A Tribute to Karen Lewand (1945-2012)

Karen Lewand at Camden Yards
Karen Lewand at Silo Point, 1997

I am very sad to report that Karen Lewand, our friend and long time board member, passed away yesterday evening. Karen was an innovator, a leader, and a strong advocate for preserving Baltimore’s historic buildings and neighborhoods and helped Baltimore grow in countless ways. With an unwavering voice for preserving the best of our architecture and neighborhoods, she was instrumental in saving historic places that many of us now take for granted. Baltimore Heritage recognized her exceptional leadership this past summer by awarding her our 2012 Douglas Gordon Award for lifetime achievement. This fall, she generously gave to help Baltimore Heritage launched the Karen Lewand Preservation Education Fund that will remain a living memorial to her work.

I wanted to share a few stories of Karen’s life and work that help illuminate the love and devotion that this remarkable woman carried for her city and her family. Born Karen Elizabeth Schultz in Detroit, Michigan, Karen received a B.S. degree from the University of Dayton in 1967, and an M.A.S. degree from the Johns Hopkins University in 1988. She arrived in Baltimore in 1977 and, after serving nearly 10 years in the Office of Financial Development at Johns Hopkins, dedicated the rest of her professional and volunteer life to her two loves, the history and architecture of the city of Baltimore.

After taking several courses in preservation at Goucher College, Karen became involved with Baltimore Heritage. She quickly became a leading member and spent 27 years serving on our Board of Directors. Karen founded the Education Committee and developed some of the city’s first walking tours of historic neighborhoods that have grown into our the many heritage tours we have today.

nr765p
Gallagher Mansion in 1996, courtesy Maryland Historical Trust

In her own neighborhood of Radnor-Winston, Karen fought for the preservation and reuse of the Victorian Gallagher Mansion, which had fallen into ruin under its previous owners. She and her neighbors succeeded in saving the building, now the Gallagher Mansion Apartments, which won a Preservation Project Award from the Maryland Historical Trust in 1997. Karen also served on Baltimore’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation where she played a key role in preventing the demolition of the Hinson Westcott Dunning factory and offices at Charles and Chase Streets (since renovated and re-used).

Karen’s passion for preservation included a commitment to sharing our city’s history with the next generation. In 1981, She developed a course for schoolchildren teaching local history through architecture. The following year CHAP received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to take the course, entitled “Neighborhood Discovery,” to 23 Baltimore City public schools. Karen subsequently worked at the city’s Planning Department researching and writing neighborhood histories. Some of these appeared in her book, North Baltimore: From Estate to Development, published jointly by the University of Baltimore and the Baltimore City Department of Planning in 1989.

At the state level, Karen served for nearly two decades as a member of the Maryland Historical Trust. She was also one of the first organizers of coalition of preservationists, developers, and conservationists who in 2000 founded the statewide smart growth advocacy group, 1000 Friends of Maryland. In 2006 she was presented the Lucien E.D. Gaudreau Award recognizing her “outstanding contribution to the built environment in the Maryland region,” and just this month was given a 2012 award for leadership and service by the Governor’s Sustainable Growth Commission.

From 1992 to 2012, Karen served as executive director of the Baltimore Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, which under her leadership has been ever more committed to preservation. In 2001, she was awarded the American Institute for Architects’ Richard Upjohn Fellowship for her contributions to the profession of architecture. Seven years ago, in collaboration with several members of AIA Baltimore, she launched the annual Architecture Week in October, which has brought a number of prominent preservation advocates to speak. As a tribute to Ms. Lewand’s leadership, the chapter dedicated and named the chapter house located at 11½ West Chase Street in her honor.

4788190923_181da011f6_o (1)
Karen and Robert Lewand at Baltimore Heritage 50th Anniversary Celebration, 2010

Karen is survived by her beloved husband of 45 years, Robert Lewand, as well as two daughters, Elizabeth Lewand of Brooklyn, New York and Stephanie Lewand of Baltimore. Other survivors include her brother David Schultz of Chelsea, Michigan, as well as one nephew and three nieces, son-in-law Chris Gray and sister-in-law Becky Schultz.

Karen’s family is planning the funeral service and we will have further details soon. We are humbled that Karen requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in her name to the Karen Lewand Preservation Education Fund that she established at Baltimore Heritage this fall.

