Tower is eyed for federal honor

URBAN LANDSCAPE

Landmark: The One Charles Center office building will be considered for the National Register of Historic Places.

February 10, 2000|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

THE FIRST BUILDING constructed as part of Baltimore's Charles Center renewal area, the One Charles Center office tower designed by world-renowned architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, may soon be added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The nomination, to be considered this spring by the U.S. Department of the Interior, would, if approved, mark one of the few times local examples of modern architecture have been accorded "historic" status by the federal government.

Two preservation groups, the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) in Baltimore and the Governor's Consulting Committee in Annapolis, voted this week to send the nomination on to the federal agency, which is expected to make a decision by spring.

Other contemporary buildings have been placed on the National Register as part of historic districts, but One Charles Center would be the first in Baltimore to be listed individually, said Kathleen Kotarba, executive director of CHAP.

"We've had theoretical discussions amongst the commission members and the staff about the kinds of modern buildings that would be eligible, such as Harborplace or the [National] Aquarium," but One Charles Center is the first modern building in Baltimore to be nominated, she said. "This is something of a new area."

If any modern building deserves to be listed individually, it is One Charles Center, Kotarba added. "It is very symbolic. It represents something very positive and progressive in terms of planning for Baltimore's future."

Built in 1962 at 100 N. Charles St., One Charles Center attracted national attention as the first office building in the 33-acre Charles Center renewal area. Its owner, Metropolitan Structures of Chicago, was selected to build it in Charles Center after competing against five other developers.

The 23-story glass-and- aluminum tower was the first of two structures in Maryland designed by Mies. The second is Highfield House, a 1964 residential tower at 4000 N. Charles St.

One Charles Center is now owned by PGA One Charles Center Limited Partnership, a group headed by attorney and Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos, who paid $6 million for it in 1996. Angelos has moved his law offices to the building and unveiled plans in 1998 to spend about $12 million to repair and upgrade it. RCG Inc. is the architect.

Wayne Gioioso, who is overseeing the project for Angelos, said the owner intends to restore the building "to its original glory." Gioioso explained that Angelos nominated the building for listing on the National Register so he would be eligible to receive tax credits for historic preservation. He added that the design work is complete and the owner has been getting construction cost estimates so he can decide how and when to proceed.

According to the nomination form prepared by architectural historian Betty Bird, the building is significant because of its association with Mies, who is acknowledged as one of the masters of modern architecture, and because of the role it played in "introducing International Style modernism to Baltimore" and sparking the downtown renaissance.

Peter Kurtze, National Register administrator for the Maryland Historical Trust, said it is rare for buildings to be nominated to the National Register if they are less than 50 years old, but it's not unheard of.

One of the first to be listed was Eero Saarinen's passenger terminal at Dulles Airport in northern Virginia, a building that dates from the 1960s. In Maryland, a modern building already on the list is the Robert L. Wright House in Montgomery County, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Kurtze said he believes that One Charles Center is a strong candidate architecturally and historically.

"For a property less than 50 years old to be listed on the register, it has to have exceptional significance," Kurtze said. "It's the combination of Mies and the fact that it's part of a turning point in downtown Baltimore that gives it significance."

More buildings nominated as landmarks

One Charles Center is one of five Baltimore-area buildings or properties that were nominated this month for listing on the National Register, by both the city's preservation commission and the Governor's Consulting Committee.

The others are the Stieff Silver Co. property at 800 Wyman Park Drive; the Cecil Apartments at 1123 N. Eutaw St.; the former Howard Park Public School at 4801 Liberty Heights Ave.; and Mount Auburn Cemetery at 2614 Annapolis Road. Decisions about all five are expected by spring.

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