Monday, March 5, 2012

a bromo-seltzer adventure

21. Do at least three touristy things in my own city. - TWO DOWN!

So over a month ago, I visited the Sports Legends Museum with Sadie, Brandon and Ashleigh and knocked one of the "three touristy things in my own city" off my life, but I still have yet to blog about it.

I'm trying to make a better effort at documenting all of the fun things we've been up to, and I have at least a dozen half written blog posts sitting in my list of unfinished posts right now.  In an effort to be a better blogger, I am writing about yesterday's adventure RIGHT NOW!

Yesterday Sadie and I visited one of the most favorite landmarks in Baltimore's skyline...the Bromo-Seltzer Tower!

Now most local people know exactly what this is, but may not necessarily know the NAME of the tower.  To some it's the Clock Tower, or the Clock by Camden Yards, or that Big Blue Clock.   The actual name is the "Emerson Bromo-Seltzer Tower for the Arts."  It looks like this:

or from the bottom looking up, it looks like this:

So I learned yesterday that this building has had many lives.  It was originally built by Isaac Emerson, inventor of Bromo-Seltzer, but more on that later.  In its second life it was used as a State Office Building.  But considering that the tower itself is really only about 30 feet wide in each direction, and two thirds of the space is taken up by elevators and stairwells, oh yeah, and there wasn't any air conditioning when it was owned by the State, and it was a pretty miserable building to work in.

So for years if was left abandoned.

Until 2007, when the Baltimore Office of Promotion and Arts (a non-profit arts organization also responsible for Baltimore's annual Artscape tradition) decided to purchase it and turn it into art studio space.

And that is what it is today.

So when I saw in the Live section of the paper that there was a free Open House in the tower this weekend, (AND it was a beautiful day), Sadie and I went straight downtown to check it out.

Open House!

I soon learned why this tower made such great studio space...with the tiny floors and lots of windows, the natural light is abundant...the lighting is awesome!  This was the lighting IN THE LADIES ROOM:


So up up and away we went...climbing up the many steps:

We checked out lots of artists' studios along the way, some photographers, some water colorists, some worked with clay, and some with all kinds of crazy medium.  I didn't take pictures cause I didn't want to "violate" people's art (I know sometimes artists can get a little weird about that).  Sadira's favorite artist made all kinds of things out of clay, including these teeny tiny mice.

They were a steal at $5 a pop, so I let Sadie pick out one. 

She named it Sally. 

Sally was featured in many of our pics the rest of the day.

When we finally got to the tippy top, the 15th floor, we found out we were 10 minutes early for the next clock tour.  Sweet!   There was one narrow little staircase left and it led up to one teeny tiny door that was locked.  For the next 10 minutes everyone who had gathered for the tour kept speculating about what was behind that door, until finally Sadira declared, "probably the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz." 

And just like that, Sadira became the most popular person in the tour group.  Go figure.

So 4:30 arrived and so did our tour guide.  He took us up the steps and unlocked the door to reveal....not the Wizard of Oz, but more steps. Scary steep ones, that almost looked like a ladder:

But once we climbed up..

We were LITERALLY on the inside of the clock!

Seriously cool.

So cool here's a picture overload:

Our tour guide gave us a very detailed and amusing history of the tower.

Here are the Cliff Notes from our lesson:
  • Bromo-Seltzer was an antacid and pain reliever, used to relieve indigestion, heartburn, or hangovers.
  • The bromine in it basically made it a tranquilizer.
  • Oh yeah, and it was taken off the market because it was later determined to be a carcinogen.
  • I learned tonight my Great Grandpa Cas was a BIG fan, back in the day, and used to have my mom "stir him up a glass" when she was a kid.
  • The great inventor of Bromo-Seltzer, Captain Emerson, based the design of the tower off of the Palazzo Vecchio, in Florence, Italy.
  • (Sidebar, I've been to the Palazzo Vecchio, and I think it's so cool that this tower in Baltimore that now houses artists and artwork is based on the design of a tower in Florence, which was pretty much the epicenter of art, the Renaissance and home to so many historic artists.)
  • Captain Emersen was a cultured cat, and decided to not only base the Bromo-Seltzer Tower design off of the Palazzo Vecchio, in Florence, Italy, but also based the clock face design off of Big Ben, in London.
  • However, proving again that Baltimore has always had an obsession with beating anyone or anything nicknamed Big Ben, the Cap'n made sure the clock faces spanned 24 feet across, since Big Ben's max out at 23.
  • In an effort to keep it classy, the Cap'n decided to finish off this marriage of Florence and London architecture by adding a 50 foot tall rotating replica of the blue Bromo-Seltzer bottle on the very top of the tower.  "'Ey! Ya hear that, Eye-Talians??  Down 'ere in Bally-more, we shur do know how ta showcase a TARE, hon!  Ya don't see any fancy bottles up on top uh yer PUH-lazzo, do ya?"
  • Sadly, the giant bottle replica had to be taken down many years ago.  Bummer.  I'm sure it was a glorious sight.
  • The tower is almost always featured on television during Orioles' games, since Camden Yards is within eyeshot; however a few years ago a hotel chain which shall remain unnamed decided to build a new hotel right within the line of sight of the Tower.  Now you can only see the Tower from about one third of the seats in Camden Yards.  People were PISSED.
  • There is this awesome comparison photo, just for fun: 

We did stop in one studio that showcased lots of fun Bromo-Seltzer memorabilia....who knew this even existed!?

Doctors and Nurses Know How "Nerves" Can Cause Headaches...

Sick, Nervous, Neuralgic Headaches

 Who Could Enjoy The melodious warble of Patti, or the enchanting strains from one of Gottschalk's productions, while suffering from a "SPLITTING" NERVOUS HEADACHE?

Soon it was time to start out long trek back down.

Back to the bottom, with our feet planted firmly on the ground.

All in all, we had a great time.  The moral of today's mini history lesson is that Baltimore's Bromo-Seltzer Tower is quirky, gaudy, mysterious, slightly silly, not without scandal, and very loved in Baltimore.  In other words, it fits our city perfectly.

I think we'll keep it.


Emily B said...

How fun! Kalil loves seeing the clock when we get off 95. He'll love seeing this pictures!

lauren said...

this seems like such a fun, quirky place!! that huge clock?! amazing!! this is a great idea to help see our towns through new eyes. thank you for sharing your adventures! :) *

Shannon said...

I love little adventures like this with great history lessons :) You inspire me to do a lot of wonderful things with baby girl once she gets here. I'm already trying to plan our summer day trips even though she'll have no idea what's going on. Great job as always, Mama- at living life and being an awesome mama!

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