Roof collapse endangers Mayfair Theater: Despite efforts to salvage the 1870 structure, damage may doom the city-owned property.

Urban Landscape

July 09, 1998|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

WHILE state officials prepare to save one of downtown Baltimore's grand old theaters, the Hippodrome, another may soon face its own Armageddon.

The vacant Mayfair Theater at 506-514 N. Howard St., a city-owned property dating from 1870, is in danger because its roof collapsed this year and the interior is open to the elements.

M. Jay Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., the agency that oversees downtown development, said he learned of the roof collapse recently.

Brodie said his agency has commissioned an engineer to determine whether the building can be salvaged and he hopes to have a report soon. If the theater is not structurally sound and not economical to repair, he said, the city may be forced to take it down.

"That's not desirable, because it's a great building," he said. "It has a great facade."

The 700-seat building is one of a handful of downtown theaters that date from the late 1800s. First used as a health spa and later as an auditorium for live theater, it was converted to a movie house in 1941. For years the Mayfair was one of the city's leading movie houses, but it later became a showcase for action vTC and horror films. The last movie was shown there in 1986.

In recent years, city officials have tried to find a college or other institution to take control of the Mayfair as part of the city's proposed Avenue of the Arts, but no one has done so. Public officials say they still hope to find an angel who could save the Mayfair before it's too late.

The Maryland Stadium Authority, meanwhile, recently sought proposals from architects, engineers and construction managers who would like to work on a $35 million restoration of the Hippodrome Theater, at 12 N. Eutaw St., about half a mile south. Selections are expected within the next several months.

Bowie arts center modeled after Columbia

An innovative performing arts center in Columbia is serving as the model for a similar project in Bowie.

The Jim Rouse Theatre for the Performing Arts opened in early 1997 as a 750-seat civic arts facility connected to a public school, the Wilde Lake High School.

A nonprofit group in Prince George's County, the Bowie Region Arts Vision Association, or BRAVA, has hired the architects of the Rouse Theatre to design a comparable facility on the campus of Bowie High School.

Cochran, Stephenson & Donkervoet of Baltimore has been hired to design the Bowie Center for Performing Arts, a $5 million, 800-seat facility that will serve as a public auditorium for Bowie and a high school theater. When complete in 2000, it will be used for lectures, concerts and theatrical productions by the school and the community. There also will be a 100-seat recital theater.

Walt Kunz of CS&D is principal in charge of the BRAVA project. He guided architectural services for the Rouse Theatre. Roger Morgan Studio of New York, the theater design consultant for the Bowie project, served the same role in Columbia.

Talk-show host Kathie Lee Gifford, a Bowie High School graduate, has been named an honorary member of BRAVA along with Robert Chang, a vice president of the Gateway 2000 computer company.

Construction will be funded by private donors and state and local governments. Linking the arts center with the high school will save money, planners say, because the arts organization won't have to purchase land and the county school system will be responsible for maintenance, in return for getting a higher quality theater than it would have otherwise.

"This project will serve as a national model for using public and private resources to achieve common goals," said BRAVA president Gordon Stewart.

Cupola moves to museum

A cupola that was salvaged from the old Knabe Piano Co. in Camden Yards will move to its final resting spot tomorrow, when a U.S. Armed Services helicopter carries it to the Baltimore Museum of Industry at 1415 Key Highway.

Measuring 21 feet high and 16 feet in diameter, the 1869 dome weighs 6,600 pounds and has been stored near the Ravens stadium construction site for several years. It can't be moved by land because of its size. The museum is moving it with the assistance of North American Millwrights rigging services of Middle River and the U.S. Armed Services of Fort McPherson in Georgia. Once relocated, the dome will be put on permanent display at the museum as an artifact of Baltimore's industrial heritage.

Pub Date: 7/09/98

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