The past few months have seen both modest progress for our efforts to preserve and reuse Baltimore’s Hebrew Orphan Asylum and a setback to the condition of the building. On the afternoon of February 25, high winds combined with continued deterioration of the roof caused a significant collapse to the rear wall of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum. The collapse dropped a large amount of brick and other debris into the lot behind the building. Fortunately, none of the residents or staff at the adjoining Tuerk House were injured and Coppin State University, with assistance from Brawner Contractor Inc., took quick action to erect a safety fence around the area. Coppin State University, in consultation with its contractor and structural engineers, has started the process of assessing the damages to the building and preparing plans for the design and reconstruction of the collapsed building elements. Additional photos of the building both before and after the recent collapse are available in the Friends of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum Flickr set.
Despite this new challenge, Baltimore Heritage and Coppin State University are continuing to move forward with planning, education and outreach efforts to ensure a vital future for this nationally important Baltimore building. With funding from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Preservation Maryland, the Coppin Heights CDC is working with development consultant Ms. Wendy Blair to prepare a feasibility study on the reuse of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum. The study will explore a range of possible uses and include an opportunity this spring for area residents and others to share their own perspectives on the revitalization of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum and the former Lutheran Hospital site. Baltimore Heritage is partnering with the Coppin Heights CDC to facilitate this public input process over the next few months.
Our continuing programs have expanded the Friends of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum Facebook page to over 100 supporters with hundreds more on our e-mail list. In early February, over 30 of you came out to the Pratt Library Edmondson Avenue Branch for our program on the past and future of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum. In early March, we had the opportunity to share the story of the how Baltimore’s Jewish community established and built the orphanage with a group of Towson University students in Dr. Valerie Thaler’s American Jewish History class. Finally, Anita Kassof, Assistant Director of the Jewish Museum of Maryland, highlighted the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in a recent article for “Generations,” the JMM’s annual magazine. The article tells the story of how the Hebrew Orphan Asylum offered a caring home for orphaned and destitute children under the leadership of Rabbi Samuel Freudenthal.
We’re are looking for more opportunities to share information on the rich history and exciting future of this great Baltimore landmark. Please invite us to come out and speak with your group or congregation this spring!
Come out for a short talk on the history of one of West Baltimore’s grandest landmarks: the 1876 Hebrew Orphan Asylum. Generations of Baltimore residents may recall this building as Lutheran Hospital or West Baltimore General, but it began its history in 1876, built by the Hebrew Benevolent Society as a home for Jewish orphans and dependent children. This striking brick castle, designed by the German-born Edward Lupus and Baltimore-native Henry A. Roby, has endured over 130 years and is now the oldest Jewish orphanage building in the United States.
We’ll discuss history of the building and share a look at the efforts by Coppin State University and Baltimore Heritage to preserve and reuse it. The historic Hebrew Orphan Asylum building has great potential to anchor transit-oriented development around the future Rosemont Red Line light rail station. Eli Pousson, Field Officer with Baltimore Heritage in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, will lead the discussion. Mr. Pousson led the effort to nominate the building to the National Register of Historic Places and continues to work with Coppin State University and the new Friends of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum to support the revitalization of this tremendous Baltimore landmark.
Two major fires last night in Downtown Baltimore and in Mount Vernon displaced many businesses & workers and have severely damaged several historic buildings. Thanks to the hard work of the Baltimore City Fire Department and other firefighters from across the region, the fires were contained and there have been no serious injuries reported. The buildings affected by the fires include a small row of theaters built following the 1904 Fire and an 1850s former residence that served as the final home of Baltimore Sun founder, A.S. Abell.
The four damaged buildings from the Downtown fire are located on the north side of the 400 block of East Baltimore Street, including several contributing buildings within the National Register designated Business and Government Historic District. In the late 19th century, these included the German Bank of Baltimore and several commercial buildings which remained up until their destruction by the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904. The building at the corner of Baltimore and Holiday Streets was rebuilt in 1908 by Pearce & Schenck as The Grand Theater. Next door, Philadelphia film producer Sidney Lubin established the Lubins Theater which later became the Plaza and, more recently, Gayety Show World.
The two damaged buildings in Mount Vernon on the west side of the 800 block of North Charles Street are contributing buildings within the Mount Vernon local and National Register designated historic district and date from the early 1850s. The four-story building located at the northwest corner of Charles and Madison Streets is particularly significant as the former residence of A.S. Abell, the founder of the Baltimore Sun. Abell purchased the building from the Kremelberg estate in 1883 and remained in the home up until his death on April 19, 1888. A 1912 description of the home noted, “The house is a four-story marble and brick building, which included about twenty-five rooms, and a magnificent winding staircase in the center of the dwelling, which towers to the roof, and in itself gives an idea of the elaborateness of the structure.” (More.)
For us at Baltimore Heritage, we are particularly saddened by the damage to the offices of noted preservation architects Murphy & Dittenhafer, located at the top floor of the former A.S. Abell residence, and specifically for our board member Matthew Compton who is an architect with this firm. As Downtown and Mount Vernon work to recover from these fires, we plan to support efforts to preserve and restore the damaged buildings.
This fall has been bittersweet for Baltimore’s Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum. In November, the Poe House was honored by the Maryland Office of Tourism with a 2010 tourism award for its “Nevermore 2009” campaign. The year-long tribute to Poe’s 200th birthday generated $1.9 million in advertising equivalency, over 400 printed articles, and sold out events with people coming from as far away as Europe and Asia.
Unfortunately this fall the Poe House also received news that Baltimore City has decided to no longer provide funding for the city-owned museum. The museum’s sole staff member, director Jeff Jerome, had worked through Baltimore’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) for nearly three decades. The museum and CHAP are now working to find a solution to keep the building open. They have put out a request for proposals to hire a consultant to develop an operating and financial plan for the long-term sustainability of the museum. The deadline for submissions is in early December and CHAP expects to bring on the consultant in early January 2011.
The results of the This Place Matters Community Challenge are in and the Hebrew Orphan Asylum landed in the top 10! With 1563 votes we came in 9th place out of 108 contenders nationwide. Congratulations to the winner–the Historic Paramount Theatre in Austin, TX–and thank you to everyone who voted in support of the building.
Special thanks to the Jewish Museum of Maryland, the Coppin Heights CDC, and Coppin State University for joining us in this effort. We also appreciated the great stories from Tim Tooten at WBAL (video), Jacques Kelly at the Baltimore Sun, the Baltimore Jewish Times, as well as posts on Baltimore Brew and the Baltidome Blog. Friends and neighbors–including the Alliance of Rosemont Community Organizations, the Baltimore National Heritage Area, the Baltimore Red Line, the Evergreen Protective Association, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Temple Oheb Shalom, and Preservation Maryland–generously helped to spread the word across the city.
Although we did not win the $25,000 prize, your support for Baltimore’s Hebrew Orphan Asylum has affirmed our shared commitment to continue the hard work ahead, to preserve the Hebrew Orphan Asylum and restore the building to its historic role as an asset to the community. In the next few weeks, we will follow up with everyone who voted to offer a few suggestions on how you may be able to stay involved with the work to preserve this rare Baltimore landmark.