Addition to City Life Museums to be named for benefactor Blaustein


January 27, 1994|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Staff Writer

The Urban Landscape column Jan. 27 about the Baltimore City Life Museums contained incorrect information about the late Morton K. Blaustein, former president of the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation. Mr. Blaustein, who died in 1990, was the brother-in-law of David Hirschhorn, the foundation's current president.

The Sun regrets the errors.

A leader in the effort to create a full-fledged "Museum Row" on the east side of downtown Baltimore will be commemorated in a $5.8 million exhibition center to be built starting this spring.

Morton K. Blaustein, a Baltimore businessman and philanthropist who died in 1991, served for many years on the board of The Municipal Museum of the City of Baltimore, now known as the Baltimore City Life Museums.


To honor his years of service and financial support of the urban history museum, its board voted to name an addition that is about to rise near Lombard and President streets the Morton K. Blaustein City Life Exhibition Center.

The four-story exhibition center will be the largest investment to date in Museum Row, which is located between the Inner Harbor and East Baltimore.

Designed by Peterson and Brickbauer Architects of Baltimore, the center will contain exhibits about Baltimore's history along with space for classrooms, meetings and events. Its signature feature will be the restored 1869 cast-iron facade of the Fava Fruit Co. building that once stood on the site of the Baltimore Convention Center.

The re-erection of the cast-iron front will be one of the first instances in which a dismantled facade has been reconstructed for a contemporary use, museum officials say.

As part of the reconstruction, sections of the facade will be folded like an accordion to fit onto a site just north of the Carroll Mansion, which stands at 800 E. Lombard St.

Construction is scheduled to begin in May and be finished by September 1995, with Struever Brothers, Eccles & Rouse the construction manager.

City Life Museums Executive Director Nancy Brennan said the project includes construction of a 40-seat visitor orientation theater and a collections storage facility, also designed by Peterson and Brickbauer.

Ms. Brennan said Mr. Blaustein was instrumental in the decision to create a collection of museums along the Lower Jones Falls and to develop new methods of urban history education.

She said he was not so much a "bricks-and-mortar person" as he was a "service person" -- a strong advocate of using the museum's resources to educate young people.

In the past decade, the collection of museums has grown to include Brewer's Park at 801 E. Lombard St., the Center for Urban Archaeology at 802 E. Lombard St., the Courtyard Exhibition Center at 44-48 Albemarle St. and the 1840 House at 50 Albemarle St.

Mr. Blaustein "was very involved in the creation of this whole place," Ms. Brennan said.

"When we expanded, he became very involved in the question of whether a museum could make an impact on the physical and social renewal of a poor neighborhood like Jonestown. He was very interested in the educational innovations we were making in our programming."

Museum board members voted this month to break ground this spring because they have raised all but $200,000 of the $5.8 million construction budget. The board is optimistic it will be able to raise the rest before the building opens.

The largest donation -- $1 million -- came from the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation, which Morton Blaustein headed for many years and which is named for his parents. It is now headed by David Hirschhorn, a cousin of Morton Blaustein's.

Top honor

Oriole Park at Camden Yards and its lead designers have been selected to receive one of the highest awards of American architecture. Hellmuth Obata & Kassabaum's Sports Facilities Group will receive an Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects on Feb. 1 during a ceremony in Washington.

Town meeting

A town meeting on the future of downtown Baltimore, canceled last week because of cold weather, has been rescheduled for 7:30 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Lord Baltimore Radisson Hotel. Topics include the fate of Charles Center, Howard Street, War Memorial Plaza and the notorious "Block" in the 400 block of E. Baltimore St.

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