Restyled Loyola mansion takes past into future as Humanities Center

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

For decades, the most prominent building on the campus of Loyola College in Maryland was also the most private.

A sprawling Tudoresque mansion, built in 1896 for ill-fated honeymooners Horatio and Charlotte Garrett, made an ideal anchor for the college's academic quadrangle. But because it was a residence for Jesuit priests between 1924 and 1992, much of it was off-limits to the community at large.

This year, the Loyola landmark has a new function that better suits its grandeur and central location. After a $6 million conversion and expansion, it has become the college's Humanities Center, home of 16 departments previously scattered across the campus at Charles Street and Cold Spring Lane.

Designed by Frank Gant Architects, the project has transformed a little-known gem of Baltimore architecture into the focal point of a campus that very much needed one. It also provides a good example of Mr. Gant's prodigious talent for resuscitating older buildings and adapting them for new uses.

"I think the Garretts would be happy to know this is now a public building," he said after a recent tour. "It's finally found a home."

The building that houses Loyola's Humanities Center was constructed as a honeymoon "cottage" for Horatio Whitridge Garrett and his bride, Charlotte.

A grandson of B&O Railroad magnate John Work Garrett, Horatio was raised at Evergreen, the Victorian estate at 4545 N. Charles St. Just before the marriage, Horatio's widowed mother commissioned the New York firm of Renwick, Aspinwall and Renwick to design a residence for the newlyweds on a knoll just south of Evergreen. Dubbed Evergreen Junior, it was built at a cost of $85,000, with Eastern granite used to enclose the first story, Georgian pine for the second, cedar shingles for the roof, and Pompeian brick for the tall chimneys.

The designers spared no expense inside, creating large reception rooms featuring Jacobean paneling, and massive doors ornamented with stained glass and wrought iron. Bathtubs were nearly as large as swimming pools, and the attic contained a billiard room.

But less than a year after his marriage, at the age of 23, Horatio Garrett developed a rare form of leg cancer. He died in October of 1896, before the honeymoon cottage was ready to occupy. The Garretts left it empty for years, then lent it for use as an infirmary for servicemen blinded in World War I.

In 1921 the Garretts sold the house and 20 surrounding acres to the Jesuits who ran Loyola so they could build a new campus to replace their cramped quarters on Calvert Street. From 1921 to 1924, the house was used as teaching space. As soon as other academic buildings were constructed nearby, it became a residence for the priests.

At one point, 130 priests lived in the building, known as Jesuit House. But by the early 1990s the number had dropped below 30 -- too few to use it efficiently. "We were rattling around in there," recalled Father Thomas Fitzgerald. "It was better for the college to use the building than for us to squander the space."

College administrators, meanwhile, wanted to consolidate academic and administrative offices on the quadrangle, while providing more space for classrooms and conference areas. In particular, they wanted new faculty offices for the College of Arts and Sciences.

To accomplish their objectives, the administrators hit upon the idea of a swap. They would convert a smaller building on the edge of campus, Millbrook House, to a residence for the priests. That would free up Jesuit House to become the Humanities Center.

True to the spirit

Mr. Gant's first task at Loyola was to redesign Millbrook House. It opened in 1992 and is now called Ignatius House.

Jesuit House was more of a challenge because the college wanted to move so many departments there, among them admissions, development, alumni relations, publications, financial aid and graduate services. The college also planned to put the history, theology, philosophy and English departments there.

Mr. Gant's solution was to restore the 40,000-square-foot main building and then add another 30,000 square feet of space to the east, a side not visible from the main quadrangle.

The mansion had already been expanded twice, in 1939 and 1958, but this was to be the largest and most expensive addition of all. The architect's goal was to stay true to the spirit of the original building without copying it.

"We wanted to be respectful of and in context with what's here," he said. "But we also tried to make it clear this was a new building."

The architect's sensitivity is evident from the front door on in. The main change to the front facade was the introduction of a porch-like lobby that connects part of the 1896 building with the 1958 addition. The result is so seamless it's practically (x impossible to tell where the original stops and the addition begins.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.