Restoration at Hopkins recalls past


Three oldest buildings at hospital set to reopen

Architecture Column

August 15, 2005|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN ARCHITECTURE CRITIC

Even though Johns Hopkins Medicine is planning $800 million worth of new buildings on its East Baltimore campus, it hasn't forgotten its past.

Work crews are putting the finishing touches this summer on a $7.5 million exterior restoration project involving the three oldest structures at Johns Hopkins Hospital - the Marburg, Wilmer and Billings buildings in the 600 block of N. Broadway.

This month, Hopkins will reopen the hospital's Broadway entrance - closed since construction started in May 2004 - as a sign that work is complete. Restoration of a fourth structure, the 1913 Phipps Building off Wolfe Street, began this year and will continue until mid-2006.

"These really are the hallmarks of the institution," said Howard Reel, senior director of facilities design and construction for Johns Hopkins Hospital.

"There is a city, state and international expectation that they be preserved. It's somewhat of an extraordinary obligation that we have that goes beyond health care."

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Marburg, Wilmer and Billings buildings opened in 1889 as the start of an ambitious effort to create a hospital dedicated to medical education, in keeping with the will of founder Johns Hopkins. A separate School of Medicine opened four years later.

The central building, named for former medical officer John Shaw Billings, became an enduring symbol of the hospital because its Victorian dome was visible from many parts of the city.

Although the buildings' interiors have been renovated over the years, the exteriors "never really had any comprehensive restoration work done to them" since they opened, Reel said.

In recent years, he said, some slate tiles came off the roof of the Billings building, and the underside of the dome began showing signs of water damage.

Rather than patch the roof in piecemeal fashion, Hopkins hired the Baltimore architectural firm Kann & Associates to assess the condition of the historic buildings and develop a comprehensive restoration strategy.

Besides replacement of the old slate roofs with newly quarried slate tiles, the work included repairing metal roof accessories such as finials and trim and cleaning and repointing brick walls.

Roy Kirby and Sons was the general contractor. Watts Restoration was the masonry contractor. Ruff Roofers was the roofing contractor. All work was done in accordance with federal and state standards for historic preservation.

The hospital could not use the same "Peach Bottom" slate for the new roofs because it's no longer quarried at Peach Bottom, Pa., near the Maryland border, so the architects selected a "Vermont Black" slate that is close to the gray-black color of the original and also has a long life span, said Kann associate Marie-Therese "Mimi" Giguere.

"Hopkins had excellent slate," but "it had reached the end of its useful life," she said. "It was very brittle. There was a lot of cracked and broken slate up there."

The tiles were cut to match the shapes of the originals, including some that look like an "upside-down Gothic arch," Giguere said. The overriding goal of the project, she said, was to take each building back to the appearance it had before restoration began, so people wouldn't necessarily even know work had been done.

"Hopefully, it looks the same as before and is in better shape," she said of the three-building ensemble.

Other large projects on Hopkins' drawing board include a Cardiovascular & Critical Care Tower and a Children's & Maternal Hospital. Planned for sites on the south side of Hopkins' 44-acre campus, along Orleans Street, they will drastically change the appearance of the medical campus and the way it provides health care.

To get ready for construction of those projects, Hopkins has built a five-level, 2,300-space garage that will open next month on the south side of Orleans Street between Wolfe Street and Broadway. Completion of that garage will enable Hopkins to tear down an older garage on land where the new buildings will rise.

Hopkins took a comprehensive approach to the restoration work because it will save money in the long run, Reel said. "It was an economic decision," he said. "We bought at least 30 years before we have to do it again."

Renewal art

Under Construction, an art exhibit inspired by recent urban renewal projects in Baltimore, will run from Aug. 26 to Sept. 11 at Current Gallery and Artist Cooperative, 30 S. Calvert St.

Curated by gallery member Michael Benevento, the show will feature works from Adrian Lohmuller, Chuck Miller, Chris Gladora, Nick Petr, Nick Wisniewski, Bruce Willen, Nolan Strals, Scott Berzofsky, Regina Tumasella, Jacqueline Schlossman, Ryan Jedlicka, Jill Berry, Melissa Dickenson, Hans Petrich, Audrey Lea Collins, Cara Ober, Andy Cook, Steven Riddle, Greg McLemore, Kathryn Short and Benevento - all commenting on the city and its inhabitants, before and after redevelopment.

An opening reception will start at 5 p.m. Aug. 26.

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