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September 3, 2009

What Baltimore bars are in the most interesting buildings?

Elizabeth Large sent me a great idea for a blog: What Baltimore (and county) bars happen to be in either historic or just cool/weird buildings?

I believe Mad River in South Baltimore was once a bank of some sort. And I know Ron Furman, the owner of Max's Taphouse, has cannibalized the ruins of Baltimore institutions and incorporated them into the Fells Point bar.

What else ya got for me?

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:28 AM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


I know everyone probably hates hearing about Brewer's Art but their basement has always intrigued me. I refer to it as "the dungeon." It reminds me of a dungeon of an old castle. Granted, this is just one internal floor of a pretty unimpressive building, but I think it falls under the "cool/weird" variety.

ESPN Zone and the Hard Rock. Tourist-y? Of course. Neat building? Absolutely.

That and Mother's.

The history of Leadbetter's building is very cool.

Cat's Eye is a nice building for a conversation starter. Ask about the ghosts and the mock tea party, I mean gin party.

Ted, you can't just say that and then not give us the history!

Chris, yeah, one time the late owner Tony Cushing told me a photo of the other late owner Kenny flew off the wall and across the room. I didn't ask Tony how much alcohol had been consumed that night. But from the crazy look in his eyes, I believed him. Stranger things have happened.

The 13th floor and Owl Bar, because the Belvedere is a way cool old building.

Red Star in Fells Point has a pretty cool history. It was once a brothel during it's early years. When sailors came to the port, they would follow the red stars on the ground, which led them to the nearest brothel.

The Meridian 54 spot is cool, just because of the sign

Eden's Lounge, formerly Paloma's, formerly Eager St. House.

The Horse You Came in On - lots of history there

Friends. The downstairs doesn't have too much special, but if you go upstairs, there's a ton of rooms that give the impression of former brothel (as I've been told).

Also, most on here seem to dislike the place for various reasons, but the Taps buiilding is intriguing. The archetecture outside seems like there were giant windows at one point, and hardwood floors upstairs seem to hint that at one point, this place was a very well kept building. It's the former Craftsmen Club, in the 60's, 70's and part of the 80's the upstairs functioned as (locally) well-known reception hall.

Owl Bar

If we're going to stick with the interior theme, then I'll put Waterfront in the mix. The place is massive once you go up the stairs and into all the different rooms.

Sorry Sam had to work.

In the basement of Leadbetter's there are still chains from the 1800's. They used to chain up the sailors who couldn't pay in the basement and then sell them to visiting ships.

The newly opened B&O Brasserie...and Woodberry Kitchen, I wish that bar was so much bigger.

There was a bar on Fleet and Boston, next to Kislings - that had a basement where you could access old tunnels from the war of 1812.

Ted - that is f*#@in awesome (the fact that they still exist, not the act). Would love to see that incorporated in a Fells Point ghost tour!!

Cardwell - the historic context alone of The Waterfront Hotel is pretty cool. There is some weird story as to why they never developed that empty lot adjacent to it...wish I could remember it.

Dave, isn't that Tyson's Tavern? I coulda swore I read that on their menu one time?

Sturmy, you're right, that is indeed Tyson's Tavern. I've heard several speculations on why the tunnels are there, but you can walk them, and they say they go all the way to Patterson Park. Ammunition running during the War of 1812? Slave running during the Civil War? Maybe both?

Folks, as to the tunnels under Tyson's tavern, I may respectfully point out that the tunnels have a different history: the building was the original site of one of the breweries in town, and the tunnels under the basement/street are identical to other such tunnels under other breweries on the Eastern Seaboard. Their purpose? Colder storage for "lagering" lager beers in the colder temperatures that lager beers fancy for fermentation.

ADM IV - Thanks for correcting them. If you go to Tysons they'll show you the tunnels.

Abject Disaster - I'd love for someone to chime in on the building Taps is currently ruining. Not sure if the chumps that run the place actually own the building and doubt they read this blog (or can read). So maybe Zink can tell us?

Yes, Tyson's Tavern tunnels were critical to the cool storage of beer barrels and to this day they still lay underneath the building. Before and during the Civil War, these caverns were part of the Underground Railroad that helped slaves and prisoners escape to the north. The first brewery was named The Johann Baier Brewery in 1853. You can check out the pictures on their myspace ( ). And with that said I vote Tyson's Tavern as the most interesting building in East Baltimore since it's name did change to The National Brewing Company in 1885. And so this would be where the Natty Boh Brewery first got its start. Check out more of the story here: . On a side note: since this is an open restaurant and bar tours aren't normally given during peak hours so I would come early or late and talk with the owner, Dean to see if he can guide you down. Stop in and check it out. It's a place well worth the time.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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