Henry Howell Lewis

Contractor's Firm Restored The Baltimore Basilica And Repaired The Dome Of Jefferson's Monticello

April 23, 2009|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

Henry Howell Lewis, a building contractor whose firm restored the Baltimore Basilica and repaired the dome of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, died of cancer April 16 at his Reisterstown home. He was 78.

Born and raised in Reisterstown, he was a 1938 Franklin High School graduate and earned a degree at Maryland Institute College of Art, where he took honors in the school's architectural construction program. He served in the National Guard's 110th Field Artillery from 1948 to 1954.

Mr. Lewis began work with Colwill Construction Co. and was later an estimator and project manager for W.H. Ward Co. He supervised construction projects at Franklin middle and high schools and Hannah More Academy.

In 1966, Mr. Lewis formed his own company, Henry H. Lewis Contractors Inc., in Owings Mills. Skilled as a carpenter, he started in a renovated three-car garage at his grandfather's home.

"He liked to do business on a handshake," said his daughter, Nancy L. Kurkjian of Aldie, Va. "He was a man of strong ethical values who was a mentor to others in his field."

Among his many projects, he restored the domed roof of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Charlottesville, Va., and he was the contractor for the restoration of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

"Not only was authenticity paramount, but the entire project had to be approved and the drawings blessed by Pope John Paul II," said Ms. Kurkjian. Mr. Lewis accompanied Cardinal William H. Keeler to Rome and shook the pope's hand, she said.

Mr. Lewis was contractor for the Flag House and its addition in downtown Baltimore and restored St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church on Calvert Street and Homewood on the Johns Hopkins University campus in North Baltimore. He also built the Owings Mills headquarters of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

"He told us, 'If it takes longer, you do it the right way - all the time. Never cut corners,' " said his son, David F. Lewis of Hampstead.

Under Mr. Lewis' direction, his firm earned more than 50 Excellence in Construction Awards from the Baltimore Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors and five National Excellence in Construction Awards.

In 2001, he was awarded the Good Scout award from the Arrowhead District of the Boy Scouts of America. He was a member of the Towson Elks Club and the Lions Club of Reisterstown, and he was a past president of the Reisterstown Jaycees.

He owned and drove a 1929 Cadillac Phaeton and 1939 Buick convertible, among other antique vehicles. He was a past grand marshal of the Reisterstown Festival Parade.

Mr. Lewis served on the boards of Stevenson University, Susquehanna Bank, Carroll Community College, Associated Builders and Contractors, Building Congress and Exchange and the Pleasant Hill Building and Loan. He was a past president of the Reisterstown-Owings Mills-Glyndon Chamber of Commerce.

He was on the board of Baltimore Clayworks and was a trustee for the Owings Mills Volunteer Fire Department. He also served on Hopkins' Historic Buildings Advisory Board.

Mr. Lewis was a lifetime member of All Saints Episcopal Church in Reisterstown.

Services were held Monday at McDaniel College in Westminster.

In addition to his daughter and son, survivors include his wife of 57 years, the former Janet High; two other daughters, Sallie L. Miller of Finksburg and Karen E. Lewis of Reisterstown; a brother, Wylie L. Ritchey Jr. of Hampstead; and nine grandchildren.

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