In the 1840's, William Wilkens, a German immigrant, founded the Wilkens Brush Company. Wilkens was a pioneer of large-scale industrial production in Baltimore. The Wilkens Building was constructed with a cast-iron front manufactured by Bartlet and Hayward in 1871 to serve as a downtown office and warehouse for the company.
Baltimore was an important center of cast-iron construction by the mid-nineteenth century with several significant foundries in the city exporting cast-iron fronts throughout the world. The structure is one of the city's last extant cast-iron fronted buildings. The Wilkens Company's innovative use of cast-iron, the world's first industrialized, factory-produced building material, demonstrated their progressiveness. Its use as a building material also illustrates the impadct of industrialization on the post Civil War growth of Baltimore's central business district. This cast-iron fronted building represents the transition from timber and brick construction, the building's dominant materials, to a more modern material. During the 1880's a fifth story was added to the building.
In 1904, Wilkens relocated the headquarters closer to his plant. The company owned the building until 1929 and in 1940 it was purchased by the Robins Paper Company. In 1989 the structure was revitalized with a mix of new construction and rehabilitation, by the real estate development firm of Stone & Associates.