Karen Lewand, a preservationist and educator who launched a series of walking tours while establishing programs for children to learn about architecture, died of cancer Dec. 20 at her home in the Radnor-Winston section of North Baltimore. She was 67.
"She was an innovator, a leader and a strong advocate for preserving Baltimore's historic buildings and neighborhoods, and helped Baltimore grow in countless ways. With an unwavering voice for preserving the best of our architecture and neighborhoods, she was instrumental in saving historic places that many of us now take for granted," said Johns Hopkins, executive director of Baltimore Heritage.
She was awarded his organization's Douglas Gordon Award for "lifetime achievement" and "exceptional leadership" earlier this year.
Born Karen Elizabeth Schultz in Detroit, she earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Dayton and received a master's degree from the Johns Hopkins University.
She moved to Baltimore in 1977 and spent 10 years in Hopkins' Office of Financial Development, where she raised funds. She also worked in a similar capacity at the Children's Guild. Friends said that she embraced the history and architecture of the city. She studied preservation at Goucher College and joined the city's advocacy group, Baltimore Heritage.
"She quickly became a leading member and spent 27 years serving on our board of directors," Mr. Hopkins said. "Karen founded the education committee and developed some of the city's first walking tours of historic neighborhoods that have grown into the many heritage tours we have today."
Mr. Hopkins said that in the neighborhood where she lived, Radnor-Winston, she fought for the preservation and reuse of the Gallagher Mansion, a Victorian home that was in poor condition and faced possible demolition. She saw it converted into apartments for the elderly. The Maryland Historical Trust awarded it a Preservation Project Award in 1997.
Her husband, Robert Lewand, a Goucher College mathematics professor, said she felt the restoration of the Basilica of the Assumption was the most important preservation achievement in her time here.
Mrs. Lewand also served on the city's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation. Friends said she played a role in preventing the demolition of a former drug and pharmaceutical firm, Hinson Westcott Dunning, whose headquarters is at Charles and Chase streets in Mount Vernon.
"Karen lived her values," said Kathleen Kotarba, executive director of the preservation commission. "She helped so many of us discover the world around us."
Mr. Hopkins said that in 1981 Mrs. Lewand developed a course for teaching local history through architecture. The following year the city's preservation commission received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to teach her Neighborhood Discovery course in 23 city public schools.
She took a paid job at the city's Planning Department, researching and writing neighborhood histories. These stories appeared in her book, "North Baltimore: From Estate to Development," published in 1989 by the Planning Department and the University of Baltimore.
In the mid-1990s, she convened a coalition of concerned Maryland citizens.
"They met at the Maryland Institute College of Art," said Dru Schmidt-Perkins, a Baltimore resident who is director of what is now 1000 Friends of Maryland. "She brought people together who said there wasn't good transportation and that historic buildings were being torn down and farmland was being lost. It was a desperate group of concerned developers, preservationists, transit advocates and planners. It was the Noah's Ark of interest groups."
"Karen Lewand was a true unsung hero of the state's Smart Growth movement through her efforts in the 1990s that combined historic preservation, urban redevelopment and environmental advocacy," said Alfred J. Barry III, a planner who is also a Baltimore resident. "Her dedication to historic preservation causes and Baltimore was unwavering. Her book on North Baltimore set the standard for neighborhood histories."
From 1992 to 2012, Mrs. Lewand was executive director of the Baltimore Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and ran its West Chase Street office. In recognition of her leadership, the organization dedicated and named its chapter house in her honor.
"Karen had a great talent of bringing people of varied interests together," said Fred Shoken, a friend and preservationist who lives in Baltimore. "Historic preservation is often a thankless task in a world of constant change, but her upbeat attitude was infectious, and her can-do spirit was an inspiration for all."
In 2001, she was awarded the American Institute of Architects' Richard Upjohn Fellowship "for her contributions to the profession of architecture."
Mr. Hopkins said that earlier this year she assisted Baltimore Heritage in setting up a fund, which is now named the Karen Lewand Preservation Education Fund.
A funeral Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Jan. 3 at SS. Philip and James Roman Catholic Church, 2801 N. Charles St.
In addition to her husband of 45 years, survivors include two daughters, Elizabeth Lewand of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Stephanie Lewand of Baltimore; and a brother, David Schultz of Chelsea, Mich.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun