Camden Yards pays homage to people, places of the past


Fans attending today's Orioles season opener will be among the first to view two recently completed physical changes at Camden Yards: a $775,000 Veterans Memorial and exterior restoration of historic Camden Station.

Contractors last week put the finishing touches on the memorial, which is at the south end of the B&O; warehouse and features stainless steel letters salvaged from Baltimore's old Memorial Stadium.

Another key element is a brass urn that contains soil from U.S. military cemeteries throughout the world. Like the letters, the urn came from Memorial Stadium. It wasn't easy to find in the old stadium, but it's a focal point of the new memorial, encased in a shatterproof glass case and polished and gleaming in the sun.

"The whole point was to let people see it," Jeff Provenzano, assistant project manager for the Maryland Stadium Authority, said of the urn.

The state agency oversaw design and construction of the memorial after consulting with local veterans groups. "People are already stopping by and offering their opinions," Provenzano said. "When it's lit up at night, it's beautiful."

Designed by Cochran, Stephenson and Donkervoet of Baltimore, the structure is also a memorial of sorts to the old horseshoe-shaped stadium, which became home to the National Football League's Colts in 1953 and the American League's Orioles in 1954.

After Baltimore's baseball and football teams moved to stadiums in Camden Yards in the 1990s, city leaders chose to raze the old stadium to make way for new development.

Since the old stadium's front wall was a memorial to veterans of the two world wars, they also decided to build a new memorial in Camden Yards, using letters from the old one: TIME WILL NOT DIM THE GLORY OF THEIR DEEDS. The new memorial pays tribute to veterans who served in all American military conflicts, including the current war in Iraq.

A second line reads: "The citizens of the state of Maryland dedicate this memorial to all veterans who so valiantly fought and served in our nation's wars with eternal gratitude to those who made the supreme sacrifice to preserve equality and freedom throughout the world."

The memorial is on the pathway between Oriole Park and Ravens Stadium and is sure to be seen by many people walking from the Camden Yards parking lots to the baseball park.

The letters are mounted on a curved wall that frames a plaza intended as a place of contemplation. The wall is clad in charcoal granite with two finishes, polished and flamed, or rough-textured. Flags of the city, state and country are mounted on poles at one end.

Michael Bolinger was the principal-in-charge for Cochran Stephenson and Donkervet. Sotero Nieves and Scott Huot were also on the design team. Whiting Turner Contracting Co. was the general contractor.

The memorial will have a formal dedication on Memorial Day.

The stadium authority also set Opening Day as the deadline to finish exterior restoration of Camden Station, the 1857 train depot owned by the state that has been vacant since Oriole Park opened in 1992.

The stadium authority last year began a $1 million renovation effort to prevent further deterioration of the station, by making it more structurally sound and weather-tight. The work included repairing unsafe floors by adding new steel supports and wooden floor boards, repointing exterior brick walls, repainting wood surfaces and patching the roof where it leaks.

The Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum has plans to convert most of the train station to a regional sports museum by 2005, but wanted the building shell to be stabilized and upgraded first.

The General Assembly's Legislative Policy Committee last week approved a funding package that would provide up to $8.5 million for that work in the fiscal year that begins July 1. Stadium authority executive director Richard Slosson said his agency still must conclude lease negotiations with the museum before work can begin. Other than that, he said, "We're ready to go today."

Church rededication

Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church at 1316 Park Ave. in Bolton Hill will show off the results of a $1.8 million restoration during an open house and reception on Sunday from 3:15 p.m. to 5 p.m. The open house will be preceded by a 2 p.m. rededication service inside the restored 1870 sanctuary.

Hotel forum

Three proposals for a convention hotel in downtown Baltimore will be discussed during a free public forum from noon to 2 p.m. April 11, at the Johns Hopkins University's Downtown Center, Charles and Fayette streets.

The proposals received in February call for hotels with at least 750 rooms to be constructed either on the two city-owed blocks north of Oriole Park or on a private lot on Conway Street. The Baltimore Architecture Foundation and the Urban Design Committee of the Baltimore chapter of the American Institute of Architects have invited representatives of all three development teams under consideration to present their plans.

Regional growth

Maryland's prospects for job growth will be the subject of a free noontime forum on Wednesday at the Hopkins' Downtown Center.

Charles W. McMillion, an authority on Maryland's economy and tax policies, will examine Maryland's and Baltimore's policies to encourage job growth and contrast them with those of other states.

A former economist at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies, McMillion has conducted numerous studies of the state's tax and business profile and has followed the growth of the biotechnology industry here and the related jobs created by that industry. The forum is part of the Baltimore Architecture Foundation's spring series on urban affairs.

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