A breach of public trust. This is at the heart of yesterday’s demolition of two 1840s stone houses in Woodberry. We are shocked and angry to see the loss of these two buildings—and anxious to protect Woodberry’s historic buildings from more demolition.
Over the past year, Woodberry residents, City Councilman Leon Pinkett, and preservation organizations, including Baltimore Heritage and Preservation Maryland, rallied to protest initial plans for demolition, attended meetings, offered comments, and worked with the development team on a proposal to incorporate elements of the existing Clipper Road buildings into a proposed new apartment building. The developers presented this revised plan at a community meeting last fall and again in January 2019 at a public hearing before the city planning department’s Urban Design and Architectural Advisory Panel. Baltimore Heritage along with the community association, Councilman Pinkett, and others supported this compromise.
Then, yesterday morning, both stone houses were demolished without warning. After hearing the news, the architectural firm for the project, PI.KL Studio, resigned. The development partner, Mr. Christopher Mfume at CLD Partners, at first defended the demolitions then late yesterday announced that he had also left the project. The Baltimore Sun reported that the owner of the site, Woodberry Station LLC, and its resident agent Katherine Jennings could not be reached for comment.
We don’t want to see another loss like this one in Woodberry. We hope the neighborhood will seriously consider renewing efforts to work with the city Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) and become a designated local historic district. Proposals to demolish or alter historic buildings within CHAP districts require review by CHAP staff and, often, the full CHAP commission. Most importantly, city law requires that these reviews take place before a demolition permit can be issued. Woodberry has considered becoming a CHAP district in the past, and Baltimore Heritage stands ready to assist if the neighborhood’s residents want to consider doing so again.
This morning, my colleague Eli and I stopped by the Hebrew Orphan Asylum and took in a welcome sight: construction workers everywhere building a new structure inside the brick walls of the nation’s oldest surviving Jewish orphanage. Work is well underway to turn this once neglected building into a much needed healthcare facility in West Baltimore.
The road to this morning’s busy scene was a long one. Baltimore Heritage first became involved with the Asylum in 2005, nearly fifteen years ago. Today, we wanted to share the story behind the building’s transition. Over the past decade, the building has gone from vacant and slated for demolition to a site of rebuilding and renewal. We hope that a brief recap of the milestones on this journey can provide a little insight into the world of historic preservation and hope for Baltimoreans and others working on their own uphill preservation projects!
Slated for Demolition
In 2005, the Hebrew Orphan Asylum’s owner, Coppin State University, announced plans to tear down the building. The university sought to avoid the continued expense of maintaining the vacant structure and envisioned creating a “south campus” on the site at some undetermined later date. For years, Baltimore Heritage and the Maryland Historical Trust urged CSU officials to preserve and reuse the building rather than demolish it.
In 2010, we nominated the Hebrew Orphan Asylum to the National Register of Historic Places and called for people across the city to support the building’s entry in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “This Place Matters” competition. We didn’t win, but still came in sixth place and made a lot of new friends who cared about this historic landmark. With a change in leadership at CSU and wider public recognition of the building’s significance, the university eventually agreed to hold off on demolition even without a clear plan for what to do next.
Community-Centered Planning and Health
Over the next seven years, we worked with the Coppin Heights Community Development Corporation and residents in the Greater Rosemont community to develop a plan for reusing the building. We secured funding from Preservation Maryland to prepare a new strategic vision for the building’s redevelopment. Armed with a state study showing that the area around the Asylum has the greatest level of health care disparity in Maryland, the community and CDC determined that bringing a medical facility back into the building was an ideal opportunity.
After years of effort, the CDC convinced Coppin State University to sell the building and worked out an agreement for its purchase. This was the first time in recent memory that the University of Maryland system had sold a building, and the transaction required years of significant legal work—with special credit to pro-bono counsel Ballard Spahr. With a Maryland Historical Trust preservation easement protecting the exterior of the building, the CDC became the owners of the Asylum in 2017.
That same year, the CDC took another significant step forward when Behavioral Health System Baltimore and the Baltimore City Health Department committed to lease the entire building for health care use. The first program to go into the building is the new Crisis Stabilization Center—an innovative drug treatment program being introduced to Baltimore. Additional healthcare-related offices and programs are expected to follow.
Financing and the Future
At the same time, Baltimore Heritage worked to apply for state and federal historic tax credits to stabilize and eventually rehab the building. First with Kann Partners Architects and now with Waldon Studio Architects and Southway Builders as partners, we secured several million dollars in historic tax credits that jump started the fundraising process. With historic tax credits in hand, the CDC secured additional contributions from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and the Weinberg Foundation. With help from a local development consultant, Cross Street Partners, the CDC finally secured a bank loan in December 2018 to finance the overall $16 million construction cost.
