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Demolition work at Mayfair Theatre to begin today

Partial demolition of the 112-year-old Mayfair Theatre, a Howard Street landmark with roots that date back to the 1870s, is scheduled to begin today.

"Deconstruction of the south wall" is set to begin today, Tania Baker, director of communications for Baltimore Housing, said in an email. Westbound Franklin Street has been closed off at its intersection with Howard Street, and workers were on-site Monday morning.

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Plans call for the majority of the building to be razed. The facade facing Howard Street, with its elaborately carved faces and figures, is to be saved, along with about 35 feet of the building's front, extending west from Howard Street.

Preservationists had hoped for years to save the building, a former vaudeville house and legitimate theater known as the Auditorium that began showing movies full time in 1941. It has been closed and vacant since 1986; its roof collapsed in 1998.

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As recently as 2008, a developer announced plans to rehab the building and turn it into a combination of retail and apartment space. The project was subsequently abandoned.

An October 2014 fire in an adjacent building, caused by workers removing the Mayfair's marquee, further damaged the Mayfair. When that building was razed earlier this year, it left the structure even more open to the elements.

The Mayfair site has been a part of Baltimore's cultural fabric since at least 1870, when the Natatorium — which included a gymnasium and indoor pool — opened there. Re-opening as a theater called the Howard Auditorium in April 1891, it was extensively remodeled in 1895 and 1897. The current structure, built for $250,000, opened in September 1904.

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com


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