Silver Charm

06/07/2004 |

Modern interiors in a historic environment


HONORABLE MENTION: Stieff Silver Building, Baltimore

The city of Baltimore has always been a city of big comebacks. This major port weathered a devastating fire in 1904 that ravaged its business district; then blossomed with prosperity during WWI, floundered during the Great Depression, and, finally, rebounded in the 1960s. Dubbed “Charm City” for its generous dose of Southern hospitality, Baltimore is now known for tourist attractions such as the National Aquarium, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Maryland Science Center, and the creepy Edgar Allan Poe house.

Built in 1925 and expanded by noted architect Theodore Wells Pietsch in 1929, the Stieff Silver Building is a part of this city’s continual rebirth. Charles Stieff started his silversmith business in 1892 and later formed the Stieff Silver Co. in 1914.

In its new home, the Stieff Silver Co. buffered the region’s economic ups and downs. Eventually doubling in size to 80,000 square feet in 1971 to accommodate the company‘s rapid growth, the successful firm was acquired in 1999 by an out-of-state company and the long-standing Baltimore facility was closed.

Enter developer Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse Inc., Baltimore, which collaborated with Baltimore architectural firm GWWO Inc./Architects to revitalize the historic complex. “It is a good thing when you can preserve this kind of history and insert new uses into it,” says Alan Reed, principal, GWWO Inc./Architects.

After the 1920s portion was gutted, new HVAC and utility systems were installed to the entire structure, and an elevator was added. The building’s original grand 10- by 12-foot windows were revealed. A new mezzanine provided much-needed space while preserving views. To take advantage of the attractive surrounding woodlands, windows were added to the 1970s addition.

Appreciating the building’s heritage, the existing brick walls were retained and the wood structure was uncovered. These walls were painted in historic colors or preserved with sealants. The design team sought to minimize any impact on the existing structure. As the lead tenant, GWWO was able to tailor its interiors to suit its needs and vision precisely. “Our space has many unique features that were about the building and our firm as well,” says Reed. On the first floor, hardwood floors were also reclaimed

In addition to respecting the facility’s interiors, the building’s exterior was restored, including the brick façade, original windows, stained glass, and a copper lobby awning. For the new tenants’ entrance, the existing loading area and side door were converted. New landscaping and parking complete the picture.

The facility’s traditional character has been enhanced with up-to-date elements. For example, GWWO selected modern materials, such as maple plywood and a translucent building material – Lumacite – for the interiors. “We inserted modern interiors into the historic shell, but never impacted the shell,” explains Reed.

The lobby displays building artifacts, antique silver pieces manufactured on-site, various molds, and even silver items from a former on-site store, which were all unearthed in a duct. The lobby also has a gallery of historic photos of the building, the adjacent worker housing, and the industrial heritage of the Stone Hill area. “In Baltimore, it is becoming a trend to take big industrial buildings and recycle them into great spaces,” says Reed.

“This building sat derelict for many years and the community is happy to see it used again,” says Reed. Baltimore is a city of neighborhoods, and the restored Stieff Silver Building has been returned to the Jones Falls Valley community as a profitable commercial neighbor. Its refurbished Stieff Silver sign shines bright again, a moniker of the city’s prosperous past, a symbol of its sparkling future.

Regina Raiford Babcock ( is senior editor at Buildings magazine.

Modernization Team at Stieff Silver Building    Architect (entry submitter): GWWO Inc./Architects    Owner: Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse Inc.    Contractor (Base Building/Most Tenant Space Improvements): Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse Inc.    Contractor (GWWO Tenant Space Improvements Only): Dev-Mar    MEP Engineer: Spears/Votta & Associates Inc.    Structural Engineer: Faisant Associates Inc.    Products Used    Blinds/Window Treatments: MechoShade    Building Automation: Honeywell    Ceilings: Armstrong    Doors/Storefronts: Mohawk; Steelcraft; Vistawall    Electrical/Electronics Distribution: Cutler-Hammer    Elevators/Escalators: Otis    Exterior Cleaning/Repair: PROSOCO    Floorcoverings: Dal-Tile; Johnsonite; Mannington Commercial    Hardware: Vistawall    HVAC: Enviro-Tec; Honeywell; York    Insulation: Owens Corning    Life Safety/Security: Notifier; SimplexGrinnell    Lighting: Cooper; Hubbell; Teron    Plumbing: American Standard; Crane; Zurn    Roofing: Firestone     Walls/Partitions: Hadrian; USG    Windows/Glass: A&S Windows; Vistawall    Window Film/Solar Shading: MechoShade       


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