Congress Hotel, home to legendary Marble Bar, auctioned today
At 2:30 p.m Tuesday, in a drab room of the Circuit Court of Baltimore City, a piece of city history will be auctioned off.
The property is the Congress Hotel, a mostly forgotten 36-unit apartment building on the 300 block of West Franklin street in Mt. Vernon that, for a brief period in the late 70s and early 80s, housed Baltimore's CBGB.
Just eight granite steps below Franklin is the Marble Bar, the kind of watering hole that looms large enough in the local punk consciousness that even if you weren't there in its heyday, you might claim you were.
Though the hotel first opened 107 years ago -- over the years, it hosted Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in its basement bar, once known as the Rathskeller -- it only started hosting provocative music acts in 1978, when the Marble Bar opened.
R.E.M, X and the Slickee Boys, the Psychedelic Furs, Talking Heads, all played there.
In its heyday, the hotel was like something out of a John Barrymore movie: all rococo refinement and Second Empire pizzazz. The bar was named after its 72-foot-long Italian marble bar.
But in 1978, a Sun reporter who spent the night there described something out of a Graham Greene novel." "Laying down on the bed, you could almost feel the entire hotel sagging," the reporter wrote. "The wall looked the way you feel during a bad storm on the English channel." The bed, the reporter continued, felt "like a collapsed accordion and looked like like a bombed-out rowboat."
In 1995, the Congress doubled as the decrepit Globe Hotel, where Madeline Stowe and Bruce Willis hide during a critical scene in the Terry Gilliam cult classic, "12 Monkeys."
"This is a really salubrious kind of place," Gilliam told the Sun then.
In other words: perfect environs for broke musicians. In a 2000 profile in City Paper, someone insisted they saw a pubescent U2 hanging out at the Marble.
"Iggy Pop played here a couple times," said Leslee Anderson, who ran the bar in the 70s, to the weekly. "He loved it. I remember I was mopping the floor and Iggy was standing against the bar saying, 'This is a great rock 'n' roll bar--this is going to be a rocking night.'"
More recently, the hotel was known for providing $15-a-night accommodations for transients. In 2001, a developer spent $7.2 million to renovate the property into an apartment complex, redubbed the Congress Apartments.
Today, all that will go to the highest bidder. The deposit on the property is a jazzy $200,000, according to auctioneers Alex Cooper Inc.