Sugar House to receive award

Architecture Column

June 18, 2007|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Sun architecture critic

When a two-alarm fire struck Fells Point's Sugar House in 1993, many people feared that a piece of Baltimore history would be lost forever.

The blaze destroyed the roof and much of the top floor of the 1840s-era warehouse, one of the neighborhood's most-treasured landmarks.

But today, the three-story building is whole again, rebuilt as part of the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park operated by the Living Classrooms Foundation, a nonprofit that teaches skills to city youth.

The maritime park, in the 1400 block of Thames St., is one of 10 restoration projects singled out for Historic Preservation Awards this year by Baltimore Heritage Inc., a citywide preservation advocacy group.

The Sugar House shows the hurdles people sometimes have to overcome to save historic buildings.

"It's a poster child of what people mean when they say things can't be saved" and yet subsequently are brought back to life, said Johns Hopkins, executive director of Baltimore Heritage. The Sugar House "was pretty far gone."

The award for the maritime park goes to the Living Classrooms Foundation, the owner; Ziger/Snead Inc., the architect; and Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, the contractor.

The team adhered to federal standards in preserving the Sugar House, which is the focus of the foundation's Fells Point campus. Workers restored timber and brick elements that could be preserved and constructed a new, lead-coated copper roof. They salvaged and reused 36,000 bricks from a Little Italy mill that was torn down several years ago and developed a custom mortar mix for repointing.

Evidence of the fire damage, including charred wood and darkened bricks, was left for visitors to see in juxtaposition with the newer elements. Joists that weren't sound enough to keep in place were recycled as flooring for the warehouse and an addition. Because no glass was used in the original design, the architects used frameless glass - panes undivided by mullions or muntins - in the new windows to recall the building's original appearance.

A second award-winning project also involved restoration of a building nearly destroyed by fire. Clipper Mill, a mixed-use community in Woodberry, was created in and around several historic buildings at the old Clipper Mill Industrial Park along the Jones Falls Valley. One of them, the Assembly Building, lost its roof and most of its interior in an eight-alarm fire in 1995 and has been reconstructed as loft apartments. The building's roof trusses and crane were retained in the reconstruction.

Also saved were the foundry building, stables building and a complex known as the Poole & Hunt Building. Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse was the developer, and Cho Benn Holback + Associates was the architect.

Other award recipients are:

The CenterPoint apartment and commercial development on Baltimore's west side.

Restoration of the Phipps Building in the 600 block of N. Wolfe St. for the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The Printers' Square Apartments, conversion of the old Waverly Press complex and a former city firehouse in the 1300 block of Guilford Ave. to apartments.

Restoration of the Gibbons Hall Tower at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, 4701 N. Charles St. A "Block-by-Block" award (for projects completed in increments over many years) went to the restoration of facades in the 2200 block of E. Monument St.

Honor awards will go to Neil Bernstein, for his efforts to have City College designated a city landmark, and George Liebmann, for his efforts to protect the Rochambeau apartments from demolition.

The Douglas Gordon Lifetime Achievement Award will go to Samuel Hopkins, a former chairman of Baltimore's parks board and former member of the city's planning commission. He has been instrumental in the preservation of Clifton Mansion in Clifton Park and the George Ellicott House in Ellicott City.

The awards program will start at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Garrett-Jacobs Mansion. Tickets ($50) are available by calling 410-332-9992.

ed.gunts@baltsun.com

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