construction
In 1857 Elisha Otis introduced the safety elevator, allowing easy passenger access to upper floors. A crucial development was also the use of a steel frame instead of stone or brick. An early development in this area was five floors high Oriel Chambers in Liverpool, England. While its height is not considered very impressive today, the world's first skyscraper was the ten-story Home Insurance Building in Chicago, built in 1884–1885. Most early skyscrapers emerged in the land-strapped areas of Chicago and New York City toward the end of the 19th century. In a building like these, a steel frame supported the entire weight of the walls, instead of walls carrying the weight called "Chicago skeleton" construction. 1889 marks the first all-steel framed skyscraper in Chicago, while Louis Sullivan's Wainwright Building in St. Louis, Missouri, 1891, was the first steel-framed building with vertical bands to emphasize the height of the building and is therefore considered by some to be the first true skyscraper. After an early competition between Chicago and New York City for the world's tallest building, New York took the lead by 1895 with the completion of the American Surety Building, leaving New York with the title of the world's tallest building for many years. New York City developers competed among themselves, with successively taller buildings claiming the title of "world's tallest" in the 1920s and early 1930s, culminating with the completion of the Chrysler Building in 1930 and the Empire State Building in 1931, the world's tallest building for forty years.