|Architect Philip Johnson and Aline Saarinen protesting demolition|
of Pennsylavia Station in New York, the beginning of the modern
US preservation movement
Baltimore has one of the largest collections of historically designated buildings in the country; for all of the city's problems, there is hardly anybody who wouldn't praise its rich architectural heritage. However, this hasn't stopped the powers to be from taking down many important structures. A few examples of currently endangered buildings and already lost ones are listed below:
The State not following its own rules : The Baltimore Jail
The Baltimore jail, dating back to the Civil War era, is a difficult case for anyone who cares about historic preservation. The historic complex is partially still in use and is a manifestation of many of the ills of the American correctional system. Deficiencies in the complex are so rampant that the complex is subject of a lawsuit for violation of human rights in 1971, with various settlements and improvements made since then until Governor Hogan announced a shut-down in 2015. The State took the facility over on request of the City in 1991.
|Baltimore City Jail, cruel conditions, notable architecture|
The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Corrections Services (DPSCS) is proposing demolition at the Baltimore Correctional Complex in Baltimore City in order to construct a new, state-of-the-art, code compliant facility that meets 21st Century Conditions of Confinement for inmates. The project is needed to respond to the ongoing Federal judicial review and 1993 Consent Decree citing the unhealthy environment, inadequate facilities, and privacy issues at the Baltimore City Detention Center.The State maintains that no alternative locations are available. However, no alternative to demolition has been presented to date which would either relocated prison junctions, rehabilitate the existing historic buildings for correctional purposes or would use them with new uses that either co-exist with correctional uses or require relocation of correctional uses. The 106 process requires investigation of those alternatives:
Pursuant to Maryland Historical Trust Act of 1985 Section 5A-325 and 5A-326, commonly referred to as Section 106, DPSCS initiated Section 106 with the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) on January 29, 2018 and submitted Determinations of Eligibilities (DOEs) on the Baltimore City Jail and Maryland Penitentiary on May 18, 2018; both DOEs can be accessed via this link. MHT concurred with the findings and DPSCS held the First Consulting Party Meeting on July 25, 2018 and presented the determinations from the DOE documentation, identified the project scope, outlined a draft Area of Potential Effect (APE), and identified historic resources within the APE.
When a proposed project will have an adverse effect on historic properties, the agency must explore alternatives to avoid, minimize, or mitigate those effects. MHT seeks to prevent adverse effects on historic and archeological properties through consultation. Sometimes adverse effects are unavoidable given project need, environmental or design constraints, emergency situations, or other requirements. (MHT website)Barring immediate and strong actions of community groups in the vicinity of the prison or by preservation activists the unique granite structures of the historic prison complex will be demolished without a proper vetting of alternatives and without a proper public involvement process, both are requirements before historic resources can be eliminated.
The jail sits at a critical seam in the middle of Baltimore. It contributes to the isolation of eats-side neighborhoods; the large complex has long been identified as instrumental for the revitalization of the east side of Baltimore. The swift and largely stealth demolition plans (bids for demolition contracts are already being prepared), are not acceptable, not from a city planning perspective and much less nor from a historic preservation and not from a due process point of view.
City forces demolition: Gomprecht and Benesch Building
|A devastating fire born out of neglect|
|The Gomprecht and Benesch building|
Erected in 1901 in the Renaissance Revival style on the west side of North Eutaw Street about 100 feet south of West Mulberry Street in central Baltimore, Maryland. The five-bay facade has large industrial plate glass vertical pivot windows flanked by Ionic and Corinthian columns. The heavy overhanging cornice has dentils, foliated modillions, and lion heads. The Roman brick side piers have medallions and lion heads below the intermediate cornice. The street level storefront is altered and consists of plate glass windows across the entire front flanked by polished granite panels at the sides. The entrance has been relocated to the north elevation. In 1986, the building was occupied by a printing service. The building was later used by The Tunnel nightclub which closed in 2002.With a rehabilitation of the Lexington Market apparently within grasp, the demolition of one of the stateliest buildings on Eutaw Street would be the worst outcome possible. Clearly, even if the owners feel unable to fully rehabilitate the building, the demolition would cost likely as much as a new roof which would stabilize the cornice and protect the remaining shell from the elements. Once the building is stabilized the City should assist in finding a developer who would be willing to invest in an area with the region's best transit access.
Developer's pie in the sky developments that don't seem to happen:
How easily demolished buildings can turn into far bigger eyesores than the vacant structures were before demolition, can be seen on two properties on Baltimore Street, both owned by David S. Brown Enterprises. The most aggravating eyesore can be found at Baltimore's 100% corner at Baltimore and
|Pie in the sky: 315 West Baltimore Street (BBJ)...|
|.....Nothing but rubble (315 West Baltimore Street|
All of Baltimore's successful conversions and adaptive reuse projects are apparently not enough to convince officials that preservation is a much better path towards economic development, proven from Boston to Detroit. No city demolishes itself to prosperity.
Klaus Philipsen, FAIA
An incomplete list of lost Baltimore historic landmarks can be found here
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