Skylights fall at city courthouse

August 09, 1991|By Raymond L. Sanchez | Raymond L. Sanchez,Evening Sun Staff

An assistant prosecutor was slightly injured today when portions of two stained-glass skylights collapsed at the Clarence Mitchell Jr. Courthouse downtown.

Chunks of glass and twisted metal from the 14-foot-high panels, part of two stained-glass domes in the northern and southern ends of the Calvert Street courthouse, crashed down about 9:45 a.m., court officials said.

The panels broke during a heavy rainstorm when a cascade of water spilled from construction tarpaulins suspended two stories above the domes.

Assistant State's Attorney Rhonda Charles, who suffered cuts and bruises in the collapse, was treated at Mercy Medical Center and released, said Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms.

"It sounded like a bomb," said Jim Gover, an employee in the courthouse mailroom.

"It happened so fast. People were screaming. It came down with such force. There was water, glass and twisted metal everywhere."

Administrative Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan said the tarpaulins filled with water during today's downpour.

"The weight was so great that the water poured onto the domes with great force," he said.

Kaplan said he was surveying the damage caused by the collapse of one of the panels when one on the other side collapsed.

"It was like an explosion," he said.

Court officials said dozens of potential jurors had left a courtroom near the stained-glass panels shortly before the collapse.

Kaplan said the stained-glass panels were restored in 1986 in New York at a cost to the city of Baltimore of $1.2 million.

He estimated the damage from today's collapse at "well over $100,000."

The panels were designed around 1899 by New York glassmakers and are considered among the finest examples of art glass work in Baltimore.

They sit atop a white marble court on the second floor of the courthouse.

Each panel depicts female figures representing the virtues of Courage, Justice, Literature, Logic, Mercy, Peace, Religion and Truth.

The panels representing Truth and Logic collapsed today.

"It really breaks me up," said Kaplan. "It will take artisans months to re-do them."

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