Old look closes in on fronting modern building in Annapolis

Historic 1820 columns expected to rise at courthouse within weeks

May 16, 2000|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

Things are looking up for the eight aged marble columns that have been lying ignobly along Rowe Boulevard in Annapolis for several months. Within weeks, they are expected to rise again for the first time in nearly 30 years.

Workers are shoring up the conx crete foundation outside the Robert F. Sweeney District Courthouse so it can support the scrolled Ionic columns, which stand 16 feet tall and weigh 2 tons each.

The resurrection will restore some glory to the pillars, first used in the 1820 Baltimore Exchange and Customs House and later at the Maryland Court of Appeals Building in Annapolis, which was razed in 1972.

Until last fall, the columns - designed by U.S. Capitol architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe - had lain in a field in Jessup, covered in weeds. By the middle of next month they may be free-standing again - though with nothing to support but air this time, said Barry German, regional construction manager for the state Department of General Services.

Bringing them back to Annapolis was seen as a way to enhance the the modern courthouse completed in 1998. Planners felt a nod to the past would be an appropriate way to greet motorists entering the city's historic district from the north.

In February, after the restored columns had been hauled to the courthouse, contractors discovered apparent weaknesses in the concrete base at the courthouse. Blake Construction Co., which built the courthouse, is reinforcing with steel rods the spot where the columns will stand.

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