'mn' letters atop bank are history

April 18, 1994|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Sun Staff Writer

They're gone.

The giant "mn" letters that have adorned the top of the Maryland National Bank Building for 23 years were unbolted, unhooked and, in 24 separate pieces, lowered to the ground by helicopter yesterday.

"Those signs used to tell the weather continually," said Jerome McCoy, an amateur photographer from Catonsville who stopped to snap a few pictures about 8 a.m. yesterday. "I'm going to miss them."

Built in 1929, the 34-story Maryland National Building is downtown's only Art Deco skyscraper and, since 1971, the distinctive "mn" signs have looked out on Baltimore from the building's pointed roof.

But last year, Maryland National was purchased by NationsBank Corp., based in Charlotte, N.C., and the company plans to spend $750,000 to $1 million to restore the top of the building at 10 Light St.

"No one's called or written yet to say they're sorry to see them go," said Dan Finney, public relations director for NationsBank in Baltimore. "We'll wait to see the public's reaction this week, when they're gone. But so far, it's been nothing but positive."

Jim Choplick, another spokesman for NationsBank, said yesterday that plans call for the copper roof shingles to be repaired and 24-karat gold leaf to be applied to the roof's cap and its six ornamental ribs.

"Then we're going to re-light the entire crown of the building" using a plan of Douglas Leigh, who lighted the Empire State Building in New York City, said Mr. Choplick.

Yesterday, the four sets of "mn" letters atop the building were removed by Triangle Sign & Service, a local company that contracted with a Philadelphia helicopter company to lower the huge pieces of each letter to the ground.

The relative quiet of a Sunday morning downtown was broken about 7:15 a.m., when pilot Bob Boyd began edging his huge Sikorsky helicopter toward the 509-foot-tall building.

A steel cable about 80 feet long dangled beneath the helicopter.

Earlier, work crews had disconnected the electricity from the signs and unscrewed the bolts that held the pieces together, said Robert E. Nethen Jr. of Triangle Sign.

All that was left to do yesterday was to remove a few more bolts and wait for Mr. Boyd to hover above the building, so that workers could reach out and attach the steel cable to the 1,500-pound sections of letters.

Work progressed smoothly, despite winds of 15 mph that occasionally gusted to 22 mph.

It took 24 separate trips to lower all the pieces of the letters to the ground.

Workers on the ground and on top of the building kept in radio contact with Mr. Boyd, directing his movements.

As sections of the letters touched down, cranes were used to hoist them onto flatbed trucks.

The "mn" letters are bound for the Baltimore Museum of Industry on Key Highway, where officials hope to re-assemble at least one pair, said Mr. Choplick.

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