Funeral Services

Mass of the Resurrection
Thursday, January 3, 2013, 10:00 AM

The Church of Saints Philip & James
2801 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21216

Inurnment immediately following the mass
Saint Mary’s Cemetery
233 Homeland Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21210

Reception immediately following inurnment
Knights of Columbus Hall (adjacent to cemetery)
201 Homeland Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21212

4 comments

  1. Fred Shoken says:

    Karen was a wonderful person, a leading advocate of historic preservation and lover of her adbopted home — Baltimore. I will miss her friendship, strength of character, perseverance, smiling face and kind words. Baltimore Heritage would not be what it is today without Karen. A preservation education fund in her memory is a fitting tribute that should be supported by all those who knew her and shared her love of Baltimore.

  2. Alfred W. Barry III says:

    I first met Karen when she joined the Planning Department. She was just beginning to be exposed to neighborhood planning and the politics of Baltimore City was a constant source of frustration to her. Her enthusiasm for neighborhoods was infectious, even to a Department filled with experienced believers in neighborhood preservation. The Gallagher Mansion exists today in large part to her efforts in the neighborhood and City. While remaining friends over the years on a variety of issues after she left the Planning Department, I was fortunate to work with her in the late 1990’s on the “Growth Group” an informal gathering of preservationists, developers, environmentalists and neighborhood activists that believed that a more collaborative planning and political approach would be more effective than individual disciplines promoting their own agendas. The result in 2000 became 1000 Friends of Maryland that Karen served on as as its founding vice- president until this past year and she was constantly reminding the Board of the vital role preservation plays in the Smart Growth movement. Karen set a high standard for both public officials and non-profits and her “behind the scenes” influence was pervasive on Baltimore’s regeneration and will continue on with each of us that was fortunate to have worked with her.

  3. Jack Breihan says:

    I served with Karen on the City’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation during the late 1980s-early 1990s. My most vivid recollection of her concerned the expansion of the Walters Art Gallery (now Musuem) to incorporate the Thomas-Jencks-Gladding (later Hackerman) House for the display of the Walters collection of oriental art. The Walters’ director, Bob Bergman, proposed a direct connection between the second floor or the museum and the rear of Hackerman House. There is a steep hill at this point, so the connection would entail a massive masonry wall along Washington Place. Several of us on CHAP, and others in the community, felt that this wall would be out of scale with the rest of Mount Vernon Place, one of Baltimore’s greatest architectural treasures. Bob Bergman, however, was adamant. Art patrons would only leave the Walters galleries at the foot of the hill to see new gallery space dedicated to oriental art if they could do so at grade. The Hackerman House, a generous gift to the

    City, and Henry Walters’ oriental art collections would be be ignored and unappreciated without the connection proposed. He challenged CHAP to suggest any other solution.

    Nobody on CHAP wanted to stand in the way of the Walters, or its architect Jim Grieves, who had done a fine job adapting other landmark buildings for adaptive re-use.

    But Karen pushed back just as hard, pressing us to reject the plan. She did not offer at alternative design – that was not CHAP’s function. She just said “No” to this one.

    Eventually CHAP derailed the plan, and the Walters did a re-design. From Washington Place you can see a little dome where the passageway from the second floor of the main gallery joins with an escalator to take visitors up to the level of Hackerman House. Bob Bergamn later stated that this was in fact a better design, and thanked Karen and CHAP for saying No.

    I continue to use this anecdote in my Historic Preservation classes at Loyola as an example of the “Creative No” that preservationists can use to stimulate creativing among developers and architects, to dissuade them from demolishing or disfiguring historic buildings, and to encourage sympathetic adaptation – which is really more clever in the long run.

    Jack Breihan

  4. AnneMarie Battis says:

    I am saddened to hear of Karen’s passing; my deepest condolences to her family and friends. I knew her many years ago in the mid ’80’s while I was a student at Hopkins. I was privileged to be her intern for about 2 years. I learned so much from her; her passion-driven personality was almost infectious. I credit Karen for helping to prepare me to find my own passion in life. She knew that my parents did not do much in the form of preparing me for life, so she took this shy and naive girl and helped guide me toward a bright future I know what she did for me had nothing to do with the job I was there to help her do; and to me, that’s what made her such a beautiful soul. She chose to invest herself in me and for that, I will always be grateful.

Leave a Reply