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!
Baltimore’s Hebrew Orphan Asylum Past & Future
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.
Are you a member of the Friends of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum? Sign up for our e-mail list or donate $20 to Baltimore Heritage and support our efforts to save Baltimore’s Hebrew Orphan Asylum today!
On October 28, the National Park Service officially added the Asylum to the National Register of Historic Places and is featuring the building as the “Weekly Highlight” on the National Register homepage. We were pleased to work with Coppin State University, the building’s owner, to draft and submit the nomination and want to thank all of you who have supported our work.
To stay informed about the Hebrew Orphan Asylum and its future, please become a fan on our new Friends of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum page on Facebook. We would also like to ask you to help us continue our work on the Asylum and in revitalizing historic West Baltimore by supporting Baltimore Heritage. Please consider donating $20 towards our work. It’s tax deductible and we’ll be glad to add you to our email list to find out about our monthly Behind the Scenes tours, spring neighborhood walking tours, and other programs across the city.
Thank you so much for all of your interest and help in preserving this irreplaceable Baltimore landmark. We look forward to sharing more good news in the weeks and months ahead.
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.
Over the last week, we have partnered with the Jewish Museum of Maryland, the Coppin Heights CDC, Coppin State University, with additional support from Preservation Maryland, the Association of Rosemont Community Organizations, and Temple Oheb Shalom to share the story of Baltimore’s Hebrew Orphan Asylum and get out the vote for the “This Place Matters Community Challenge.” A small group of the over 800 people who have voted to support the Hebrew Orphan Asylum gathered this morning to declare that this place matters. As the oldest Jewish orphanage in the United States and a tremendous potential asset to the communities of West Baltimore, the Hebrew Orphan Asylum is an important building for many people throughout the region. In order to win, however, we have to get the word out, tell the story of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum, and let people know this place matters. Please vote to help us win $25,000 for the preservation of this rare Baltimore building then share the story with all of your friends and neighbors. Thank you for your generous support!