Deborah Goodman, 64, leading preservationist

June 10, 1994|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Sun Staff Writer

Deborah "Debby" Goodman, an interior designer who championed the preservation of Baltimore's architectural heritage, died Tuesday of cancer at her Mount Vernon residence. She was 64.

She operated Deborah Goodman Interiors in the 1100 block of St. Paul St. for 35 years.

She was a two-term chairwoman of the Baltimore Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation. She was appointed her first four-year term in 1983 by then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke reappointed her.

"She was a wonderful person who dearly loved the city and volunteered to serve on various boards and commissions to help improve the quality of life for the city," Mr. Schmoke said. "She will be especially missed by the art and architectural community of the city. I send my prayers and condolences to her family."

Kathleen Kotarba, executive director of the commission, said Mrs. Goodman, "was deeply committed to Baltimore and the future of the city, and she had considerable knowledge about the city and its many neighborhoods.

"She worked very hard to add buildings to the city's landmark list, and she was tremendously supportive of that program, and was an active member of the commission who could be counted upon for her enthusiasm and energy," Ms. Kotarba said.

"Debby Goodman was a gracious, upbeat, caring presence on the commission," recalled Edward Gunts, architectural critic for The Sun who covered the commission during her tenure.

"She always found something positive to say about even the worst of designs, not because she was willing to approve them but because it was her way of establishing a rapport with applicants for building permits. She was a gifted conciliator, someone who could gently coax a developer to improve the design of a project."

Mrs. Goodman said in a 1992 interview in The Sun that the biggest obstacle to preservation in Baltimore was "keeping people from moving out of the city. I lie awake at night worrying about that. We've got to keep people interested in the city because we have a lot of vacant houses, and if nobody buys them and moves into them, we end up with demolition by neglect."

Her biggest success came when the commission was reviewing the Walters Art Gallery's conversion of the 1851 Hackerman House at 1 W. Mount Vernon Place to a new gallery for Asian Art. The commission insisted that the Walters find a better way to link the well-known mansion with the museum's 1904 building than the two-story-tall bridge it had proposed.

"We got the museum's architects to change their original plan for linking the house with the gallery. It cost them a great deal more money to do, but they raised the money and did it the right way," she said in the interview.

If Hackerman House was her outstanding legacy then the nadir was the commission's approval of the demolition of three historic buildings in the 900 block of N. Charles Street to make way for an office building that never was built. Their destruction left a gaping hole in the middle of the Mount Vernon-Belvedere Historic District.

"That was unfortunate, really unfortunate, more than I can describe. . . . It was a very sad day, because Charles Street is the bloodline, the main street of our city," she said.

The former Deborah Waxman was reared on Eutaw Place. She graduated from Forest Park High School in 1947 and earned her bachelor's degree from Goucher College in 1951.

She married Sol Goodman, a retired auto leasing executive, in 1949.

Mrs. Goodman served for many years on the Artscape and Opera Ball committees. She was a subscriber and patron of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Morris Mechanic Theatre, and was a member of the National Trust for Historical Preservation.

Besides her husband, she is survived by a son, John Goodman of New York City; two daughters, Jane Zweig of Columbia and Marjorie Goodman of Baltimore; and two grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to a favorite charity.

Services were held yesterday at Sol Levinson and Bros.

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