Friday, June 2, 2017

Whitehall Mill - industrial past and climate change

It may be fitting that the Neighborhood Design Center conducted its annual meeting in a historic textile mill on the same day when the US declared steel, coal and automobiles as future industries ("Pittsburgh instead of Paris"). He may just as well have added cotton.
Whitehall Mill (Photo: Philipsen)

The Whitehall Mill just as Mill No 1 is developed by David Tufaro who has recycled old industrial Baltimore for years, initially together with Samuel Himmelrich and later alone. The mill was long overlooked as just another hulking brick structure and was one of the last mill structures not yet refurbished. It is now part of a the full complement of historic mills along Clipper Mill Road that Dan Rodricks once called the "other waterfront".  The oldest conversion is the Mill Center, an artist hub which Cho Wilks and Benn Architects converted in the early 80s, a reminder how long Baltimore has been an example of adaptive re-use of industrial buildings. Tufaro recently completed Mill No 1 (mostly apartments) and Seawall did Union Mill (teacher housing and cafe Artifact) to the north.

Whitehall is a 100,000 sqft development with office space (the offices of Mahan Rykiel recently moved in from their previous home at Steiff Silver, another industrial adaptive re-use building in the Jones Falls Valley), 28 apartments, a large space for a Whitehall Mill market that is envisioned to feature fresh foods and produce and a future restaurant.
Whitehall Mill is the historic renovation of the old Clipper Mill constructed from 1865 to 1875. Before the construction of Clipper Mill, an old flour mill named Whitehall Flour Mill resided on the location until it was acquired by Horatio Gambril and David Carroll. They transformed the flour mill into a textile manufacturer as a continuing trend along the Patapsco and Jones Falls. Other mills surrounding the Jones Falls were slowly acquired and eventually created the Mt. Vernon-Woodberry Cotton Duck Company, which held a relatively large portion of the cotton manufacturing done within the United States. (Website)
As Mill One, the place is nestled into the valley with lots of green around it and accessed by the scenic Falls Road winding its way through the valley. One can see the Jones Falls in a section where it isn't covered by the expressway that rumbles in the background beyond the light rail trains zipping by every so often.

The Mills sit in the floodplain of the Jones Falls and can only be developed when the City accepts development inside the  100 year FEMA flood-levels and the climate change related additional 2' "freeboard" mandated in Maryland which amount to a whopping 14' above the floor level of the space designated for the market. Tufaro negotiated the flood protection levels down to 7 feet and somehow the insurance and FEMA went along. The uses are protected by bricked up former windows and by flood gates similar to the ones the developer team used at the Whole Foods Market located along the Jones Falls in Mount Washington.

Tufaro clearly set on a future scenario where humankind will get a handle on torrential downpours which are expected to increase thanks of climate change. On the night of the presidential attack on history's largest and most comprehensive agreement ever, one cannot be so sure about that.

Below a picture gallery of the Whitehall Mill

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Reporting on this site will be less regular during the next 10 days due to travel

When Whitehall was a textile mill 

The westside of the Mill building after the renovation (Photo: Philipsen)

The Mahan Rykiel office: Open plan and lots of light  (Photo: Philipsen)

Office retreat corners for quiet thoughts (Photo: Philipsen)

The Mahan Rykiel office: Open plan and lots of light  (Photo: Philipsen)

The space set aside for the Whitehall Market (Photo Philipsen)

Cast iron columns and sprinkler retrofit

the charm of old factory buildings: Worship centers for making?  (Photo: Philipsen)

Protected from flood, closed lower level: Open plan and lots of light  above (Photo: Philipsen)
The book, Baltimore: Reinventing an Industrial Legacy City is my take on the post industrial American city and Baltimore after the unrest. 
The book is now for sale and can currently be ordered online directly from the publisher with free shipping. 

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