A large stone building.
February 20, 2017.

Maryland Division of Corrections delays decision on the future of the Warden’s House

Earlier this week the Maryland Board of Public Works approved a multi-million dollar contract clearing the way for the state Division of Corrections to move forward with the demolition of a large part of the Baltimore City Correctional Complex located just east of the Jones Falls Expressway. For now, the scope of demolition does not include the historic Warden’s House, the per-Civil War “castle” on Madison Street.

Thanks to an agreement between the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and the Maryland Historical Trust, the state will wait to make a final decision on the Warden’s House and a small portion of the west wing of the former Maryland Penitentiary along Eager Street. The plan does preserve the Penitentiary’s iconic central tower which has never been considered for demolition.

Exhibit illustrating the scope of demolition in the Baltimore City Correctional Complex. Buildings to be retained under the current agreement are marked in blue and buildings to be demolished are marked in red.

The Board of Public Works’ recent approval comes four years after Governor Hogan closed the facility and two years after the General Assembly allocated funds for the demolition of the complex. Since the state allocated those funds, the Corrections Department developed a plan that includes the demolition of over a dozen buildings on the site. Work under the new contract will begin soon.

The Warden’s House and small portion of the west wing of the Maryland Penitentiary are not included in this round of demolition but they are also not yet relieved from the threat of being razed. The Division of Corrections has only agreed to defer a decision on the demolition of these structures and consult with the Maryland Historical Trust on the future of these buildings.

Exhibit illustrating the partial demolition of the west wing of the former Maryland Penitentiary building.

While the demolition of the historic buildings within this complex is a loss for the city’s architectural heritage, our advocacy, along with Preservation Maryland, AIA Baltimore, and the Baltimore Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, helped to secure more time to seek the preservation of the Warden’s House and a portion of the West Wing. We and our partners will continue to push for permanently preserving the these two historic buildings and better incorporate the Maryland Penitentiary into whatever new plans are eventually adopted.

A massive stone building with large arched windows
The west wing of the former Maryland Penitentiary planned for partial demolition. November 13, 2018.

5 comments

  1. Craig Purcell says:

    Where is Baltimore’s St. Clair Wright when you need her ?

    Demo fever seems to have taken hold with Harborplace and rowhouses upon rowhouses converted into untended grass fields and now some of the remaining great architectural of parts of the prison. Demolish the Supermax block facing 83 if you want improvement and leave the western end of the Penitentiary.

    There are no well thought out plans for what replaces these demolitions & that needs to be done first before and buildings come down – unless of course they are insignificant and non contributing structures.

    Maybe we need to save the old stones for reuse in other parts of the city as a compromise position. They are after all the raw fabric of the architecture that will not ever be quarried again in the building of the city.

  2. W. White says:

    I have no idea why Baltimore Heritage is crowing about this plan as if it is a great achievement. What that map indicates is that a vast majority of the most historically and architecturally significant areas of the facility: 4/5ths of Building 109/West Wing, Building 105/C-Block, Building 107/Building A, Building 108/Boiler House, and parts of Building 106/Men’s Detention are to be demolished with no concrete preservation for the Warden’s House or pitiful remaining portion of the West Wing. Most of the blue shown on that map is aesthetically offensive Building 001/Central Booking, the most hideous building in the whole complex. This plan is no success.

    And as previous commenter Craig Purcell states, the raw materials that make up the facility—the solid rusticated masonry—cannot be replaced. I am sure they will not be salvaged in any way; they will be wastefully discarded. And people wonder why our environmental footprint is so high.

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