Fells Point sites spared from demolition

January 14, 1998|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Two of Fells Point's most historic buildings, monuments to Baltimore's maritime past, have been saved from demolition, neighborhood leaders and area preservationists announced yesterday.

Constellation Real Estate Group, the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. subsidiary that owns the London Coffee House and George Wells House, has agreed to sell the 18th-century buildings to the Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fells Point. The society will pay $100,000 for the properties.

"Our goal is to preserve these buildings and find a modern-day use for them," said Romaine Somerville, the society's executive director. "We have no intention of turning them into museums."

In the next two weeks, the society will send out a request for proposals, specifying that entries must preserve the historic integrity of the properties, Somerville said. Preference will be given to proposals submitted by local developers, she added.

The coffeehouse, at the northwest corner of Thames and Bond (( streets, was built in the 1770s and served as a meeting place during the Revolutionary War. It was in operation until 1816.

George Wells House, next to the coffeehouse, is one of the nation's oldest Colonial inns. Built in 1779 by George Wells, one of the state's foremost shipbuilders during the Revolution, it was in operation until about 1810.

Both buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They were condemned by city housing officials in August, sparking protest by Fells Point residents who feared the structures would be demolished.

For months, community leaders worked with Constellation officials to formulate the deal that was announced yesterday.

"We're very pleased with the agreement," said Constellation Assistant Vice President Kent Johnson. "We feel that Fells Point has positioned itself well for the next phase of its evolution by protecting its historical past, yet embracing its future."

Johnson said that Constellation would focus on the redevelopment of its waterfront properties. Those plans, he said, would involve demolition of Miller Wharf Warehouse, a historic building that community leaders had hoped to save.

"I can't say exactly when the Miller building will be taken down, but I expect it will happen in the near future," Johnson said.

Miller's Wharf is a four-story brick building that dates to the 1800s and overlooks the water. It is prized for its distinctive zigzag shape and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Pub Date: 1/14/98

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