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Lofts for artists rise from asphalt in Baltimore’s Bromo Arts District

Work has started at the northwest corner of Eutaw and Mulberry for the Four Ten Lofts, where Baltimore artists are to live and work alongside tenants who need affordable housing.
Work has started at the northwest corner of Eutaw and Mulberry for the Four Ten Lofts, where Baltimore artists are to live and work alongside tenants who need affordable housing. (Jerry Jackson / Baltimore Sun)

Downtown Baltimore’s newest venture in artists’ and affordable housing has started construction in the Bromo Arts and Entertainment District, a few blocks north of the Hippodrome Theater.

Southway Builders has begun construction at an old parking lot at the corner of Eutaw and Mulberry streets where the beginnings of a $24 million residence called the Four Ten Lofts is visible. A project of Episcopal Housing Corp. and French Development LLC, the apartment building will offer rental housing to the arts community and persons exiting homelessness.

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When complete next year, the building will contain 48 apartments for working artists, 20 units for persons being helped by Health Care for the Homeless and another eight market-rate units.

“We spent a long time talking to artists in focus groups and found out what they would like to see in the building,” said Dan McCarthy of the Episcopal Housing Corp.

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Jim French, his business partner, added: “We want to make this appealing to as broad a spectrum of artistic folks as possible.”

This means that Four Ten Lofts will get a specially ventilated spray booth, an artists’ workroom and a sound recording studio. There also will be a green courtyard.

French said the site has been a parking lot as long as anyone can remember, adding that the old Eutaw Street Methodist Episcopal Church once stood near the corner of Eutaw and Mulberry streets. Workers excavated a cast-iron boiler Friday, buried under the parking lot asphalt.

The 1937 Baltimore City Directory offers some other clues to the neighborhood of that time. The church was no longer there and apparently had been replaced by veterinarian Dr. Eugene Z. Foster and his Blue Cross Pet Hospital. He also had a sideline, the Thrift Pet Supply Store.

This was a busy and industrious neighborhood related to but not the same as the department store district two blocks to the south. You could buy a Savage or Winchester-brand washing machine next to the pet hospital at Amos & Dowsley or have a carpet made at another Eutaw Street business, the Crawford Rug. Co.

This was the north end of Baltimore’s once-flourishing garment-making district. Eagle-brand dresses were stitched up in the Miller Building, which later became known by its tenant, the H&H outdoor clothing and supplies firm. The Miller Building, with its large footprint, was also home to the Regent Bowling Alley (duckpins, of course) and the Harry Panitz clothing operation.

There was also a Reese buttonhole machine company on Eutaw Street at what is now the Four Ten Lofts.

Curiously, if you walked a block east, you were in a downtown Baltimore entertainment district. The Maryland Theater stood on Franklin Street, and visitors to the neighborhood can detect the “ghost” marking of the Maryland’s balcony on the side of the Congress Hotel.

Howard Street had Baltimore’s most opulent and largest film palace, the Stanley, a parking lot since its demolition in 1965. The walls of the old Mayfair Theater remain in place and await a developer to salvage this beautiful relic.

In an earlier era, you could get a soda and grilled cheese at the Read’s drug store soda fountain at Howard and Franklin, a slice of meat loaf at the White Coffee Pot or a superb sour beef and dumpling platter at the Schellhase restaurant, 412 N. Howard.

The new lofts project is conceived to be a neighborhood bridge to several communities.

Four Ten Lofts is designed to offer a variety of common spaces for appreciating and making art that will help all residents become integrated into a stable, diverse community where creativity is celebrated," French said. "Art can have a tremendous therapeutic effect, not only for persons transitioning from homelessness, but for all of us who are seeking a better, more compassionate and inclusive city.”

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