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.
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.
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.