New lighting aims to do justice to newly cleaned courthouses

City officials hope system encourages pedestrian traffic from Inner Harbor

May 16, 2002|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

The recently cleaned facades of Baltimore's Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse and Courthouse East were put in the spotlight last night as Mayor Martin O'Malley and other city officials unveiled a $37,000 lighting system that will accentuate the buildings after dark.

The 11 acorn-shaped street lights, each with two additional floodlights, span "Courthouse Square" on Calvert Street, between Fayette and Lexington streets, and show off the results of a four-month, $94,000 exterior cleaning that rid the buildings of years of grime and bird droppings.

Both courthouses also have had netting installed, at a cost of $174,000, to prevent future soiling by birds.

"This is the first of many efforts to illuminate the skyline and the things that make this city proud," O'Malley said during a lighting ceremony in front of the Battle Monument at Calvert and Fayette. "Light has always been symbolic of hope, and it's appropriate we are here lighting these monuments."

As a homeless person slept on a bed of cardboard in the shadow of the Battle Monument, the streetlights warmed to an incandescent glow, revealing the facades of the Mitchell building, built in 1900, and Courthouse East -- formerly housing the main city post office and the federal court -- which was built in 1937.

City officials said the lighting will not only bring out the architecture of the buildings, but help create a safer atmosphere and encourage Inner Harbor tourists to walk to downtown venues.

It took the city Department of Public Works and the Office of Transportation two months to install the lights. Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. is providing maintenance and offering the city a low-rate schedule for the lights through its private-area lighting program.

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