Several of Baltimore's landmark structures took a turn for the better in 2016

The restored facade of the historic Parkway Theatre.
The restored facade of the historic Parkway Theatre. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

The year 2016 was a watershed time for change in and around downtown Baltimore — in some cases literally.

Water from rainstorms finally stopped pouring into North Avenue's Parkway Theatre last spring when the stately building finally got a new roof. The Parkway ceased showing films in the middle 1970s, and after that its roof failed, bringing leaks that damaged its delicate plaster interior.


The Parkway has seen much progress since the Maryland Film Festival took on the $18.2 million task of bringing back this 1915 cinematic treasure. The new roof, a stylish addition at North Avenue and Charles Street and a painstaking plaster restoration effort took up much of the year.

I anxiously await its grand reopening this spring. Jed Dietz, the film festival's founding director, promises that when the theater makes it return, "you're going to see 100 years of movie history in the Parkway."


The theater restoration is far from the only change in Baltimore's landscape this past year. In my travels around the city, I've observed progress in many communities.

In the Jones Falls Valley, for instance, commercial businesses started moving out of the former Noxzema plant at Falls Road in advance of a major repurposing of the structure. Somewhat to the north, residents filled apartments at the Whitehall Mill. Another venerable cotton factory, the Mill No. 1 got a restaurant, Cosima.

Along Remington Avenue, the new Remington Row apartments filled quickly and the R. House food hall, constructed out of the structural bones of the former Jarman Pontiac at the corner of 29th Street, became the talk of the neighborhood.

In downtown, the site of the McCormick spice plant at 414 Light St. changed dramatically as work took shape on a major apartment residence — filling a spot that had been a parking lot since 1989.

In the fall, another Light Street apartment building, the freshly refurbished 10 Light, hosted an open house that drew scores of curious visitors for tours of the resplendent 1929 former Baltimore Trust Co. building.

The South Baltimore-Federal Hill skyline changed as Stadium Square apartments popped up. This was also the year the Anthem House Apartments arrived at Fort Avenue at Lawrence street — its name derived from its proximity to Fort McHenry.

At the foot of Broadway, the old Recreation Pier complex has been reshaped by Sagamore Development into a hotel extending over the harbor. Architect Theodore Wells Pietsch's magnificent 1914 ballroom emerged as a dazzling chamber after decades of neglect. I expect it to become one of Baltimore's most sought-after social gathering spots.

There was also sweeping change in the Greenmount West and Oliver communities. City Arts 2, a residence for artists, as well as a $12.3 community arts lab called Open Works arrived along Greenmount Avenue. Both face the historic Green Mount Cemetery.

Meanwhile, carpenters, masons and drywall installers worked to transform dozens of rowhouses, nearly all of them vacant shells, in the Oliver community not far from the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

We said hello to a clever newcomer in 2016: The Nevermore Haunt amusement attraction became a creative reuse of the old Isaac Benesch-Kaufman's department store in the 500 block of Gay Street, also known as the Oldtown Mall.

Also arriving was Gunther & Co., a restaurant in the former Gunther Brewery powerhouse in Brewers Hill-Canton. [For those who like trivia, Gunther's beer sponsored the Memorial Stadium scoreboard when the Orioles returned to Baltimore in 1954.]

Alas, not everything old was new again in 2016. We had to bid farewell to the old Haussner restaurant building in Highlandtown, the Inner Harbor's McKeldin Fountain and the rear walls of the historic Mayfair movie theater on Howard Street.


We also said goodbye — at least temporarily — to the concept of freely moving about the west side of downtown's streets. A sewer collapse triggered a major underground reconstruction effort that extends from Paca Street to St. Paul Street.

Those large black, above-ground sewer pipes became a familiar nuisance in 2016.

Perhaps we will be liberated in 2017.

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