Once known as the Bromo Seltzer Tower, this building is a monument to Captain Isaac Emerson, the imaginative chemist who developed a famous headache remedy, and named it after Mt. Bromo - an active volcano in Java.
Emerson came to Baltimore in 1881 and promoted his drug by offering free one share of stock in his company for each $60 orth of the remedy bought by a retail druggist. Exactly 34 years later, one of the original shares was worth $4,000. By 1911, the business had so expanded that an 8-story building to house the factory was erected, surmounted by this tower.
The tower, modelled on Italy's Palazzo Vecchio, was designed by Joseph Evans Sperry. When completed in 1911, the building was the tallest in Baltiore, and boasted the world's largest four-dial gravity clock, with faces 24 feet in diameter. Emerson crowned the clock with a flashy memorial to his entrepeneurial genius: a 51-foot, 17-ton replica of the Bromo-Seltzer bottle. Constructed of blue steel and illuminated with 596 lights, the bottle made two revolutions per minute, flashing its beam to seamen as far as 20 miles away. In 1936, when the revolutions caused structural damage, the bottle was removed - to the dismay of some and relief and of others. The bottle and it frame were pounded into 20 tons of scrap metal.
The City acquired the tower in 1967 - $13,000 and 200 volunteers transformed it into Baltimore's first publicly financed arts center.