Calvert School to renovate 1928 residence

Preservationists, neighbors fought attempt to raze it

May 14, 2008|By Ed Gunts | Ed Gunts,Sun architecture critic

One year after the leaders of Calvert School told residents of Baltimore's Tuscany-Canterbury neighborhood of their plans to seek permission to tear down a former headmaster's residence to make way for an amphitheater, the private school is moving ahead with plans to restore and expand the residence for academic use instead.

Baltimore's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) voted 5-0 yesterday to give conceptual approval to the school's plans to expand Castalia, the 1928 residence at 200 Tuscany Road that noted architect Laurence Hall Fowler designed for Calvert School headmaster Virgil Hillyer.

"We are pleased that CHAP gave Calvert School preliminary approval for an addition," Headmaster Andrew D. Martire said after the meeting.

Yesterday's hearing came two months after the commissioners voted to add Castalia to a "special list" of buildings they want to protect from demolition - essentially killing the amphitheater plan.

Preliminary plans by Walter Schamu of SMG Architects call for the hillside residence, currently vacant, to be modified to contain faculty offices, seminar rooms and classrooms, most likely for students in grades five to eight.

As presented to the preservation commission, the two-story addition would contain up to 3,000 square feet and rise on the northeast corner of the residence, away from the street.

Al Barry of A.B. Associates, a consultant to the school, said the estimated cost of the changes is $2.5 million. The project is in the early planning stages, with construction "several years away," he said.

In addition to construction of classroom and offices, he said, work likely would include upgrades to the mechanical systems and changes to make the building accessible to disabled students.

Two months ago, the commission had also recommended that the building be added to the city's landmark list. Baltimore's Planning Commission will consider permanent landmark designation at its meeting tomorrow.

Baltimore Heritage, a preservation advocacy organization, nominated the stone residence for landmark designation last year after learning that Calvert School was exploring the idea of tearing it down.

The preservation group said the building was significant both as the work of Fowler and for its connection to Hillyer, a noted educator. More than 640 neighborhood residents signed a petition supporting landmark designation.

At yesterday's meeting, several of the commissioners expressed concern about the proposed size of the addition and the proposed materials, including a stucco wall surface and a slate roof with six gables.

The original house has two gables, panel member Michael Murphy said to architect Walter Schamu. "The structure that you have has six gables. It just looks complex to me. I just have a feeling that Fowler would have designed it in a simpler manner."

Schamu said he is trying to work "in the spirit of and in the character of" the original building, rather than create a conspicuously modern, flat-roofed addition. He said he will take the panel's comments into consideration as he continues to make revisions.

"This is not an easy building to add on to," he said. "I thought if we were Laurence Hall Fowler, how would he do this?"

Dr. James Harris, a Johns Hopkins professor who lived in the house for 27 years with his wife, Cathy DeAngelis, before they sold it to Calvert School in 2005, said they would prefer to see the building have a "residential element" rather than be used solely for classrooms and offices.

But if conversion for academic use will prevent it from standing vacant and get young people on the property again, he said, that's what they want. He said he thought the architect has been sensitive to the building.

"My wife and I always wanted children on the property, and this is a way to get them there," Harris said. "We would hope that the history of the house would be respected."

ed.gunts@baltsun.com

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