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The story of this landmark begins in 1907, when Charles J. Bonaparte—a great-nephew to Emperor Napoleon I of France, a prominent local lawyer and, at the time, attorney general under President Theodore Roosevelt—first announced plans for the building.
Acting as the trustee for the Walter R. Abell estate, which owned the property, Bonaparte commissioned the construction of an eight-story fireproof apartment house at the northwest corner of Charles Street and Lafayette Avenue. Working from a design by Baltimore architects Wyatt & Nolting, builder James Stewart & Co. soon completed the building at a cost of $190,000, with a fire-proof steel frame, pressed brick, and ornamental terra cotta details. The first floor featured several offices, designed for physicians or dentists, along with a large dining room. The largest and most luxurious apartments in the new building rented for as much as $900 or $1,000 per year (equivalent to over $23,000 today).
Baltimore native James B.N. Wyatt and William G. Nolting organized their partnership of Wyatt & Nolting in 1887. Wyatt was a close neighbor to The Walbert since 1876, when he designed and built a home for himself and his mother at Maryland and North Avenue across from the contemporary MICA Graduate Studio building. Charles Bonaparte also commissioned the firm to design his own home–Bella Vista–built in 1896 in Baltimore County. Wyatt & Nolting went on from the Walbert to design the Algonquin Apartments at St. Paul and Chase in 1914, along with scores of other projects across the city.
The Walbert was later converted into an office building and remained in the ownership of Crane and Crane for years while falling into some disrepair. Fortunately, the building underwent a substantial renovation in the mid-1980s through a partnership led by Howard Brown of David S. Brown Enterprises and it remains in good condition today.
Text from Eli Pousson. Cover photo from Eli Pousson via baltimoreheritage.org.