Built in 1914, the four-story industrial building at 1500 Barclay Street in Baltimore’s North Central Historic District was innovative for its time, with expanses of glass and a unique ventilation system designed by the architect, Otto G. Simonson, to improve working conditions. Nearly 100 years later, the masonry structure is again breaking new ground. Originally home of the Cork Crown & Seal Company, a bottle-cap manufacturer, and later occupied by the Lebow Brothers Clothing Company, a maker of men’s suits, the building has been transformed into the dynamic Baltimore Design School (BDS) by the Baltimore-based architect Ziger/Snead.
The existing 115,000-square-foot building had a leaky roof, spalling concrete, and thick vegetation growing out of its walls. It needed structural repairs, new windows, and a complete systems overhaul. “It was in such bad shape that it was used as a set for the popular TV crime drama The Wire,” says design principal Steve Ziger. There were still coat racks, sewing machines, and barrels of buttons from 1985 when the building was shuttered due to a labor dispute.