Baltimore City Circuit Courthouses
|Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr., Courthouse|
|Architectural style||Greek Revival|
|Town or city||Baltimore City|
|Country||United States of America|
|Client||Mayor and City Council of Baltimore|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Wyatt and Nolting|
The Baltimore City Circuit Courthouses are located in downtown Baltimore, Maryland. Facing each other in the 100 block of North Calvert Street, between East Lexington Street on the north and East Fayette Street on the south across the Battle Monument Square which held the original site of the first courthouse for Baltimore County and Town. The Monument was constructed by design of Maximilian Godefroy from 1815, on the first year anniversary of the British attack on the city during the War of 1812 (to completion in 1827, when President John Quincy Adams, saluted the town as "The Monumental City"), with the bombardment of Fort McHenry, the Battle of North Point and the fortifications at Loudenschlager's (now Hampstead) Hill (in present-day Patterson Park during September 12–14, 1814. The Square has been the site of numerous mass meetings, demonstrations, assemblies, speeches and even riots and military occupation in the 280 year history of the city. The first courthouse was raised in 1784 on a pair of arched stone/brick arched piers to permit the extension of Calvert Street to go further north underneath. A second courthouse was constructed to the west on the northwest corner of North Calvert and East Lexington Streets designed by XXX architect and constructed in 1805. It was razed to permit a new third courthouse to be erected, 1896-1900, on the entire block west of the Battle Monument, bounded by North Calvert Street on the east, East Lexington Street on the north, East Fayette Street on the south and St. Paul Street on the west.
The "Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr, Courthouse" and "Courthouse East (the old Baltimore Post Office and U.S. Courthouse)" house the 30 judges of the 8th Judicial Circuit for the State of Maryland (Circuit Court of Maryland for Baltimore City). In addition to the criminal, civil and family courts, the two courthouses also contain the Office of the State's Attorney for Baltimore City, the Clerk of the Court, the Baltimore City Law Library, the Sheriff's Office, the Baltimore Courthouse and Law Museum, the Pretrial Release Division of the Maryland Division of Corrections, several pretrial detention lockups, jury assembly rooms, land records, court medical offices and Masters hearing rooms.
Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr, Courthouse
In 1894, 79 local and national architectural firms responded to a design competition under the Tarsney Act for the new courthouse. This act required competition in the design of federal buildings and was administered by the Office of the Supervising Architect of the Department of the Treasury. Of the entries, a Greek Revival–styled courthouse proposed by the Baltimore firm of Wyatt and Nolting was chosen. The cornerstone for the Baltimore Courthouse was laid in 1896 and the building was dedicated at a public ceremony on January 8, 1900. Concerns over the austere nature of several courtrooms and lobby interiors gave cause for the addition of murals executed between 1902 and 1910 by a number of artists, including the 1904 "Burning of the 'Peggy Stewart'" by Charles Yardley Turner (Local citizens of Annapolis reaction to the "Tea Act" by the British Parliament in 1774, symbolizing rising resistance and leading to the American Revolution in Maryland). A bronze statue of Cecilius Calvert ((1605-1675), the second Lord Baltimore and First Proprietor of the Province of Maryland was erected on the steps outside the west entrance, facing Saint Paul Street sponsored by the Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Maryland, Decovrey Wright Thom - Governor of the Society, and dedicated November 21, 1908. It is the site of annual "Maryland Day" (March 25) ceremonies which are later continued inside in the ceremonial chambers.
