Old station restored, but doors are shut Face lift completed at Camden Station

March 10, 1992|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Staff Writer

Baltimore's historic Camden Station has been artfully restored, but the public won't be able to enter the 1853 landmark just yet.

The $2.2 million face lift, celebrated during a rededication ceremony yesterday, is part of the construction of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which will open with a week of festivities beginning April 2.

But the historic train station will remain locked until its interior can be restored by a private investor. The goal was to stabilize the exterior in the interim to keep the building from deteriorating, and to spruce it up for the ballpark opening, state officials said yesterday.

As state and city officials looked on, a lamplighter dressed in 19th-century garb lighted two vintage gas lamps in front of the building to symbolically light the way to the station and ballpark.

Speaker after speaker marveled at the restoration of the station, including new 30-foot-tall side cupolas and a three-tiered clock tower whose top is 165 feet off the ground. Cho, Wilks and Benn Inc., restoration architects for the station, designed it to replicate the tower that had crowned the center section in the 1860s.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer said restoration of the station and street lamps is a sign of an attention to detail that is making the Camden Yards project so successful.

Camden Yards "will bring hundreds of thousands of people here to see baseball games," the governor said. "It will also bring the historical buffs to say, 'I can't believe they restored Camden Station.' "

"It shows our commitment to move forward but also preserve the best of the past," said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

Orioles President Larry Lucchino said the rededication was a relief to him, and not only because the station will be an attractive "front door" to the ballpark on the adjacent block.

"Now that this building is restored to its former glory," he said, "we feel a great sense of relief that we don't have to name it."

Orioles owner Eli Jacobs and Governor Schaefer had deliberated for months before announcing a name for the ballpark.

The Maryland Stadium Authority and Department of Transportation last year awarded negotiating rights for the station's interior to a development group that wants to build a $600 million medical trade mart to the north and east of the ballpark. That group has until August to decide whether to proceed. Its preliminary plans call for the station to become the main entryway to the complex.

Funds for restoration of the exterior came from the stadium authority.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. restored and donated the gas light fixtures, which are original three-mantled "Victorian Boulevard"-style lamps with 8-foot-tall fluted poles.

Lamps of this style were common in Baltimore from 1867 to 1957, at which time the last gas lamps were removed from city streets. The only other gas lamp from this period now in use downtown is at Baltimore and Holliday streets.

Several years ago, BG&E installed a different type of gas lamp along the waterfront in Fells Point.

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