New life for historic Sheppard Pratt gatehouse

Sheppard Pratt on Wednesday unveiled its newly restored historic gatehouse, which since the 1860s served as the primary entranceway to the psychiatric hospital and which will now function after a 15-month, $1.5 million renovation, as a guesthouse for visiting staff and lecturers.

"The gatehouse remains, to this day, the symbol of Sheppard Pratt," Dr. W. Byron Forbush, chair of the board of trustees of the Sheppard Pratt Foundation, said during Wednesday's ribbon-cutting ceremony held at the gatehouse in the 6500 block of N. Charles Street in Towson.

The gatehouse functioned as the hospital's primary entrance up until 2001. Vehicles drove straight off Charles Street and through the arched gate onto the grounds of the hospital. It also housed at various times, administrators, staff and groundskeepers.

But increased vehicle traffic put stress on the building and a separate entrance road was constructed next to the building. Over the past two years, architects and work crews have labored to restore and renovate the gatehouse, which is one of only two listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The hospital was founded in 1853 by the Baltimore merchant Moses Sheppard and has consistently ranked among the top mental hospitals in the U.S.

Sheppard Pratt officials said that now visitors such as guest lecturers, prospective staff members, and visiting physicians would be offered the opportunity to stay in the gatehouse instead of a local hotel.

The first floor — which is divided by the old roadway into two halves — features a kitchen, living room, and dining room for the gatehouse guests, while upstairs, there three bedrooms each with full a bathroom.

Donors, contractors and hospital staff attended Wednesday's unveiling and filled the gatehouse afterward for a tour.

"When you see the gatehouse, you'll see that this is a much nicer alternative," Steven Sharfstein, president and CEO of Sheppard Pratt, said during the ceremony.

The restoration was led by Lewis Contractors, and funded through a tax credit from the Maryland Historic Trust and a lead gift from the France-Merrick Foundation. The Middendorf Foundation Inc., and Charitable Marine Society also contributed to the project.

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