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Carroll Baldwin Hall in Savage gets ready for its next 100 years

Carroll Baldwin Hall has been a fixture in the Savage community of southeastern Howard County for almost 100 years, yet manager Norma Broadwater still meets people who have never heard of it.

“So many people come in or drive by and say, ‘I always thought it was a church,’” Broadwater said. “It is a very unique space.”

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With its cornerstone laid in 1921, Carroll Baldwin Hall was built “for the benefit of the Savage community,” Broadwater said, and that purpose continues today as the hall has hosted a variety of activities, from bowling, dances and yoga, to housing one of the county’s public library branches from the 1960s to ’90s.

On Sunday, the popular Savage 7K run and 1-mile walk, a fundraiser for the hall, returns in person with music, food and prizes.

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“We make it special,” volunteer Sara Vermillion said. “It’s not a certified race. It’s low-key with lots of people having a good time.”

The race kicks off the hall’s centennial celebration with special events planned throughout the year, Vermillion said, with a special event in November 2022 to end it.

“In 1922, the hall hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for 500 people,” Vermillion said. “Maybe we could do a Thanksgiving dinner.”

In early 2020, Carroll Baldwin Hall’s original floors were removed and new floors made of red oak were installed, as seen in its library.
In early 2020, Carroll Baldwin Hall’s original floors were removed and new floors made of red oak were installed, as seen in its library. (Courtesy photo / HANDOUT)

A video about the hall was also created by an intern over the summer to mark the hall’s first 100 years, Vermillion said.

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“So many people have so many memories of the hall,” she said. “Their video stories were recorded.”

First used by mill workers, the building had a bowling alley and pool tables in its basement, where a kitchen offered hot dogs and sodas. Local theater groups staged productions on the hall’s stage on the first floor and bands played for dances, according to Vermillion.

A branch of the Howard County Library System opened at the opposite end of the hall’s stage in 1966 and operated until 1991, when the new Savage Branch of the system opened.

“A librarian would dress up as Mother Goose for story time … and we still have that Mother Goose costume,” said Vermillion, standing near the original shelves of the library by a large fireplace. “We might put artifacts in here for the community to see.”

Creating a collection of memorabilia is just one of many projects Vermillion and a host of volunteers entrusted with the hall’s care would like to see done.

“There is a lot of upkeep,” Vermillion said. “There is lots to do.”

The hall was built as a tribute to Carroll Baldwin, president of Savage Manufacturing Company from 1905 until his death in 1918, by his sister, Sallie, according to the Historical Marker Database. A designated Maryland Historical Trust site, it was constructed from readily available materials, including cheap pine wood and stones from the Little Patuxent River.

“The materials were less expensive for the day, but they built this beautiful building,” Broadwater said. “We want to preserve all of the historic character.”

Major renovations began 10 years ago when the hall received a state grant and was able to add air conditioning to the building and completely renovate the basement.

“We added nice bathrooms, a conference room and an office,” Vermillion said. “It is more functional for the community.”

Volunteers work on upgrades at Carroll Baldwin Hall.
Volunteers work on upgrades at Carroll Baldwin Hall. (Courtesy photo / HANDOUT)

In early 2020, the hall’s original floors were removed and new floors made of red oak were installed. A 1950s dance party, with music by a local band and a social dance club adding the moves, was held in March 2020 to celebrate, just days before the COVID-19 pandemic would close the venue.

“It was such a nice event. Very crowded and an older crowd,” Broadwater said. “We were lucky. It was our inaugural dance.”

While the hall was able to open its doors to small events last June, it is in need of more funds to keep Carroll Baldwin Hall current for the next 100 years. A new handicap entrance is needed for the basement level. Windows and doors need to be repaired, as does the chimney before the gas fireplace can be used.

“It has been in demand since the pandemic because a lot of people want a smaller venue right now,” Broadwater said. The main hall can hold between 80 to 160 people depending on the use of tables and if the library room is used, too. “We would like to see more weekday rentals.”

Broadwater is also excited about the upcoming production of “A Christmas Carol” by the Pasadena Theatre Company in December.

“We are hoping it will be a long-term partnership,” Broadwater said. “We would like to be a cultural center.”

Last year, the hall offered the original wood flooring and nails for sale as a fundraiser.

“It is fun to see what people have done with the wood,” Broadwater said. “Shelving in kitchens. Frames.”

Ornaments made from the original flooring to mark the centennial are also being designed, Vermillion said.

“We are open to people coming to us with ideas,” Vermillion said. “It’s a balance. We want to use the building but we have to be careful.”

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