Hopkins will occupy former Seton High

ARCHITECTURE

Renovation will preserve the 1907 building's historical integrity

November 28, 2005|By EDWARD GUNTS | EDWARD GUNTS,SUN ARCHITECTURE CRITIC

The handsome brick building at Charles and 28th streets started out as a school nearly 100 years ago. It was converted to an office building in the 1980s. Now it's coming full circle and will soon open as a school again.

This time around, the former Seton High School won't be a Catholic girls school, as it was before. It's the latest expansion of the Johns Hopkins University into the surrounding Charles Village and will be used by graduate-level Hopkins students.

Hopkins bought the five-story building in 2003 and is spending $7.8 million to renovate it for its School for Professional Studies in Business and Education, plus two other divisions.

Starting early next year, the building will house the Baltimore-based programs of the professional school's Graduate Division of Education, which offers classes for teachers, administrators, special educators and counselors.

Hopkins has 1,800 students studying for education degrees in Baltimore City and Howard and Montgomery counties. Leaders say they hope the Charles Village landmark will be a symbol for the university's education programs in Baltimore in the same way that its Downtown Center at Charles and Fayette streets has become a symbol for its business programs.

"It's a gorgeous building," said Ralph Fessler, the school's dean. "It gives us, for the first time, a building that will be identified with our education programs. It couldn't have come at a better time."

The renovation will take the building back to its roots, he added.

"It was an educational institution for many years. The opportunity to return it to an educational use is very appropriate."

Built in 1907 and characterized by an orange-brown brick with brownstone trim, Seton High School was closed in 1988 after the all-girls school merged with Archbishop Keough High School.

The property was later acquired by the Henry J. Knott Development Co. and converted to headquarters for the Johns Hopkins Health System. The renovated building, renamed Seton Court, brought 200 office workers to the block and was a cornerstone of revitalization in Charles Village.

The Hopkins health system was acquired by Prudential Healthcare, which became part of Aetna and moved to suburban Washington in 2000. The same year, the building was acquired by the Sheppard Pratt Health System. It was subsequently leased to the Argus Group, a private company that moved this year to Owings Mills.

When Hopkins bought Seton Court in 2003, university representatives said they bought the property, along with the adjacent Dell House apartment building and 170 parking spaces, as a strategic move to meet its space needs while gaining control of a key block near the Homewood campus.

The School for Professional Studies in Business and Education will occupy the building's first two levels. The space is being renovated to contain 12 classrooms or seminar rooms with advanced technological capabilities, a "Technovations Lab" where students will work on "digital lessons," a computer lab, a gallery with computer workstations, a counseling suite and student and faculty lounges and offices.

Featuring wireless Internet service, the space will enable Hopkins to consolidate education programs now located in two buildings on the Homewood campus and a townhouse on East 29th Street. Hopkins will maintain separate sites for its education programs in Montgomery and Howard counties.

The third level will house the Production, Marketing and Circulation departments of the Johns Hopkins University Press. The fourth level will contain the Enterpreneurial Library Services Program of Hopkins' Sheridan Libraries. Other spaces will initially remain empty.

Read and Co. of Baltimore is the architect for the renovation. A.R. Marani is the construction manager.

According to Hopkins senior project manager Jennifer Dawson, the renovations will preserve the building's historical integrity while enabling it to accommodate the new occupants and take full advantage of the natural light that comes in.

The 73,000-square-foot building has two wings flanking a grand stairwell, skylights, wide corridors and doorways with operable glass transoms. On the north side, contractors have torn off porches that were deteriorating but will build replacements.

The structure is tentatively called the Education Building but could be named after a major donor, if one emerges.

"If someone wanted to put their name on it," Fessler said, "we'd be thrilled."

ed.gunts@baltsun.com

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