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Fire damages historic Upton building where Thurgood Marshall attended school

A three-alarm fire broke out Wednesday at the historic West Baltimore building where Supreme Court Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall once attended school, causing an estimated $50,000 worth of damage.

A three-alarm fire broke out Wednesday at the historic West Baltimore building where Supreme Court Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall once attended school, causing an estimated $50,000 worth of damage.

Firefighters dispatched at 12:30 p.m. to the 1300 block of Division St. in the Upton neighborhood arrived to find heavy smoke coming from the former Public School 103, also known as Henry Highland Garnet School.

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No injuries were reported. The Fire Department said the building was vacant, the flames were contained and they did not spread to nearby homes.

The cause of the blaze has not been determined. Fire officials said the building is unsafe to enter.

Jason Vaughan, director of historical preservation for the Baltimore National Heritage Area, called the former school "one of the most significant structures related to Marshall's life here."

The two-story brick building was constructed in 1877. Marshall, who argued the landmark Brown v. Board of Education desegregation case for the NAACP before the Supreme Court and served as U.S. solicitor general before President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him the first African-American justice, attended the school from first through eighth grade, from 1914 to 1921.

A commission established by the mayor's office set out in 2013 to discuss what to do with the property. It has been designated as a city landmark. Vaughan said the group was working to get the building included on the National Historic Landmark.

"We're really looking forward to a new chapter," Vaughan said. The plan was to make the building "a new community outpost, to tell Thurgood Marshall's story."

Vaughan said significant work was done to improve the exterior of the building, including adding louvers to the windows for better ventilation. Asbestos was removed, he said, and the building was waterproofed.

"There was a significant investment to stabilize the building," he said.

Vaughan said most of the roof appeared to be gone. He said preservationists will now assess the extent of the damage.

Earlier versions of this story incorrectly described the designation the Baltimore National Heritage Area is seeking for the school. The group wants have it designated as a National Historic Landmark. The Sun regrets the error.

Baltimore Sun researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

twitter.com/janders5

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