Baltimore's historic Mount Vernon area is known for its fashionable restaurants, its one-of-a-kind boutiques and the strings of bright lights that cascade from the Washington Monument around Christmastime.
But this year people are talking about another little feature: a prefabricated automatic bank teller machine on Charles Street that merchants and residents are likening to an outhouse.
"It looks like a portable spot-a-pot. It really does. It's horrible," said Stiles Colwill, co-owner of Colwill-McGehee Antiques and Decorative Arts, a shop inside the building next to the new teller machine.
"It just grew up overnight," said Thomas Carlson, vice president of D'Aleo Inc., an architectural firm in the same block. "It looks like a fungus out there. . . . I think it stinks."
"It's awful. It's poorly placed. It's tasteless. And it was not reviewed," said Deborah Goodman, a Mount Vernon resident and chairman of Baltimore's Commission for Historic and Architectural Preservation, which reviews new buildings and other alterations in historic districts.
The bank teller machine was erected on a concrete pad built in the public right-of-way just before Christmas by Mercantile-Safe Deposit and Trust Co., which owns the land at the northwest corner of Charles and Chase streets.
Mercantile plans to build a new branch bank on the corner and will have to remove its existing automated teller machine (ATM) there to make way for the new building.
But while the design for the building was going through the review process, no one mentioned any plans to install a temporary teller machine farther north on Charles Street, said Kathleen Kotarba, executive director of CHAP.
Ms. Kotarba said that a building permit application for the ATM went to the city's Department of Transportation and that the Division of Alleys and Footways approved it without referring plans to CHAP, as required by city law.
She said the commission is scheduled to review the plans after the fact at a public meeting Jan. 10 in the third-floor conference room of the municipal building at 417 E. Fayette St. If the commissioners decide the building is inappropriate for the historic district, they have the authority to order the bank to take it down.
The Mercantile official in charge of planning for the new bank branch could not be reached for comment.