Dumbarton House will be home to Actors' Theatre Conservatory

December 04, 1991|By Winifred Walsh | Winifred Walsh,Evening Sun Staff

The 30-room historic Dumbarton House, which survived the rigors of the Civil War and housed several fine old Maryland families, is the new site of the Baltimore Actors' Theatre Conservatory.

Located for the past two and a half years at the former Lutherville Elementary School, the conservatory was forced to move when the Baltimore County Department of Education decided to reactivate the building as an educational facility.

Baltimore County has awarded BAT, which also operates the non-profit Oregon Ridge Dinner Theatre and the Wixie Children's Theatre, a $1-a-year 90-year lease for the Dumbarton venue, 300 Dumbarton Road in Towson.

"But we have to pay for all the renovations and the maintenance," said Eugene Anderson, headmaster of the BAT Conservatory and musical director for the Oregon Ridge Dinner Theater, where the students' two annual school productions are presented.

"We estimate we will spend over $300,000 before everything is finished," he said.

Renovations began in July of this year and the first phase should be completed by Dec. 13, according to Anderson. "We will officially open on Jan. 6," he said. "There will be 12 classrooms plus offices, a reception room, library and a dining room."

The building also will house the Yale Gordon Music Centre, a new music room equipped with state-of-the-art technology donated by the Yale Gordon Foundation.

Built in 1820 with a facade of bricks imported from England, the interior of Dumbarton House was designed in the Greek Revival style that was so popular at that time. The mansion remained a private residence until 1955 when the Baltimore County Board of Education bought it and the surrounding 20 acres.

"The original 190-acre estate was once all of Rodgers Forge," said Anderson. "Dumbarton High School was eventually built on the premises.

"Architect John Requardt, who donated his services to the school's performing space at Oregon Ridge, is working at cost for the Dumbarton project," he added. "We are currently raising money from foundations and private sectors to help defray the renovation expenses."

The conservatory is the only accredited college preparatory school for the arts in the country that accommodates grades one through 12.

It is an offshoot of the Baltimore Actors' Theatre, which was established as an adult performing theater by the school's artistic director, Helen Grigal, in 1959. The conservatory was formed under Grigal's supervision in 1979.

The school combines a full academic program with a full fine arts curriculum. "We have 15 teachers on our staff," said Anderson, who has been with the school since its inception. "Art courses include all significant areas of dance, theater and music."

For further information about the Baltimore Actors' Theatre Conservatory and its arts curriculum, call the school at 252-3999.

Dumbarton House in Towson was built of imported bricks in 1820.

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