Friday, May 22, 2015

How this historic Elementary School Can be Saved from Demolition

Save for the Salem Lutheran Church the old Elementary School is the most substantial historic building on Frederick Road in Catonsville, this Baltimore County town's main street. Still, the County administration has slated it for demolition. The old Elementary School is part of a three way deal in which the ES moves to the old Bloomsbury School around the corner and the community center facilities currently accommodated there would be rebuilt in a smaller new structure on the rubble of the old school. The Elementary School is scheduled to be turned over from the School system to the County in the summer of 2016.
Historic Catonsville Elementary School on Frederick Road
(Photo: ArchPlan Inc.)

The savior of the historic building may be the Baltimore County Arts Guild, a group that convened in recent years with the goal of creating a regional arts center. A similar attempt tried by another group some years ago in Pikesville failed.
But this non-profit appears to have taken a more successful approach. The group just obtained an interim facility on Maiden Choice Lane near Wilkens Avenue, which has yet to be made operational.

The Arts Guild has impressive objectives:

  • create a State recognized  Catonsville arts and entertainment district based on music which in the form of music stores and venues has been a Catonsville theme for decades
  • create an arts center that provides incubator spaces for artists 
  • a sculpture garden, gallery spaces, a gift shop and a children center 
  • brings art classes and performances to the elderly in a partnership with nearby Charlestown
  • collaborates with the art department of UMBC and ties the university closer to Catonsville
The concept of the envisioned center is tailored after Alexandria's Torpedo Factory and the Annapolis Maryland Hall.
The Guild lists these organizations as their

In a crucial meeting with County Executive Kamenetz in February of this year the group received an important concession. The Exec offered a one year stay on the demolition during which time the group can demonstrate that it is able to find sufficient support to fund the proposed center. 

A robust art center on Catonsville's "main street" can add significant value to existing businesses and the community at large as many art centers arts and entertainment districts have shown all across the country. A very convincing case can be found in Highlandtown with the renovated former movie house "The Patterson", now the home of the Creative Alliance. This venue played a significant role in turning around Eastern Avenue, Highlandtown's own "main street".   

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

I have contributed programmatic floor plans and graphic design support for a slide show that promotes the arts center of the group.

1 comment:

  1. Just read this article which was published before I became involved. Thanks so much for all you have written about efforts to save the school and change the mindset of the county. Has anyone at the county been reading your posts? Would you be willing to speak at the Nov 22 meeting? I'm preparing a list of speakers, as well as a short illustrated presentation.