A Pierce-Arrow of a building dies a clunker's death JTC

Jacques Kelly

April 17, 1992|By Jacques Kelly

It's a pity that a fine building that housed a 1920s automobile dealership and that was seen in the film "Tin Men" is being demolished.

The building, or what's left of it is in the 200 block of W. 29th St. The street outside the building's side entrance on Remington Avenue was the site where Richard Dreyfuss' car plowed into Danny DeVito's Cadillac in the movie. Earlier this week, the wrecking ball began its work on the building. What's left are tons of old steel and piles of masonry.

The building was one of those magical and quirky buildings that architects loved to design 70 years ago. It was all imagination: an overhanging Spanish tile roof, tons of imitation Granada plaster and Seville wrought iron balconies.

And while it stood in the Remington neighborhood, it looked like the kind of place from which Gloria Swanson might have bought the limousine she owned in the movie "Sunset Boulevard."

"What a restaurant this could have made. It could have. . . . It should have. . . ." said Marion Maus as she walked through the exact section of the partially demolished building where Richard Dreyfuss drove down the ramp onto Remington Avenue.

Mrs. Maus, owner of an adjoining 29th Street property, Academy Film Production Inc., was there to save a few architectural artifacts she might be able to use as props in one of the many commercials filmed at her business. Her crew took solid oak doors, lintels, planters and iron work. "It had a lot of character. It's one of the few buildings left around here with so much character," said Mike Meyers, owner of the Open House restaurant just across the street.

"We made Richard Dreyfuss his egg salad sandwiches when he didn't like the food the film crew served," Meyers said.

The building was constructed about 1926 for the Wilson Nash Motor Co. The automobile showroom faced 29th Street. C. Henry Reeves, a prominent Baltimore Pierce-Arrow dealer, was the next owner. He sold Fords and Lincolns there as well. Harry O. Norris' United Automotive Service, Bob Fleigh's Studebaker and University Ford followed. Chesapeake Cadillac arrived about 1957 to sell and repair used cars.

Chesapeake gave up the location several years ago, but it continues to do business in the 2400 block of N. Charles St.

The building is being razed so that the site can one day be made into a neighborhood shopping center. A drugstore and supermarket are tentatively slated to open there.

"The building did not lend itself to re-use. It had to be cleared," said developer Steve Sibel.

One day this week, the building had only a few hours left. The main showroom seemed as large as a basketball court. The ceramic tile floor once kept a squadron of porters busy with waxing and buffing machines. The expansive plate-glass windows had to be spotless so that those 1929 Nashes would show off well from the street.

The showroom's ceiling was about 18 feet high and supported by 10 columns topped by lacy, Corinthian-style capitals. There was a fake fireplace and staircase with a wrought-iron handrail. And all this to sell you a Nash, or a Studebaker or used Cadillac. The setting seemed more appropriate for a royal family's horse-drawn coach. And isn't it easier to trust a used-car salesman if his office resembles a viceroy's chamber?

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