The former Greyhound Corp. bus service terminal in Baltimore's Mount Vernon neighborhood, a relic of the motoring age that appeared destined for demolition until preservationists waged a campaign to save it, will soon be transformed to the city's newest museum wing.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke this week agreed to turn over the city-owned bus garage at the northwest corner of Park Avenue )) and Centre Street to the Maryland Historical Society, which wants to use it to create a major new exhibit facility focusing on Maryland history.
The agreement is a sign of the Schmoke administration's continued effort to turn the Howard Street corridor into an "Avenue of the Arts," with cultural attractions up and down the mile-long stretch from Oriole Park at Camden Yards to the Mount Royal cultural center.
Other arts-related projects include a proposed $60 million performing arts center at 901 N. Howard St. and renovations of the Mayfair and Hippodrome theaters.
"The mayor has agreed to deed the property to us" as a gift, said society Director Dennis Fiori, who met with Mr. Schmoke on Tuesday. "We think it's very exciting. We want to be a catalyst for change in the neighborhood. We want to look outward, not inward as we have in the past."
A half-block from Howard Street, the service terminal was built in 1941 and 1942 as an annex to the Greyhound station at Howard and Centre streets, now home to the Maryland State Arts Council and other agencies.
Both buildings were designed by William Arrasmith of Wischmeyer, Arrasmith and Elswick, a firm that specialized in Art Moderne bus terminals. Greyhound moved elsewhere in the 1980s.
"I can't think of a more perfect use for the building than to give it to the Maryland Historical Society," said Donna Beth Joy Shapiro, a local preservationist who led the effort to save the building. "It's a fabulous exhibit space."
The Maryland Historical Society occupies a series of buildings directly north of the vacant terminal and separated from it by an alley. The complex consists of the 1847 mansion at 201 W. Monument St. that was once owned by public library founder Enoch Pratt, the 1967 Thomas Hugg Memorial Building and several smaller structures.
Grieves, Worrall, Wright and O'Hatnick of Baltimore will be the architect for the project.
Mr. Fiori said conversion of the 19,000-square-foot terminal will give the organization the space it needs to consolidate exhibits "on 300 years of Maryland history." Preliminary plans call for 8,000 square feet for permanent exhibits, 5,000 square feet for temporary exhibits, and an education center.
The society also plans to construct a multistory building on the west side of Park Avenue, between Centre and Monument streets, that will connect the bus terminal to the society's existing complex. The "link" would become the main entrance to the society and would help orient the museum to nearby attractions.
The site is within five blocks of the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore's School for the Arts, the Peabody Conservatory and Maryland Art Place.
Mr. Fiori believes the garage conversion will be an important element of the city's plan to rejuvenate Howard Street.
He also hopes the conversion will show that the society is reaching out and working to shed its tradition-bound image.
"We have a reputation of being a rather elitist group," he said. "This is going to be a sign of the direction we are moving -- to be a broader-based institution, a statewide organization, looking at all of Maryland and the history of the people in Maryland. We are a historical institution. What's more emblematic of America than buses and mobility?"
James W. Rouse, founder of the Enterprise Foundation and the Rouse Co., will deliver the seventh annual Alexander S. Cochran Lecture at the Maryland Historical Society on Oct. 25. A reception at 5:30 p.m. will precede the 6 p.m. lecture.
The Baltimore Architectural Foundation is the sponsor. Admission is $5 per person for foundation and society members; and $10 for others. Tickets are available at the door or in advance from the foundation at 625-2585.