Construction at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum is now scheduled to finish in 2020 when doors open for the new stabilization center and health care offices. It has taken many partners to go from the brink of demolition to the promising future of today, including everybody who has supported Baltimore Heritage over the last many years. Your membership gifts, ticket purchases for walking tours, and end-of-year giving have allowed us to stick with the Asylum as advocates, community organizers, fundraisers, and partners.
Thank you to all of you who have carried us during our fourteen years of work and helped get us this far. Keep the faith that we will make it to the finish line with the Asylum, and we’ll keep you updated on the first opportunity we can get inside for a Behind the Scenes hard hat tour!
From this 1885 motor factory turned printing plant, Hoen designed and published everything from survey maps in the late 1800s to psychedelic album covers in the 1960s. Today, it is being converted into a hub of offices, job training facilities, and community space in East Baltimore—and we’ll get to see it right in the middle of the transformation. With this enormous former manufacturing building as our backdrop, we’re pleased to be honoring this year’s best work in historic preservation, from the restoration of an antique streetcar at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum to the tremendous efforts by the Chinatown Collective to bring new life into Baltimore’s historic Chinatown.
Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with food and drink then the awards presentation begins at 6:30 p.m. This year, we’re going green! Plates, cups, and everything else we use will be either compostable or recyclable, and with food from Blue Pit that includes their signature vegetarian BBQ, we’re trying to do our part to minimize our impact. Get your tickets today and join us to celebrate our city’s efforts to revitalize our historic building and communities.
Thanks to the sponsors of this year’s event, whose generous contributions keep Baltimore Heritage going throughout the year.
Eastend Design Group
Whiting Turner Contracting Company
Zeskind’s Hardware & Millwork
AGM Financial Services
Brennan and Company Architects
Gant Brunnett Architects
Roland Park Place
Terra Nova Ventures
2019 Award Recipients
Restoration and Rehabilitation
2229 Callow Avenue
Marburg House, 6 E. Eager Street
3522 Elm Avenue
2431 Eutaw Place
First German United Evangelical Church Conversion, 1728 Eastern Avenue
218 E. Lafayette Avenue
2131 E. Lombard Street
1 West Mount Vernon Place (Hackerman House)
Preston Street Lofts, 2-4 E. Preston Street
Chez Hugo Bistro, 206 E. Redwood Street
Station Arts Homes, 325, 327, 329, 312, 316, and 318 E. Lanvale Street
The George Peabody Skylight Restoration, 17 E. Mount Vernon Place
Adaptive Reuse and Compatible Design
Carriage House Renovation & Addition (The Brown / Thaddeus Residence), 2214 W. Pratt Street
St. Brigid’s School & Convent Conversion, 900 S. East Avenue
Fleet Street Lofts, 3801 Fleet Street
The Fox Building, 3100 Falls Cliff Road
Recreation Bowling Alley Conversion, 602 N. Howard Street
Car 554 Restoration at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum
CHAP Historic Tax Credit Program
Enslaved at Homewood
Preservation in Practice Program at Morgan State University
Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Banners
Eutaw Manor and Furley Hall Signs at Herring Run Park
Historic Sites of Industry in the Jones Falls Valley
If you’re looking to get outside and enjoy springtime in the city, we have plenty of opportunities to get some fresh air on our upcoming walking tours, a bike tour through Druid Hill Park, and the latest chance to get inside the Shot Tower.
Early next month, on Saturday, June 8, we hope you can put a little air in your tires and ride along for The Nooks and Crannies of Druid Hill Park by Bike with our two veteran tour leaders Dr. Ralph Brown and artist Graham Coreil-Allen. We keep to a modest pace and a mostly flat grade so people of all biking abilities are welcome.
If you explore the Baltimore School for the Arts on Cathedral Street you’ll find more than young talented artists. The school’s two main buildings—the former Alcazar Hotel and the Graham House—are full of fascinating Baltimore history. Please join us on Saturday, March 16 for a tour of the buildings (and a sneak peak at rehearsals with some of the school’s talented performing artists).
On Wednesday, March 20, we’re returning to G. Krug & Son Ironworks for a tour of the nation’s oldest iron-working shop. Our tour will be led by Mr. Peter Krug, part of the fifth generation of Krugs to operate the business, who will show off some of the fantastic decorative iron pieces made here in Baltimore over the past two hundred years.