Old city school serves anew

ARCHITECTURE

Historic Goucher Hall opens up space to students with learning disabilities

January 26, 2004|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN ARCHITECTURE CRITIC

Now that the sanctuary of Lovely Lane United Methodist Church has been restored, the historic building just north of it will be renovated next.

Goucher Hall, the first building on the original Goucher College campus, will be the new home of Baltimore Lab, a division of the Lab School of Washington.

Investor Neil Katz heads a group that acquired the gray granite landmark at 2220 St. Paul St. last year and has agreed to lease it to the school, which educates students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia.

The agreement ends a prolonged property search by the school, which has outgrown its current quarters on Roland Avenue. It also will help preserve the namesake of Baltimore's Old Goucher Historic District, created in and around the campus of the old Women's College of Baltimore, renamed Goucher College in 1910.

It comes one month after Lovely Lane church held a rededication service to mark completion of a $1.2 million restoration of its sanctuary, designed by Stanford White and opened in 1887.

Sally Smith, founder and executive director of the Lab Schools in Washington and Baltimore, said she is delighted with the St. Paul Street location.

"It's a wonderful building," Smith said of Goucher Hall. "Our plans are to move in and start school in September. We love the fact that we're right next to Lovely Lane. We're very excited about the opportunities for community outreach."

According to a history of the Old Goucher district by K. D. Kuntz and L. M. Principe, the college was created to provide higher education to daughters of Christian parents.

The Rev. John Goucher, who was instrumental in the construction of Lovely Lane church, donated the land between the church and 24th Street for the college campus.

Goucher Hall was designed in the Richardsonian Romanequse style by Baltimore architect Charles Carson to harmonize with Lovely Lane. It cost $130,000 and was completed in 1886. According to Kuntz and Principe, its footprint is shaped like an E in honor of Goucher's daughter, Eleanor.

The campus eventually grew to include more than 20 buildings, but they changed uses after the college moved to Baltimore County in the 1940s. In recent years, Goucher Hall has been home to the Hearing and Speech Agency, a nonprofit organization that provides services and information for deaf and hearing-impaired people. The building became vacant when that organization moved last year to larger quarters in the Seton Business Park.

The Lab School of Washington was founded in 1967 and has gained international recognition for its innovative programs for children and adults with learning disabilities. In 2000, it launched its Baltimore division in the Port Discovery children's museum on Market Place, starting with 18 students in grades 1 to 3. In its third year, it moved to the former Odyssey School building at Roland and Wyndhurst avenues and had 56 students. This year it has 83 students in grades 1 to 8.

Its arts-based curriculum has been designed to teach students about history, geography, the social sciences and other subjects needed for a high-school diploma. Ninety percent of its graduates go to college.

Smith said she expects the Baltimore Lab to open on St. Paul Street with about 100 students in grades 1 to 9, and added that the school will have approximately one staff member for every four students. The school plans to add one grade a year, she said, until it has several hundred students in grades K to 12.

School representatives previously considered moving to Baltimore's old Northern District Police Station in Hampden, but community residents opposed the move because a widely supported plan recommended a commercial development for that property rather than a school.

Smith said Goucher Hall is ideal because it's accessible by public transportation, within an area undergoing revitalization, large enough for expansion and close to places such as the Baltimore Museum of Art and the train station. She said upper-level students will be encouraged to become involved in community activities as part of their learning experience.

Although the building is already in good condition, the school is working with Kann & Associates of Baltimore to design minor modifications. Kann is the restoration architect for Lovely Lane.

Nancy Nedwell, pastor of Lovely Lane, said she's thrilled to have Baltimore Lab as a neighbor. "I expect it to be a wonderful partnership," she said.

New MICA property

A second educational institution has taken steps to address its growth needs by acquiring a vacant and derelict industrial building next to its campus.

The Maryland Institute College of Art this month acquired the former Ditch, Bower, Taylor Inc. auto-supplies building at 405-421 W. North Ave. and 1601 Mount Royal Ave. for $750,000, with the help of an anonymous donor, a longtime trustee. The building and adjacent parking lot give MICA nearly a half-acre for future construction.

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