The Baltimore Urban League earlier this month announced its choice of an architect for the restoration of the Orchard Street Church at 521 Orchard St., near Martin Luther King Boulevard and Druid Hill Avenue, thus taking another step in its plan to move from Mondawmin Mall into new offices in the church next year.
When the move to the new quarters eventually takes place, one of the city's oldest service and advocacy organizations for black people will be housed in a stop on the famous underground railroad of Civil War days, and the oldest black church in Maryland.
Roger Lyons, Baltimore Urban League director, is happy about the coming move, and he's happy about the way things are going.
"When you look at our annual report and see the number of programs we have, it's amazing," he says. "We have AIDS education, teen-age pregnancy programs, employment programs, case management approaches, an information processing training center, a literacy center, a mothers and sons program, and so on."
Other Baltimore Urban League programs include consumer services and a youth service bureau.
In the 20 years he has been with the Urban League, the Baltimore chapter always has had a reputation as an innovator, says Mr. Lyons, a former assistant director at the national Urban League headquarters in Washington.
"The Baltimore Urban League's programs are replicated in Urban League chapters throughout the country," he says.
"But right now we're located in the tunnel in Mondawmin, and most people do not know about our programs. We're now beginning to do a much better job of marketing our agency."
The Baltimore Urban League's plans for the Orchard Street Church include renovation of the building for use as office space for itself and other tenants, and the housing of a cultural arts museum. Funds for the project are to come from the Urban League and the state of Maryland.
Mr. Lyons says that the Urban League has been working very closely with the Seton Hill and Orchard Street Mews community associations on the project, and has received strong support from black churches and black politicians as well.
The National Urban League was founded in 1910 for the purpose of ending racial discrimination and increasing the economic and political power of black people and other minority groups.