Building a cultural bridge Mount Vernon: Acquisition of Home Mutual building links Historical Society and the Walters.

November 10, 1998

A BRIDGE is about to open in Baltimore's Mount Vernon, a span of cultural buildings that stretches from the light-rail line on Howard Street past the Maryland Historical Society and the Walters Art Gallery to the Peabody Conservatory of Music.

This significant link is made possible by the Historical Society's acquisition of the Home Mutual Life building on Centre Street, at Park Avenue.

The 74-year-old gray granite edifice will be converted to cultural uses in January. Among its ground-floor tenants will be the 9-year-old Contemporary Museum, which until now has led a vagabond existence.

This four-block stretch of Centre Street promises to become increasingly vibrant. The Walters is in the midst of a $19 million modernization set to be completed by 2001. The museum then hopes to construct an addition on what today is a surface parking lot beside Home Mutual.

Further east, the Peabody will next year move its campus bookstore to a new location on Centre Street, near Charles Street. An adjoining cafe is a possibility.

Meanwhile, Aegon USA is moving some of its operations to the TTC old Hochschild Kohn warehouse at Centre and Park.

A 21-story high-rise apartment building known as the Gallery Towers will open at the other side of the corner nearby early next year after extensive reconstruction.

All this bodes well for downtown's Mount Vernon Cultural District, which is in the first year of a five-year plan to improve its identity and appearance.

With about 300,000 visitors a year, the Walters already is a regional powerhouse.

The more an uninterrupted cultural bridge evolves, the more neighboring institutions -- and businesses -- should be able to share that success.

Pub Date: 11/10/98

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