Reborn Druid Hill bathhouse honored


May 19, 1994|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Sun Staff Writer

For decades, the white marble building in Druid Hill Park was off limits to black people.

From the mid-1920s to the mid-1950s, it served as a bathhouse for Druid Hill Pool No. 1, also known as the "white pool," and open only to white bathers before Baltimore's swimming pools were legally integrated on June 23, 1956.

Druid Hill Pool No. 2, not nearly as large or attractive, was set aside for African-Americans.

Today, the Druid Hill bathhouse has been reborn to serve everyone in the city.

After a $2.6 million conversion, it has become the headquarters of Baltimore's Department of Recreation and Parks.

It recently was named the Dr. Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones Jr. Building, in honor of the first African-American director of the city's parks department. He died in 1990, before the work was complete.

"Dr. Jones was instrumental" in planning the conversion, said Gennady Schwartz, chief of capital development for the parks system. "He didn't want to be downtown. He wanted to have the headquarters in the heart of the parks system."

The converted bathhouse is one of seven restoration projects recognized in the 1994 Preservation Awards program sponsored Baltimore Heritage Inc., a nonprofit preservation advocacy group.

At the awards ceremony, to be held Monday, Baltimore Heritage will honor a second Druid Hill Park project, the $390,000 restoration of eight open-air pavilions erected from the 1870s to the 1930s. Among the nation's oldest remaining park structures, they were in various stages of deterioration before the restoration work began.

Both projects symbolize a strong commitment to architectural preservation on the part of the parks department, now headed by Marlyn J. Perritt. The agency manages more than 6,000 acres of parkland in Baltimore, including half-a-dozen large parks with architecturally significant pavilions and pagodas.

Established in 1860 and encompassing 750 acres, Druid Hill is the nation's third-oldest large urban park, after Central Park in New York and Fairmount Park in Philadelphia.

The bathhouse turned out to be an ideal site for the parks headquarters, Mr. Schwartz said. Former parks officials Chris Delaporte and Morgan Amaimo suggested it.

"Druid Hill is one of the major parks in our system, and one of the most heavily used," Mr. Schwartz said. "It made a lot of sense to restore this building because it was near so much activity, and we don't have many buildings of this size."

Anshen + Allen was the architect and landscape architect for both Druid Hill projects. The Mark Engineering Co. was the contractor for the bathhouse conversion. Allied Contractors restored the pavilions.

Carol Macht, principal in charge of landscape architecture for Anshen + Allen, said the work makes an important statement about the agency's willingness to support preservation. "It's our park heritage." Mr. Schwartz said he'd like to recycle more park buildings, such as the former zookeeper's house on the fringe of Druid Hill Park.

"We have all these historic buildings that were constructed in the century, and we'd like to utilize them rather than build new ones," he said. But "we really try to find tenants first, because if no one is in there, they fall into disrepair."

Musical fund-raiser

Harpsichordist Frederick Hammond will perform classical works in the atrium of Peterson and Brickbauer's all-glass F&G Life Insurance Co. building, 6225 Smith Ave., on Sunday at 3 p.m. Part of a series called "Great Music in Great Spaces," the concert is a fund-raiser for the Baltimore Architectural Foundation. Call 625-2585 for information.


Besides the Druid Hill Park restoration projects, the winners of nTC Baltimore Heritage's 1994 Preservation Awards are:

* Barrister Court Apartments, 1300 Washington Blvd. Architect: Cho, Wilks & Benn. Contractor: James Miller. Developer: Savannah Development Co. and the Housing Department of Baltimore.

* Furness House, a restored office building at 19-21 South St. Owner: The Cordish Co. Tenant: Brown Advisory and Trust Co. Architects: Studio Wanda and Design Collective. Contractors: Hencken & Gaines and Constantine Commercial Construction Inc.

* Kennedy Krieger Institute, 100 S. Ann St. Owner: Kennedy Krieger Institute. Architect: Anshen + Allen. Contractor: Lawrence Construction Co.

* Peabody Elderhostel, 601-607 Washington Place. Owner: Peabody Institute. Architect: Murphy & Dittenhafer Inc. Contractor: Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse.

* 2206 E. Pratt St., Interior rehabilitation of a Butchers' Hill rowhouse. Owner, designer, craftsman: Russ Kahn.

Block-by-Block Award (for on-going restoration efforts): Berea Temple, 1901 Madison Ave. Owner: Alleghany East Conference Association, Seventh Day Adventist Church. Architect: Kann and Associates Inc. Contractor: Quality Works.

Preservation Honor Award: WJZ-TV reporter George Baumann, for his "Maryland by George" reports.

Douglas H. Gordon Award for Preservation Advocacy: Catharine Black, W. Boulton Kelly and Phoebe Stanton, three of the original members of Baltimore's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, formed 30 years ago this month.

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