Historic meets high-tech in university center

August 13, 2004|by TAMELA BAKER

Though it isn't always visible to those who travel West Washington Street, there's a steady stream of activity behind the scaffolding and screens hiding the facade of the former Baldwin House hotel.

Workers are adding new molding to replace the decayed originals, installing wires and putting up drywall. They're even replacing the 19th-century building's tin ceilings.

They're on schedule to complete the renovation and construction work by Nov. 16. That will give center Executive Director David Warner and his staff a month and a half to get the building furnished and ready for students enrolling at the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown in January.


"I am so excited about this whole project," said Warner. And he's apparently not alone.

Others in the university system have told him they "never have experienced the kind of enthusiasm they've seen in Washington County" for such a center, he said.

Warner was giving a tour Thursday to state Sen. Donald Munson, R-Washington, and Brien Poffenberger, the new president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

The Baldwin House lobby will look much as it did when the building operated as a hotel, with a chandelier, the original slate stairway and the original elevator doors replaced at the old elevator shaft, Warner said. That Baldwin House section will house the library and administrative and faculty offices - 45 of them, he said.

Connecting the former Baldwin House to the classroom wing in the former Routzahn Department Store is a five-story atrium that looks out on University Plaza, the park the city of Hagerstown is developing adjacent to the center. From the atrium's expanse of glass, workers could be seen pouring concrete footers where terraced gardens are to be located.

The Routzahn building will include 24 state-of-the-art classrooms, wired to accommodate current technology - including wireless equipment, Warner said.

Warner said he expects 450 to 500 students to enroll for the center's initial term, scheduled to begin in mid- to late January. The center will offer courses currently offered by Frostburg University's Hagerstown campus and also plans to offer a nursing program through the University of Maryland at Baltimore and other courses through the University of Maryland University College.

"Frostburg has 500 students (in Hagerstown) right now," he said, and he hopes to have up to a half dozen of the system's institutions offering courses to 750 to 1,000 students at the center within a year.

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