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Old meets new

March 13, 2005|by PAT SCHOOLEY

For the the 154th in a series of articles on the historical and architectural treasures of Washington County, Pat Schooley surveys the renovated Baldwin House, site of the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown




The restoration of the Baldwin House is a tour-de-force, an incredible effort by talented professionals who brought the project in under budget. The students, staff and administrators of the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, which is in its first semester, can proudly call the Baldwin House home.

For the greater part of two decades, The Herald-Mail followed the long deterioration of the Baldwin House and the various plans put forth for its resurrection, each floundering on one reef or another of finance or regulation. When the University System of Maryland looked for a new site in Washington County, the community chose two other parcels, only to be told by then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening that the facility would be downtown, in a rehabilitated Baldwin House, thus fulfilling the goals of Smart Growth and historic restoration.

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Rodney Little, director of the Maryland Historical Trust, said that preservation efforts far exceeded those required by the Trust, and that he will proudly point to this building as an exemplary restoration.

The blending of new and old, the clever way the different levels of the floors of the two sections have been met, and the sympathetic addition that ties the whole together speak to the remarkable skills of the architect.

The key has been turned, with ceremony and speeches, students have entered the new University System of Maryland at Hagerstown for the new semester in a new facility, and a new chapter has begun for the Baldwin House.

When Jonathan Hager laid out Elizabeth Town (named after his wife), he circled the square with lots, then strung 82-foot-by-240-foot parcels along the intersecting streets. The first lot on the north side of West Washington Street became Lot No. 88. The 1812 deed for this lot does not mention what it was used for.

On Dec. 23, 1817, an ad in the local Maryland Herald newspaper advertised the Globe Tavern for rent, and the following year Otho Holland Williams Stull purchased Lot No. 88 for $14,000 with the deed recording it as "heretofore used and occupied as a tavern." Future deeds mention the Globe Tavern.

In 1856, the Washington Hotel Company bought the Globe Tavern, tore it down and constructed the Washington Hotel on the site. The president of this company was J. Dixon Roman, a businessman who organized a local telegraph company and led the effort to construct the Washington County branch of the B&O Railroad. Dixon's daughter Sallie would later marry Christopher Columbus Baldwin, of Woodward & Baldwin of New York and president of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.

The Washington Hotel burned May 29, 1879, killing two patrons. J. Dixon Roman had died in 1867 and Sallie in 1873 at the age of 29. C.C. Baldwin represented Roman's heirs and led the group that built a new hotel with 110 rooms in a structure l15 feet long, 150 feet deep and 70 feet high, according to J. Thomas Scharf's "History of Western Maryland." Scharf says the Baldwin House Hotel opened in September 1880.

Fire struck the Baldwin House on Oct. 28, 1914, severely damaging the east end of the building. The following year, the east end was sold to the Leiter Brothers, torn down and rebuilt as a department store with beaux-arts influence, a high glazed white terra cotta block faade and a fourth story behind a mansard roof. This later became a full fourth story with a partial fifth under a new mansard roof. The original hotel was given decorative touches that blended with the new department store. A fourth story was added, and the hotel was rebuilt as offices. A large addition on the back housed a theater auditorium, which was entered through the hotel lobby.

A 1995 property analysis of the Baldwin House lists problems: "the removal of entire floor sections, several breakthroughs, partial removal of structural steel beams,.. (and) a large opening from the basement to the roof five stories high," in addition to debris, water damage from a compromised roof system and a large old safe on the fourth floor.

Restoration or repair was a daunting challenge.

To renovate the Baldwin, the University System of Maryland sought bids from combined architectural and construction firms. Murphy & Dittenhafer Inc. joined with Whiting Turner Construction for their proposal and won the bid based upon a number of award-winning adaptive reuse projects, including the Hippodrome in Baltimore, that the firms had worked on.

The new academic center required a number of spaces: offices, classrooms, a media center and meeting rooms.

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