Making waves at Fells Point History: Preservationists plan a block party to launch construction of a Maryland Maritime Center. The aim is to lure daytime visitors to the historic waterfront area.

Urban Landscape

June 04, 1998|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

HOPING TO MAKE Fells Point more of a daytime attraction, preservationists are about to begin construction of the first phase of a $2.2 million Maryland Maritime Center that will provide a gateway to the waterfront historic district.

The Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fell's Point has planned a block party for 5 p.m. June 14 to mark the groundbreaking for the $350,000 visitor center at 808 S. Ann St., next to the Robert Long House museum and garden.

The visitor center has been designed by Swanston & Associates to serve as an orientation gallery and briefing area expected to attract thousands of people.

It will feature exhibits and a video presentation and have a receiving area for bus groups, community meeting rooms and services to guide visitors to attractions in the Fells Point area.

In addition to the visitor center and the Robert Long House and Garden at 812 S. Ann St., the Maryland Maritime Center will consist of:

A restored merchant's house at 1732 Thames St. that was donated to the Preservation Society by longtime member Lucretia Fisher. Part of the four-story building, which dates from about 1790, will be furnished as a period house and be open for tours. There also will be a museum shop and bookstore, and an upper-level board room for the society's meetings.

Architects Michael Trostel and Peter Pearre have been commissioned to complete an historic structure report on the house.

A maritime museum at 1724-1726 Thames St. that would feature artifacts from the Maryland Historical Society's Radcliffe Maritime Museum. The General Assembly allocated $500,000 this year to help pay for the project, designed by Ziger/Snead & Charles Brickbauer Architects.

Romaine Somerville, director of the preservation society, said Fells Point is well-known as a nightspot for young people, but her group wants to make sure there are plenty of activities for families and other groups visiting in the daytime.

She said many people get off the water taxi in Fells Point, walk around a little and get back on the taxi without stepping inside any of the buildings that are left from Fells Point's early days as a working waterfront.

The visitor center and other maritime projects, she said, will be a starting point from which visitors can go further into the community and learn about it. "It will give us a very strong and significant daytime presence," she said.

The visitor center will be constructed in and around the partial shell of a house that dates from 1775 and had its second story removed in the 1930s. Struever Bros. Eccles and Rouse is the general contractor, and completion is slated for the end of the year. The preservation society expects at least 20,000 visitors a year.

Somerville said she expects preliminary work to begin this year on other components of the Maryland Maritime Center. She said the society has raised $1.75 million of the $2.2 million needed to complete all phases of the project, mostly through donations from foundations and present and past board members. The society has launched a membership drive to help raise the rest.

Society completes purchase of two historic buildings

As part of its efforts to save and showcase historic buildings in Fells Point, the preservation society also has completed its acquisition of the London Coffee House and George Wells House, both dating from the 1770s at Bond and Thames streets.

Somerville said the organization acquired the properties yesterday for $100,000 from Constellation Real Estate Group, the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. subsidiary that has controlled them for more than a decade.

The preservation group stepped forward to purchase the buildings last year, after city housing inspectors said they were structurally unsafe. Somerville said the organization plans to stabilize the buildings at a cost of $700,000 and seek proposals for their reuse.

Trio to perform after tour of Peabody Library

The Lee Konitz Trio will perform in the Peabody Institute's concert hall, 1 E. Mount Vernon Place, at 8 p.m. on June 12 -- the latest event in the "Jazz in Cool Places" series.

One hour before the concert, architectural historian Phoebe Stanton will lead an informal tour of the Peabody Library, one of the most impressive interior spaces in Baltimore. Information: 410-235-9733.

Pub Date: 6/04/98

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