The promise of black-eyed Susans lies in a big pile of dirt visible from the Jones Falls Expressway at the 29th Street bridge as restoration work continues on Druid Hill Park.
The grading and stabilization of the eastern edge of the earth-fill dam at Druid Lake, along with repairs to the 128-year-old Moorish Tower that stands on its banks like a giant chess piece, is part of a $2,146,434 city project contracted to P. Flanigan and Sons.
By spring, the eroding and overgrown hillside should bloom with wildflowers, shrubs and Maryland's state flower, the black-eyed Susan, city public works officials said.
The long-neglected Moorish Tower, where turn-of-the century park visitors came to climb the cast-iron staircase for a spectacular view of Baltimore, was falling apart before park restoration work began in June 1997, according to Pierce Flanigan, president of the contracting company doing repairs. After fixing roads near the reservoir, workers started rehabilitating the 43-foot-high tower last week.
"We've done most of the excavation [of the dam] and are constructing a concrete retaining wall and a decorative wall to run along the Jones Falls Expressway," said Flanigan. "It [the tower] will be cleaned, all defective or missing pieces of the stonework will be replaced, loose stones will be stabilized and it will be beautiful when we're done."
Flanigan said it appears that these are the first major repairs to the decorative tower, a limestone-clad faux battlement that guards the park's eastern boundary. City officials were unsure this week whether the eight-sided tower -- adorned with windows resembling clovers or clubs -- would be reopened to the public when repairs are complete.
"We've been beautifying the park. Earlier this year, we turned [the lake] fountains back on," said David Montgomery, deputy director of public works. "That part of the Jones Falls is one of the major entrances to the city, and we're going to great lengths for landscaping and to restore the tower."
The restoration has included firming up the tower's foundation by driving a wall of steel pilings under it.
"The first thing is to remove a fair number of loose blocks from the tower and reinstall them. It's a very distinctive feature of the park," said Flanigan, who said he often admired the tower as he jogged through Druid Hill.
"There's speculation that at one point it was part of a semi-fore system that communicated information about ships coming into port."
When work is complete in the spring, the tower may also be lighted at night like the old Bromo Seltzer tower at Lombard and Eutaw streets downtown.
"We're going to try and finish everything before winter," said Flanigan, "but there are no guarantees."
Pub Date: 9/18/98