Baltimore's striking tribute to Florence, a clock tower known as the Bromo Seltzer Tower, officially opened as artists' studios six weeks ago after a six-year renovation.
The 15-story building was the tallest in Baltimore when it was built in 1911 and was even taller thanks to a 51-foot-tall, spinning Bromo-Seltzer bottle that came down 25 years later.
After a trip to Italy in 1900, architect Joseph Evans Sperry made a replica of the Palazzo Vecchio for the manufacturers of the hangover remedy. It was donated to the city 30 years ago and used as offices. In 2001, the newly formed Baltimore Office of Promotions and the Arts undertook the renovation.
"The building was in pretty serious disrepair," says Bill Gilmore, executive director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts. "The city was obviously interested in saving the building and making it viable again, so we proposed artists' studio space."
Grants from the state, city, and private foundations helped fund the $2 million project.
The National Register-listed building, renamed the Baltimore Arts Tower, now houses 30 artists' work studios. About two-thirds of the 40-foot-square structure is still empty, along with a coffee shop on the ground floor.
"Now that there are artists in there, there's a new excitement about it. We've gotten a lot of interest from people outside Baltimore," Gilmore says. "It's such a wonderful building, and there's so much history there."
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