Canton `lighthouse' shrinks, but survives

Workers trim structure, reinforce its foundation

September 07, 1999|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

For more than 10 years, the replica Chesapeake Bay lighthouse stood 150 feet tall at the Baltimore Marine Center at Lighthouse Point in Canton.

The structure -- a converted century-old smokestack -- became a symbol of the center, a 14-acre commercial and residential development in the 2600 and 2700 blocks of Boston St. But the wood foundation became unstable, and the brick tower began to list.

"It was the `Leaning Tower of Baltimore,' " said Dan Noar, the center's director, jokingly.

So, about two weeks ago, workers climbed to the top of the lighthouse and began dismantling its crown, brick by brick. Two truckloads of bricks later, the lighthouse stands a lot shorter -- and more stable -- at 40 feet.

By Oct. 1, it should look like it did, in miniature -- a black and white lighthouse with an observation deck and light tower with one added feature: a spiral, wrought-iron staircase inside.

The $50,000 renovation project is part of an overall $70 million plan to turn the marina into a destination point for boaters, Noar said. When a group of developers, led by Selvin Passen, acquired the land in 1994, it was a collection of run-down buildings.

Passen built a marine recreation center, with retail and commercial businesses, pool and cabana club and 450 boat slips. The Baltimore Marine Center plans to expand the marina, build luxury apartments above the boat storage facility and open a two-story Bo Brooks crab house over the water.

The overall project will be completed in two years, with the majority of the work done by next year, Noar said. Bo Brooks could open in April, with the apartments scheduled to be open in July. It was during the structural survey for the restaurant that builders discovered the unstable lighthouse foundation, said Jack Gardner, the center's assistant director.

There was never a question of demolishing the lighthouse, he said. "It's the icon of the Baltimore Marine Center."

The replica lighthouse was originally a smokestack built in 1883 for the former J. S. Young Co., a licorice plant. In 1987, the smokestack was painted and topped with a light and observation deck to resemble a Chesapeake Bay lighthouse.

To preserve the structure, Gardner said, workers tunneled beneath the lighthouse and reinforced the foundation with concrete. Then, they took it down to less than one-third its original height.

The remaining bricks will be cleaned, reinforced and painted. The observation deck, once inaccessible, will be fixed up as well, before being put back on top.

Stephany Palasik, president of the Canton-Highlandtown Community Association, said with all the development along the waterfront, she's happy to see landmarks like the lighthouse preserved and improved.

"It will give people a chance to go up there and look around," Palasik said. "I think it's great for the area."

Pub Date: 9/07/99

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