Sheppard Pratt to use 2 structures in plans


Sheppard Pratt Health System officials say they will introduce development plans in coming weeks to substantially preserve some of the structures they fought to keep off Baltimore County's list of historic landmarks.

Local preservationists fought to put 13 buildings and other structures from the institution's 111-year-old campus on the landmarks list, but last week, the Baltimore County Council voted to leave four of them off.

Council members said they were concerned that the restrictions that come with landmark designation would prevent the hospital from modernizing and expanding.

Two of the four structures, the admissions building and the power plant, will be incorporated in plans for a new hospital that Sheppard Pratt intends to file with the county within two weeks, said Barbara Katz, Sheppard Pratt's vice president for corporate business development.

The hospital has no plans for a third structure, the barn, and offers no guarantees about what might happen to it.

A fourth structure, the stone bridge, will have to be replaced or substantially altered soon because it isn't sufficiently large or structurally sound to handle modern traffic, Katz said, and the hospital has been told by the Army Corps of Engineers that it would not approve a second bridge site.

"By doing this, by including the buildings in the development plan, the buildings are preserved, but it gives Sheppard Pratt some flexibility," said County Councilman Wayne M. Skinner, a Towson Republican who Sheppard Pratt officials say was instrumental in brokering the deal.

Katz said she anticipates that if all goes well, construction will begin in the spring.

Preservationists who were involved in the debate said they wished more of the campus could be preserved -- particularly the stone bridge -- but that Sheppard Pratt appeared to be making good-faith efforts to retain its character.

Carol Allen, president of Historic Towson Inc., said what's noteworthy about the campus from a preservationist's perspective is how one structure plays off another to create a cohesive whole, and any alteration will disrupt that. But she said she understands the hospital's need to stay relevant.

"I think they, in response to us, are very concerned about the value of their architectural inheritance of those buildings, and buildings really aren't meant to be kept under glass. They do keep evolving," she said.

Elise Butler, programs director of Preservation Maryland, said it's possible for Sheppard Pratt to expand and incorporate the buildings in a historically sensitive way, but she will have to see the specifics before she knows whether Sheppard Pratt is doing that. "It has this distinctive legacy, and it can be built upon, but it needs to be done very carefully," she said.

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