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Things look brighter for Bromo tower


Baltimore's nighttime skyline is about to get a little brighter.

The Bromo Seltzer Tower at Eutaw and Lombard streets, a crenelated copy of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy, will be the next high-rise illuminated in the "Brighten Baltimore" campaign.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke announced recently that the city, which owns the landmark, has made a commitment to light up the tower by midsummer.

The decision is a sign of the city's support for the Brighten Baltimore campaign, which has asked owners of more than 30 high-rises to light up their buildings at night. The Schmoke administration also has launched a five-year program to improve lighting of sidewalks and in other public spaces.

"I am convinced that the Brighten Baltimore program to light the city's street scape and skyline can make a big difference in the way the world looks at Baltimore," Mr. Schmoke said at a kickoff of the Brighten Baltimore campaign at the Center Club this month.

"Brighten Baltimore exudes pride. It says we're proud of this place, that it's a good place to live and work and that our best days are still ahead of us," he said.

"It's going to send a signal that we believe in this city."

The Bromo Seltzer Tower was built in 1911 as part of a complex housing the offices and factory of Capt. Isaac Emerson, the inventor of Bromo Seltzer. After touring Europe, Captain Emerson was so enthralled with Florence's Palazzo Vecchio that hired Baltimore architect Joseph Evans Sperry to design a tower just like it to anchor the Emerson Drug Co. factory in Baltimore. Another copy is in Provincetown, Mass.

Baltimore's 288-foot tower was topped with a 51-foot reproduction of the blue Bromo Seltzer bottle, which revolved and was crowned with lights until its removal in 1930.

In 1967, Captain Emerson's drug business was moved to Pennsylvania, and the Lombard Street factory was donated to the city, with the stipulation that the tower be preserved. A fire station now stands where Bromo Seltzer was made, and the tower houses the Mayor's Advisory Committee on Art and Culture.

In the planning stages for several years, the Brighten Baltimore campaign is a joint venture of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., the City of Baltimore and the Downtown Partnership.

Grenald Waldron Associates of Narberth, Pa., is the chief lighting consultant.

Visible from Oriole Park at Camden Yards and temporarily illuminated for the 1993 All-Star Game, the Bromo Seltzer Tower is one of three buildings identified early on as being critical to the skyline-lighting effort.

Others were the World Trade Center and the NationsBank Building, both of which were illuminated in the past year.

In his master plan for facade lighting, consultant Ray Grenald recommended a design that would evoke the tower's original use.

"To commemorate the blue bottle which once rose above the tower's form, a blue glowing light will be positioned within the upper, open archway of the tower," he wrote in a report published last year.

"The remainder of the tower's intricate form will be lighted from pole- and roof-mounted floodlights, modeling its detailing and highlighting the face of the clock. . . . By improving the tower's current system of illumination, the facade's detail and character will be expressed."

Mr. Grenald estimated that his approach would cost $130,000 to execute. Since his plan was published, the city's Department of Public Works has taken the lead on illuminating the tower and plans to use its own street lighting crews instead of hiring private contractors to do the work.

"It was felt that since it was a building that the city owns and will maintain, we could realize substantial savings by doing it ourselves," said Public Works spokeswoman Vanessa C. Pyatt.

Under the city's plan, installation of the lights will run about $65,000, and the annual lighting bill will be about $5,400, said Ms. Pyatt.

The city still intends to follow Mr. Grenald's concept of using blue light at the top and washing the tower's sides with white light, she added.

The work is expected to begin this summer and take about three weeks to complete.

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