Pasadena collector's finds fill new Bromo Tower museum

E.B. Furgurson III
Contact Reporterpfurgurson@capgaznews.com
What was on top of the Bromo-Seltzer Tower?

Looks like Pasadena's Ernie Dimler has found a spot for some of the thousands of bottles he has collected over the past 40 years.

About 350 distinctive cobalt blue Bromo Seltzer bottles from his collection are on display at the new Bromo Seltzer Museum.

The museum is in a corner room of the 15th floor of the iconic Emerson Bromo-Seltzer Tower, known more simply as the Bromo Tower, in downtown Baltimore.

It was built by Isaac Emerson, a druggist who built a fortune on his Bromo-Seltzer formula, used for headaches and upset stomachs.

The tower, which was used for offices, was next to the factory on Lombard Street, which eventually became a fire station.

"Just like a lot of people around Baltimore, the building is special to me," said Dimler, 53, who works refurbishing and servicing pool tables. "I feel at home here. And it really is a privilege to be able to display all my bottles and share my knowledge."

Dimler could be the leading expert on all things Bromo — at least he thinks so.

It only takes a few minutes listening to his detailed description of the scores of bottles and Emerson's life and tower to think he just might be.

"The blue bottles were made by Maryland Glass Corp. The where handmade, hand-blown, from 1907 to 1911, then they used machines."

Some of his display includes green bottles, which Dimler said were quality control bottles made when the bottle machine was warming up. "They were supposed to throw them back in the hopper, but I guess some were pocketed."

He started collecting at age 14, poking around glass dumps in Glen Burnie. "I am a treasure hunter, and bottles are my passion."

The part of the collection still stashed at his Pasadena home includes bottles used for everything from beer to patent medicines and poisons to perfumes. The oldest is called an Onion Bottle, made in the late 1600s up to about 1740.

His connection to the Bromo Tower goes deeper than blue bottles. His father, Ernest. P. Dimler, worked at the building for 12 years when Ernie was young.

"He took me there. I was about five. He took me into the basement to the boiler room. I saw all the fire. He told me that's where Satan lives," Dimler said. "Can you imagine?"

A few years later on a field trip to the building, he was asked if he wanted to go up to the tower. "I said no, I wanted to go to the basement where Satan is."

The glass display cases in the small museum include more than cobalt blue containers.

"Emerson made calendars, and here's a tape measure promoting Bromo-Seltzer," Dimler said, pointing items in one case resting next to an official Bromo-Seltzer spoon used to stir up the substance, which was sold initially with the slogan, "If you keep late hours for society's sake, Bromo-Seltzer will cure that headache."

Emerson's Bromo-Seltzer Tower, the 15-story skyscraper that opened at the corner of Lombard and Eutaw streets in 1911, was originally topped with a giant, 51-foot, 20-ton steel Bromo-Seltzer bottle that rotated and threw out its bright blue glow across the Baltimore skyline.

The light was so bright that ship captains would use it as a navigation marker coming into Baltimore. The light could be seen from across the Chesapeake Bay at Tolchester Beach. Later, airline pilots would do the same.

Folks traveling by car into the city from the south knew they were close to the end of their journey when they saw the tower's clock face as they came over the ridge into town.

The tower was almost completely abandoned in 2002 and under threat of demolition in 2007. But public outcry to save the building led to the city Office of Promotions and the Arts taking control of it and creating a space for artists' studios.

The tower made news this week when crewmen carefully dismantled the clock mechanism and removed the copper-sheathed wooden hands to begin a months-long restoration. The clock was electrified about 40 years ago but problems persisted and it was disconnected last year.

Now the clock will be restored with its original gravity operated pendulum mechanism, part of a $1.8 million building restoration that includes repairing cracks created by the original 20-ton bottle and other structural details.

During the project, which could take a year, Dimler and others will keep the museum open and give tours on Saturdays, beginning at 11:30 a.m., on the hour through 2:30 p.m. The tour costs $5 but visitors can wander the building visiting artists on their own for free.

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