Join us for a Virtual History presentation exploring the history of Western Electric Company’s Point Breeze Plant & the Olmsted Vision
About this event
Aerial perspective of Western Electric Company’s Point Breeze Plant, circa 1929
(Courtesy of the US Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site)
ABOUT THIS SERIES:
The Baltimore Architecture Foundation (BAF) and Baltimore Heritage host this Virtual Histories Series of 30 minute live presentations and virtual tours, focusing on architecture, preservation and history of the Baltimore region twice a month on Fridays at 1:00 pm EST. Tickets are donation based. We encourage you to give what you can to support these organizations to help make up for lost tour and program revenue from COVID-19 and create more virtual programs like this.
This special program is hosted in partnership with the Friends of Maryland’s Olmsted Parks & Landscapes (FMOPL) as part of their Olmsted 200 programming, a nationwide celebration of the firm’s work and influence, on the Bicentennial Anniversary of Frederick Law Olmsted’s birth.
ABOUT THIS PRESENTATION:
The Western Electric Company was founded in 1869 and served for more than 100 years as the manufacturing and supply unit of the Bell System. Its business and manufacturing activity skyrocketed from increased telephone use at the beginning of the 1900s. The company selected Baltimore as the site of a new cable and wire manufacturing plant due to its proximity to water and rail transportation. The company purchased land along the Patapsco River Neck from the Canton Company and the River View Amusement Park, with grand plans to develop the site into a large manufacturing campus.
To complete a comprehensive plan for the new site at Point Breeze, the company hired the Olmsted Brothers firm. Between 1928 and 1931, the Olmsted Brothers prepared at least 263 drawings, including a comprehensive master plan and detailed landscape plans. Western Electric razed the amusement park to construct the Point Breeze plant, which was dubbed “The Playground That Went to Work.” The plant began operations in 1930 at the heart of the Depression. Likened to an “industrial city”, the plant included large-scale industrial buildings, a power plant, and a network of utility infrastructure and railroad tracks, along with enhancements for employees, such as a restaurant cafe, recreational facilities, landscaped gardens, tree-lined boulevards, and underground pedestrian tunnels.
The majority of the buildings were built in the Art Deco architectural style, and later buildings repeated some of those elements, providing visual and physical continuity throughout the complex. The collection of buildings, constructed between 1929 and 1970, is largely intact despite the Western Electric Company ceasing operations at the site in 1984. The peninsula now contains the Point Breeze Business Park and the Seagirt Marine Terminal.
Three experts will share their knowledge of this unique collection of buildings and site that was the industrial community to 6,000 workers in its heyday.
ABOUT THE PRESENTERS:
Tom Liebel, FAIA, LEED Fellow is a Vice-President with Moseley Architects, and has been involved in integrating sustainable design principles into a variety of ground-breaking, award-winning adaptive use and historic preservation projects over the past twenty five years. He wrote the book Industrial Baltimore by Arcadia Publishing in 2006 and continues to explore the relationship between sustainability, preservation and urban design, with a particular emphasis in the use of urban adaptive use projects to promote neighborhood revitalization and civic engagement. Tom served for a decade as chair of Baltimore City’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, and currently serves on the Maryland Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
Alison J. Ross, M.S. is an architectural historian with extensive documentation and fieldwork experience compiling reports geared towards educating both primary stakeholders and communities at large. She prepared the Maryland Historical Trust Determination of Eligibility form for the Western Electric Company, Point Breeze Plant Historic District while at Navarro & Wright Consulting Engineers, Inc. She has a Master of Science degree in Historic Preservation from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Science degree from Drexel University and is currently with Skelly and Loy, Inc., a Terracon Company.
Jillian Storms, AIA, serves on the Board of Directors of the Friends of Maryland’s Olmsted Parks & Landscapes as well as on their Archives Committee, and has been instrumental in developing investigative research opportunities into the 136 Olmsted projects in Maryland. She also serves on the Executive Board of the Baltimore Architecture Foundation and co-chairs its research committee, the Dead Architects’ Society. She received the Foundation’s Roger Redden Award and Preservation Maryland’s George T. Harrison Volunteer Award in recognition of her extensive architectural research and public programming.
Upon registering, you will receive an email confirmation and a Zoom link. If you do not receive a link, please contact Margaret Stella Melikian at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you do not contact us at least 1 hour prior to the start of the program, we cannot guarantee admittance.