Salvation Army returns to its South Baltimore roots

January 12, 1998|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

In 1880, the Salvation Army opened its Baltimore ministry at Cross and Light streets in South Baltimore, where the Cross Street Market now stands.

Today, the religious and social services agency will come nearly full circle when it dedicates its new divisional headquarters at 814 Light St., two blocks from where its local ministry began.

"We've gone back to our roots," said Maj. Frank Gordon, head of TC the Salvation Army's Baltimore-area command, which includes the city and five surrounding counties. "It reminds you of what you're all about. Our interest is to continue to expand the programs that were begun here in 1880."

Working closely with Baltimore Development Corp., the organization purchased the 36,000-square-foot building last year for $1.2 mil- lion and spent $500,000 renovating it.

The building will house 55 employees consolidated from two city locations and serve as the agency's administrative headquarters for Maryland and West Virginia.

The Salvation Army "provides invaluable service to the poor and underprivileged of our community," Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said. "I am pleased that the Salvation Army will have a presence in the city for many years to come."

Keeping the Salvation Army's regional headquarters in the city was "extremely important to us," said M. J. "Jay" Brodie, president of Baltimore Development Corp. "With cutbacks and the elimination of many government social service programs the Salvation Army is a vital resource for many in the Baltimore community."

Part of the international organization founded in London in 1865, the local Salvation Army is dedicated to serving the needs of the underprivileged through a variety of programs and services.

The Baltimore command oversees six recreation and worship centers, three boys and girls clubs, an overnight camping program, two day care centers, a residence for women and children, a meals program and seven social service sites. From its new facility, the Salvation Army will provide assistance for rent, utilities, food, clothing and other services.

Gordon said the Army helps about 200,000 people a year.

The building is the former site of Hobelman Motors, where Volkswagens were sold from the 1950s to the 1970s. Part of it was constructed at the turn of the century and initially was used as a movie house, the Federal Hill Theater.

SMDA Architects, headed by South Baltimore resident Walter Schamu, redesigned the space for the Salvation Army. Ilex Construction & Development Inc. was the general contractor.

Gordon said various sites were considered, in and out of the city, before the Army settled on the Light Street location.

"It's a beautiful part of the city, and an economical move for us," he said. "We're excited about being here."

Pub Date: 1/12/98

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