Morris A. Mechanic Theatre
Morris A. Mechanic Theatre in 2008
|Address||1 North Charles Street
The Morris A. Mechanic Theatre was a playhouse at 1 North Charles Street that was part of the Charles Center of Baltimore, Maryland. The theatre was built by and named for owner Morris A. Mechanic who operated a number of theatres in the city.
Mechanic planned the theatre to replace the aging Ford’s Theatre which he purchased in 1929. He engaged architect John M. Johansen who designed the building in a style he termed “functional expressionism”, also known as brutalism. Mechanic chose the site formerly occupied by offices of The Baltimore Sun.
Mechanic died while the building was under construction and his widow, actress Elaine Swann, Mayor Theodore McKeldin and Eugene M. Feinblatt, chairman of the Baltimore Urban Renewal and Housing Agency, presided over the opening gala January 16, 1967. For many years, the theater was Baltimore’s primary venue to host touring Broadway plays and helped the city shed its reputation as a “lousy theatre town.” However in the 1980s and 1990s, producers felt that the theatre was too small and outdated to accommodate the larger shows of the era.
Jujamcyn Productions began managing the Mechanic in 1998. SFX (later Clear Channel Entertainment) bought Jujamcyn Productions in 2000. The theater ceased operation in 2004 when the restored Hippodrome Theatre reopened. Clear Channel Entertainment operated the Hippodrome and choose not to renew its lease on the Mechanic. In 2005, Melvin and Benjamin Greenwald purchased the shuttered building for $6 million in 2005 with plans to renovate it into retail space and add a 10-story residential building on the east side. Preservationists disagreed with the Greenwalds’ assessment that there was “no historic integrity to the building” and urged that it be carefully adapted for reuse. After hearings in August 2007, the Baltimore Commission for Historical and Architecture Preservation declined to grant the building landmark status.
On February 25, 2009, David S. Brown Enterprises unveiled a plan to add a 30-story tower that would house a 161-room hotel and 250 rental units. The former theater space would be converted to retail and a skylight installed to make it more welcoming to shoppers. Architect Dan Stuver said the design aimed to retain the building’s defining characteristics while adapting it to a new use. The plan did not contain cost estimates or details.
In 2012, the developer abandoned the 2009 plan and filed an application for demolition. While initially delayed due to historical preservation concerns, officials granted his request in March 2014. The underground parking garage was still in use until September 2014 although the theater closed ten years earlier. In September 2014, the parking garage closed and crews erected fences to begin demolition work, followed by construction of new high rise residential and commercial space. 
The Mechanic Theater consists of a square podium that houses retail space and an underground parking garage as part of the Charles Center. The fan-shaped auditorium that seats 1,614 sits on top of the podium and has a street-level entrance on Hopkins Plaza as well as a pedestrian bridge that connects to an elevated walkway leading to other buildings in Charles Center. Balconies are behind the orchestra seats and protrude beyond the exterior walls to give the building the appearance of a ratchet gear when viewed from above.
The exterior of the building is rough concrete that bears the markings from the wooden forms used to create the walls. The street entrance on Hopkins Plaza leads to a stairway that takes patrons to the lobby on the second floor. The exterior lobby wall is glass while interior walls have a faux wood finish or are covered with burnt-orange vinyl. The plaza-level entrance is framed by towers holding stairs and elevators to access the balcony. The stage house is clearly defined as a separate element attached to the auditorium.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Morris A. Mechanic Theatre.|
- "In Memory of John Johansen, architect of the Mechanic". The Baltimore Sun. November 18, 2012. Retrieved 2014-02-25.
- Schaaf, Elizabeth (2005). "Morris A. Mechanic Theatre". Maryland Online Encyclopedia. mdoe.org. Retrieved 2011-01-20.
- Kelly, Jacques (February 4, 2004). "Hippo's opening another night to remember". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2014-02-25.
- Rousuck, J. Wynn (May 4, 2998). "Jujamcyn to book Mechanic Growth: Brought in as a consultant, the company will now manage the theater". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2014-02-25. Check date values in:
- "Twin Cities-based show producer Jujamcyn is sold to N.Y. giant SFX". Star Tribune (Minneapolis). May 11, 2000. Retrieved 2014-02-25.
- Gunts, Edward (August 2, 2004). "Mechanic Theatre loses operating company". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2014-02-25.
- Sadighan, David (August 10, 2007). "Brutal Overhaul for Baltimore’s Mechanic Theater?". Architectural Record. Retrieved 2011-01-20.
- Kilar, Steve (August 2, 2012). "Plans for Mechanic Theater site stir controversy". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2014-02-25.
- Sernovitz, Daniel J. (February 25, 2009). "David S. Brown Enterprises to unveil latest plans for Mechanic Theater project". Baltimore Business Journal. Retrieved 2011-01-20.
- Litten, Kevin (April 30, 2014). "Baltimore issues demolition permit for the Mechanic Theatre". Baltimore Business Journal. Retrieved 2014-09-05.
- Sherman, Natalie (September 4, 2014). "Demolition to Start on Mechanic Theater". The Baltimore Sun.
- Sarah Gordon (November 20, 2009). "Top ten ugliest buildings in the world unveiled-and many are in our most beautiful cities". Daily Mail (dailymail.co.uk). Retrieved 2011-01-20.