Miracle in Govans Gallagher Mansion: Vandalized Victorian being rebuilt for senior living.

November 01, 1995

LIFE IS FULL of surprises. Consider the 1855 Gallagher Mansion, a long-vacant and badly vandalized Italianate landmark in Govans. Originally built for a physician, the 17-room structure was owned by the Gallagher family for a century. It was then acquired by a Ford dealership, which wanted to demolish it. But before that happened, the dealership collapsed.

After two decades in limbo, the Gallagher Mansion now has a new lease on life. The Govans Ecumenical Development Corp. is giving the building a $3.4 million face-lift and expansion. When it is completed, six senior citizen apartments will be housed in the old mansion and 34 other units in an adjoining addition.

Govans, just five miles from City Hall, retained its semi-rural character even after an electric streetcar line reached it in the 1890s. By the 1930s, though, newly built rowhouses lined neighborhood streets. Today, the Gallagher Mansion is "one of the few intact 19th-century country houses remaining in Baltimore" and "recalls a time when Govanstown was a thriving suburban village surrounded by country estates," according to the city Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation.

The reconstruction of the Gallagher Mansion was made possible by a $2.5 million federal housing grant and a generous $400,000 challenge grant from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

Although the mansion, located at 431 Notre Dame Lane, is set back somewhat from York Road, its reconstruction is likely to have a salutary effect on that commercial strip. Residents of several neighborhoods located in the vicinity are also certain to welcome the transformation of the mansion from an eyesore to a landmark that combines history with a pragmatic use.

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