Museum aims to acquire Shot Tower


February 24, 1994|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Sun Staff Writer

The Baltimore City Life Museums, a private, nonprofit group that operates five attractions on the east side of the Inner Harbor, is negotiating with the Schmoke administration to take over operation of the historic Shot Tower by July 1.

Built at Fallsway and Fayette Street in 1828 to manufacture musket balls and other kinds of "shot," and now one of the last remaining structures of its kind in the world, the 234-foot-tall Shot Tower has been operated as a tourist attraction since the mid-1970s by Baltimore's Department of Recreation and Parks.

But because of budget constraints, the parks department is not able to keep the Shot Tower open as many days a week as it has in the past. Nancy Brennan, executive director of the City Life Museums, said she and her staff wanted to see the attraction continue operating and began exploring ways to make sure that happens.

"It's one of the city's most visible historic sites, and there are only a handful of shot towers left in the older states," she said. "It's quite an incredible piece of historic preservation and a strong symbol of the neighborhood. It needs to be maintained as an attraction that people can count on being able to see."

In shot towers, molten lead was poured in drops from the top; it solidified into shot when it fell into cold water at the bottom. The need for shot eventually decreased, and Baltimore's Shot Tower closed in 1892. In 1976, then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer reopened it as a downtown attraction.

Ms. Brennan said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has given tentative approval to a plan to allow the City Life Museums to lease the Shot Tower and manage it for the city. She said the museum's executive board will consider the arrangement at a meeting next month.

"The Shot Tower Metro station will open in the spring of 1995, and that will bring even more people to this area," she said. "We want to make sure the Shot Tower is operating on a reliable basis and upgrade its exhibits well before then."

Baltimore Styles

The many architectural styles of Baltimore buildings, from the Colonial Era to the present, will be the subject of a slide lecture by John McGrain, secretary of the Baltimore County Landmarks Preservation Commission. Sponsored by Historic Towson Inc., the talk will begin at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Towson Branch of the Baltimore County Public Library, 320 York Road.

Admission is free to Historic Towson members, and $5 for others.

Spice museum

Morgan State University architecture student Samppath Kumar R won the top prize in a five-week competition to design a spice museum for Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

The Masonry Institute of Maryland sponsored the competition as a way of encouraging local architecture students to become familiar with masonry construction techniques. Other winners were Keith Huot, second place; Prashad Anaokar, third place; and Marta Noe and Stanley Oneydum, honorable mentions.

The students were asked to design a possible McCormick & Co. museum for the west shore of the Inner Harbor, near the site of the manufacturer's former spice factory.

Institute president Bud Adams said McCormick has no firm plans to build a museum but that he suggested the design competition as a way to get officials of the Hunt Valley company to explore the idea.

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