Razing of Boumi Temple begins Loyola College recreation center to be built at site

November 12, 1998|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

The same men who watched the walls of North Baltimore's Boumi Temple rise 39 years ago stood by yesterday as a demolition crew started razing the fraternal order's old home.

Just as a light rain let up at 8 a.m., a Potts and Callahan grapple's mechanical claws chewed up the first steel beams and concrete chunks from the former Shriner potentate's office in the 4900 block of N. Charles St., purchased by Loyola College as the site of a $20 million recreation center.

"It's hard to see it go," said Frank Stewart, a former Boumi Temple potentate who now lives in Timonium. "I was present when we voted to leave Mount Vernon Place and move out here."

As the yellow mechanical claw ripped off downspouts and tinted aluminum window frames, onlookers pointed to a gilded scimitar, crescent, five-pointed star and owl affixed to the west-facing side of the building.

"We couldn't save them. They wouldn't fit into our new building in White Marsh," said Clifford Stevens, the group's recorder, who lives in Jessup. Stevens said many other artifacts from the structure -- including some limestone panels -- have been preserved and will be used in the group's new $9 million home. The cornerstone and its keepsake box were taken out of the Charles Street building several weeks ago.

Shriners reminisce

The Shriners, who were chartered locally in 1884 and who support children's hospitals, reminisced about the building where they had their meetings and social affairs for nearly four decades. Constructed in 1959, it served as their home after a move from Garrett-Jacobs Mansion on West Mount Vernon Place. That mansion is now the Engineering Society of Baltimore.

"We met at the Alcazar and took the votes to see if we should leave Mount Vernon Place. The first time around, the vote went against moving. It passed on the second try," said Stewart, a retired steel executive.

The men recalled purchasing the property at the southwest corner of Charles Street and Wyndhurst Avenue. It consisted of a frame Victorian villa called Attica, owned by the Garrett family, and grounds planted with copper beech, mulberry, oak, cedar and other specimen trees.

Emory Hoover of Hampden, a retired sign painter who has been a Shriner for 45 years, recorded the demolition on film. A Minolta camera hung on a strap from his neck.

"It's tough to watch it going down. I feel sick," Hoover said.

The demolition was delayed in part by residents who live near the former Masonic temple. After the college purchased the site in 1996 for $7.5 million, neighbors expressed worries -- especially over students they think will park cars on residential streets.

Neighbors' concerns

"We don't want students' car doors slamming at 2 in the morning," said Anne Merwin, who lives in the 5000 block of Boxhill Lane.

But Brigitte Fessenden, a member of the Wyndhurst Improvement Association, said, "I am confident the new building will be accepted as a positive contribution to the neighborhood. But it was still sad to see the temple come down this morning."

As the mechanical excavator ripped away at the building, the debris that fell to the ground was piled into categories. The metal and steel framing went into one heap. The masonry parts went into another. It will be carted away, ground up and be used as a paving base for highways.

"Demolition contractors were recyclers before it was fashionable," said Tim Collison, executive vice president of Potts and Callahan, the firm charged with razing the temple.

The job is expected to take about four weeks.

Pub Date: 11/12/98

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