A joint study of the structure was completed in 1946 by architect O.E. Adams and Henry Adams (mechanical engineer), after which it was expanded and renovated to serve modern judicial needs (but unfortunately resulted in the filling in and cramming in new offices and additional construction and closing the interior courtyards and some other un-wise alterations, from the historical and architectural perspective looking later from its 110th anniversary). In 1985, Baltimore City's main courthouse, located in the midst of the downtown business district, was rededicated in honor of Baltimore's Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. A study of the original Baltimore Courthouse was presented in 1989, though substantial exterior improvements did not proceed until after 2000. The study by architectural firm Richter Cornbrooks Gribble again concluded that the building should be re-used, rather than abandoned in favor of new facilities; actual renovation then proceeded at the direction of architect Kann & Associates. Despite their criticism of the earliest renovation, the architects recognized that the earlier reconfiguration "probably prevented it from being demolished altogether." Further study continued into 2002, when architects Richter Cornbrooks Gribble Inc. of Baltimore and Ricci Associates of New York suggested a remodeling that returned the interior formal spaces to configuration closer to the pre-1940s arrangement.
The courthouse occupies a full city block. Eight Ionic columns, each weighing 35 tons and measuring 31 feet in height, support the base of the roof facing Calvert Street. These columns are seven feet taller than those surrounding the United States Capitol. Granite, quarried from Woodstock, Maryland, wraps the basement level and provides a solid base for the white marble-six story courthouse facade.
Courthouse East (old United States Courthouse and General Post Office for Baltimore)
U.S. Post Office and Courthouse or Courthouse East, is a historic combined post office and Federal courthouse located in Baltimore, Maryland, United States. It occupies an entire city block and measures 238 feet, 2 inches east-west by 279 feet, 10 inches north-south. It is of steel frame construction with concrete floors and tile roof, basement of granite, and outer walls of white Indiana limestone. The structure is six stories in height and provided with basement and two sub-basements. It was completed in 1932 and features classical ornamentation. A renovation of the Baltimore Courthouse East was complete by 1990. Hord Coplan Macht Inc. was the architect and interior designer for the adaptive reuse of the old Baltimore Post Office; the restoration contractor was Lake Falls Construction Inc.
Some notable court cases held in this building include:
- 1934: Judge W. Calvin Chestnut became the first jurist to strike down a New Deal Act of Congress.
- 1948: Alger Hiss filed a libel suit against Whittaker Chambers
- 1968 and 1969: the Berrigans were indicted in this courthouse for destroying Federal records as a protest against the Vietnam War.
- 1973: Vice President Spiro T. Agnew pleaded nolo contedre to tax evasion and resigned as Vice President under Richard M. Nixon.
- 2010: Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon was tried and found guilty in this courthouse.
U.S. Post Office and Courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
- Lee, Antoinette Josephine (2000). Architects to the Nation: The Rise and Decline of the Supervising Architect's Office. Oxford University Press. pp. 200–06. ISBN 978-0-19-512822-2.
- Master Plan for the Restoration and Renovation of the Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. Courthouse. Baltimore, Maryland: Richter Cornbrooks Gribble, Inc. 1989.
- Courthouse Plan Mapped, Renovation Program Recommended To Mayor, Baltimore (Morning) Sun, Wednesday, November 6, 1946
- "Baltimore African American Heritage Guide". Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association. Archived from the original on 13 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-07.
- Shabby courthouse robs law of dignity; A slum: Baltimore's circuit courthouses need major repair, deep cleaning and renovation.; The Sun. Baltimore, Md.: Mar 13, 2000. pg. 8.A
- 'Temple of justice' fraying Mitchell Courthouse deserves a better fate than deterioration.; ARCHITECTURE; Edward Gunts. The Sun. Baltimore, Md.: Oct 1, 2000. pg. 6.E
- Court building obsolete, city told ; New criminal courthouse, renovations would cost $293 million, report says; by Edward Gunts (architecture reporter/critic, "The Sun", (Baltimore, Md.): Dec 9, 2002. pg. 1.A
- Martin Azola named `Remodeler of the Year' (other awards included); by Edward Gunts (architecture reporter/critic, "The Sun", (Baltimore, Md.): Dec 2, 1990. pg. 1.K
- "Maryland Historical Trust". United States Post Office and Courthouse, Baltimore City. Maryland Historical Trust. 2008-11-21.