Firm finds church home

`Signature': An ad agency is moving to an abandoned historic Hampden church in search of "the right image."

November 12, 1999|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

When ad man Jack Gilden heard about a four-alarm fire at the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle Church in Hampden in January, he mourned the loss of the historic landmark.

But when he saw a for-sale sign tacked onto the damaged building, he saw an opportunity. Gilden, president of Gilden Advertising Inc., decided to move his high-technology communications firm from its crowded Roland Park office into the 100-year-old granite church.

His purchase of the church was completed Nov. 1, and he hopes to start renovations within the month. Gilden and partner Evan Davis hope to move the ad agency in by September.

The goal is to keep as many features of the 19th century church as possible, which include round stained-glass windows, a band of rectangular windows that circle the building, and a vaulted ceiling made of hand-carved mahogany.

"This building was meant to be beautiful," Gilden said. "We're in a business where design and detail are everything. To be able to occupy a building that is this beautiful gives us the right image and the right place to come to work every day."

Gilden paid $115,000 for the Pentecostal church on 36th Street, and estimates that he will spend another $750,000 to $1 million to renovate the building into offices.

"It's given us a signature in much the same way that the warehouse gives the Orioles a signature," he said. "There is an element here of human aspiration and looking to higher things. It folds over to what we do. Art and design are meant to be uplifting if they're done well, even in commercial applications."

Gilden Advertising, founded in 1995, has 20 employees and capitalized billings of $25 million annually. The firm's clients include: Aether Systems, the Owings Mills wireless data company that had an initial public stock offering last week; Nextel Communications in the Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia markets; and Integrated Data Communications, a Seattle developer of wireless technology.

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