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The new City College building was designed to be harmonious with those of Johns Hopkins University just down the road, also designed by Baldwin and Pennington. The plan oriented the building toward a small plaza, facing the university.  Its design was a combination of two architectural styles: Romanesque Revival and Beaux-Arts classicism.

The six-story central facade is flanked by square towers at the corners. Among the distinctive features of the design were three-story-high arches, a projecting classical portico, ornately decorated cornices, bands of garland decorations and lion's heads, Spanish tile roofs, balconies on the fifth-floor towers, and large brick pilasters topped with Ionic capitals. In sheer size and degree of ornamentation, City College overwhelmed every existing public school in Baltimore.

Shortly after the building opened in 1899, there was a sharp increase in attendance at the school.  From thirty-six students in 1900, the size of the graduating class alone exceeded four hundred by 1926. The assembly hall, attic, and basement were converted to classroom use, and students were forced to attend school in shifts. By 1928, Baltimore City College was forced to move to larger quarters, but the building kept that name, carved in limestone over the entrance. 

Between 1928 and 1978, the building served a number of educational institutions, including a vocational school, a high school, and a community college.  After the college closed in 1978, the building was left vacant, and allowed to deteriorate.

Chesapeake Commons Fire 1983In 1980, a blazing fire gutted the old City College building. The roof was destroyed, and all that remained of the interior were some charred walls. Burned and abandoned, the building stood dormant for two years before the Schneider Group of Ann Arbor, Michigan, a development and design firm, saw the potential for rehabilitation and purchased the property. Working with the local Market Center Development Corporation, the firm spent $11 million to adapt the structure to quality residential use. The building and site have been renamed Chesapeake Commons. On an adjoining site, the developers renovated a row of townhouses on Academy Alley, a small thoroughfare along the side of Chesapeake Commons. That project features shops, offices, and a pedestrian mews and form a more pleasant approach and entrance to the larger structure.

While it was fortunate that the exterior of Chesapeake Commons remained relatively unscathed by the fire, the interior had to be completely rehabilitated. Under the direction of Estelle Schneider, the developer and design supervisor, the original six-story structure has been converted into ninety-eight multilevel units of one, two, and three bedrooms. Every apartment has a unique floor plan; some feature rooftop terraces, private gardens, and spiral staircases. The rough texture of exposed brick walls has been highlighted in many rooms, and some triplex layouts have 42 foot-high ceilings. Common facilities for residents include a courtyard, gatehouse, and an entertainment and exercise center.

Chesapeake Commons is located in Market Center, a traditional retail district flanked on either side by two historic neighborhoods, Seton Hill and Mount Vernon. It was long considered crucial that a new residential zone be built in Market Center to form a more stable, safe link between the neighborhoods.  In helping to arrange financing for the project, the Market Center Development Corporation, along with local residents, helped ensure that Chesapeake Commons provided a catalyst for the renewal of the entire neighborhood.

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601 North Eutaw St.
Baltimore, MD
(410) 539-0090

Leasing Office Hours

Monday to Friday 9am-5pm;
Saturday 9am-3pm by appointment

Map of Chesapeak Location