The 1501 Guilford Ave building (most commonly known as the Copycat Building) was built in 1897 as a manufacturing warehouse. Today it has become home to the creative class of Baltimore, Maryland and continues to be a creative landmark of the Station North Arts and Entertainment District.
In order to save manufacturing companies inside the building from moving out, Charles Lankford bought the Copycat Building in 1983 from a previous owner for the sum of $225,000. The building was nicknamed "the Copycat" due to a billboard advertising for the Copy Cat printing company that stood on its roof for years. At the time, it housed a variety of light-industrial tenants.
"After a while we decided, as an experiment, to take one floor and convert it into artist studios, since we were so close to Maryland Institute College of Art," Lankford says. "Over time, everybody started 'cheating'--instead of renting an apartment and a studio, they would save money by living in their studios."
Lankford, who added a 40,000-square-foot (3,700 m2) industrial building at 419 E. Oliver St. that has also come to house artists to his portfolio in 1983, says he has "never hidden" from the city that artists have been working and living in his buildings. But he has had run-ins with various cities agencies over its legality. As a first step to getting his buildings "legit," he launched his own campaign to change the area's zoning from industrial to residential three years ago--only to be told that such a move was illegal. "There was no mechanism to allow this type of change," Lankford says. "You couldn't go from industrial to residential."
|— Brennen Jensen, "Industry to Easels", Baltimore City Paper|
The Copy Cat Building was also home to The Wham City Art's Collective, former home to Baltimore artist Dan Deacon, Blood Baby, Santa Dads, Videohipos, Ed Schrader, Jimmy Joe Roche, and others. In addition to hosting local and touring acts Wham City hosted live stage performances, including of their interpretation of Beauty And The Beast, and held the first Whartscape Festival in the building in 2006. The related group Wham City Comedy also maintains a studio at the Copycat, where filmmakers and comedians Ben O'Brien and Alan Resnick produce and direct works, including the infomercial parody Live Forever as You Are Now with Alan Resnick which was produced for Adult Swim
Bands that have played the warehouse include: Grimes, Fat Day, Lightning Bolt (Rhode Island), Black Forest/Black Sea (Rhode Island), Japanther (Brooklyn, NY), Wolf Eyes (Ann Arbor), Gravenhurst (England), Robotnicka (France), The Death Set, Matt + Kim, Anathallo, Nautical Almanac, Long Live Death, The USAISAMONSTER, Need New Body, Landed, Rapdragons, Dan Deacon, Dead Mellotron, Yukon, Muscle Brain.
Today, the Copy Cat is still home to many young artists, musicians, filmmakers, and professionals looking for a large space to live, create, study, and live in the city. There are many residents who utilize their living spaces to host art and music-related events.
Bands and other performers that have lived and/or performed in the building: Abdu Ali, Aghost, Alternate Seduction, Avocado Happy Hour, Avocado Mountain, Happy Mountain, Baby Gap, The Babysitter's Club Mountain, Bad Soap, Bastet, Baraka, Baleen Relay, the Bel-Air Shitter, Bent Bread, Benjie Loveless, Bread Bender, Bon Appetit, Bored Control, Brooks Kossover, Brother Simon, Chiefs Hat, Chris Martinelli and Tropical Punch, The Church of Stop!, Crab Rangoon, Craft Service, Crumb, Crystal Mountain, Crystal Rainbow, Dan Deacon, Do While, Dope Body, Double Dagger, Each Other, Each Others, Ego Reduction, Encino Qdoba, Encino Thug, Exposed Wall, Eye Lid, Ezra Winter, Focal Plane, Four Pounds of Bacon, Frank, Goblin Mold, Gotta Go to Work, Grayson James Brown, Greydolf, Hexspeak, Holy Ghost Party, Impress, In Every Room, Kirby Adams, Kisses ft. Oskar & Guam, Lee B. Freeman, The Libyan Suite, Life, Male Tuxedo Aggression, Mayonnaise Commercial, Mountain Mountain, My Father's Ass, Nicky Smith, No Name, Odwalla88, Painful Dad, Peanut Butter Balloon, Peanut Butter Mountain, Pet Rock, Pilar Diaz, Rainbow Mountain, Rainbow Crystals, Rainbow Rainbow, Rapdragons, Republican Noise, Richard Demerol, Roomrunner, Run DMT/Salvia Plath, Savage Suns, Semya, Sharp Shitter, Sleepover, Smoke Like A Raven, Soda Brain, Smart Growth, Soft Cat, Sun Club, TRNSGNDR/VHS, Turnip Bay Audio, Turnip Bay Coast Guard Marching Band, Turnip Bay Corps of Engineers, Turquoise Cats, Used Tire, Weekends, Wild Furby, Jim Winters, Wolfpack Jazz, Wooden Invalid, and Yawn.
Photographers, painters, and sculptors as well as artist's models also make the building their home.
- Baltimore City Paper May 8, 2002 Industry to Easels: Arts-District Designation Easing Conversion of Factories to Studios
- Jensen, Brennen. "Your Art Here: Will the Station North Arts District Paint a Brighter Future for The Baltimore Blast", "Baltimore City Paper", July 30, 2003. Accessed May 17, 2007.