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Baltimore City

Now the Ulysses hotel, it was once The Latrobe

Exterior of the Latrobe Building at 2 East Read Street. It's been renamed Hotel Ulysses and was once the residence of the Latrobe family.

The one-time home of John H.B. Latrobe — a sedate old corner mansion sat at Charles and Read streets — sat just a block north of the Washington Monument in Mount Vernon.

It was a fashionable address. Just across the street was the residence of former Baltimore Mayor James Preston, and so many other people who mattered in the city’s political, social and business life were less than a ten-minute walk away.

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John Hazlehurst Boneval Latrobe was a wealthy man with a pedigree. Born in Philadelphia, he was the son of architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who designed the U.S. Capitol and Baltimore’s Basilica of the Assumption. Benjamin H. Latrobe did pioneering engineering work for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, including the Thomas Viaduct, a Roman arch stone bridge that spans the Patapsco River from Relay to Elkridge.

Latrobe possessed the creative gene. He was a patent lawyer and inventor who gave us the Latrobe stove, patented as the Baltimore Heater, a cast iron parlor stove that fit into a fireplace. The stove, filled with coal, had pipes attached to channel warm air to other parts of the house through metal connections within a chimney.

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It may not have been a perfect heating device, but it certainly took the chill off a cold morning. He brought the stove out in 1846 and made a fortune.

The inventor died in 1891. His wife Virginia, who was born in 1815 and lived until 1903, resided at their home at Charles and Read. When she died, things started happening.

The property was sold, and by 1911, plans were announced for a nine-story apartment house on the Latrobe site, along with the old Gen. Clinton Riggs home next. Riggs himself developed the site but wisely employed the Latrobe pedigree.

That name was golden. There was a Latrobe monument on North Broadway to former Baltimore Mayor Ferdinand Claiborne Latrobe, who served for seven terms. His home, which faced his parent’s residence, was across the street at 904 N. Charles St.

There was also a watercraft Latrobe, a Chesapeake Bay steamer owned by the city of Baltimore that was used to break the ice in the harbor and, in the summer, take children on excursions.

Exterior of the Latrobe Building at 2 East Read Street. It's been renamed Hotel Ulysses and was once the residence of the Latrobe family.

There was a Latrobe School on West Hill Street and a building and loan and association on Reisterstown Road that shared the name.

So when the old family homestead was torn down and a new apartment house went up, it was naturally named The Latrobe.

And like the genteel residents of this fashionable thoroughfare, The Latrobe, designed in a darkish gray brick by architect Edward H. Glidden, soon acquired the tone of solid respectability.

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A member of the family, Ellen Virginia Latrobe, came back to the site of her family’s old homestead and rented an apartment in the building. She lived there for many years.

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Glidden was a prolific designer who specialized in these roomy old apartments and produced places such as the Homewood (now a Johns Hopkins student residence) and then his most famous, the Marlborough, where the art-collecting Cone sisters lived on Eutaw Place.

Glidden’s buildings were designed for the taste of the times and the pocketbooks of the people who rented flats. The original 44 apartments in these buildings were roomy, although there were a number of smaller units known as bachelor flats.

By the 1960s, the Latrobe was remade as an office building and served physicians, architects and engineers who practiced along what was now a commercial street.

But the Latrobe name is gone now, replaced by a name from Greek myth.

The Hotel Ulysses has been a while in the making. Construction began several years ago. Southway Builders set up circular construction chutes (something similar, though much larger than the elder Latrobe’s heating pipes). These round containers held the debris created when the maze of old offices, once apartments, were gutted.

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Much of the work was done during the COVID-19 shutdown and did not attract much notice in the Mount Vernon neighborhood.

Then, toward the end of summer, the name Ulysses was placed on the 116-room boutique hotel that emerged from the shell of the former Latrobe. Before long, guests were booking rooms and ordering martinis at the hotel’s stylish bar.


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