Buoyed by a $600,000 gift from the Marion I. and Henry J. Knott Foundation, the Institute of Notre Dame in East Baltimore will break ground next month for a new gymnasium, its first major addition in 66 years.
The 145-year-old Catholic high school for girls will hold a ceremony at 9 a.m. May 8 to mark the start of work on the gymnasium, which will rise in the courtyard just behind the main school building at 901 Aisquith St.
Designed by Frank Gant Architects, the new building will be a significant addition to the institution when complete in late fall, administrators say.
"Having two gyms, one of which is regulation size, will enable us to maximize student participation in physical education courses, which are required of freshmen and sophomores," said Linda King, athletic director. "It will also enable us to teach the sports according to the standard rules, instead of rules modified to fit the old gym's dimensions."
Interscholastic sports could not be played in the school's 1926 gymnasium because of its low ceiling height.
The institute was founded in 1847 by Mother Theresa Gerhardinger and the School Sisters of Notre Dame. The Aisquith Street complex was their first school in America and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Portions of the building that house the school date from the early 1850s, while the newest section that includes the existing gymnasium was completed in 1926.
The new gymnasium, to be constructed by Seim Contracting, will have a traditional brick exterior that echoes many of the architectural elements found in the Institute of Notre Dame.
But inside will be a state-of-the-art athletic facility with a full basketball court and volleyball court and retractable seating for 325.
It will be named the Knott Daughters Arena in honor of the Knott's four daughters -- Patricia Knott Smyth, Marion Knott McIntyre, Alice Knott Voelkel and Margaret Knott Riehl -- all alumnae of the institute.
The institute has 373 students in grades nine to 12.
"I am honored that the Knott Foundation has such a strong commitment to the Institute of Notre Dame, as evidenced by this very generous gift," said Principal Carol Goldbeck.
"We view this as a real vote of confidence in our mission and our decision to remain in the heart of Baltimore," said Sally Ruppert, director of institutional advancement.