Historic status sought for Dundalk sites


In a move to buttress Dundalk's revitalization efforts, community leaders are attempting to have five sites designated as Baltimore County historic landmarks.

Advocates of the plan have cleared the first bureaucratic hurdle. The Landmarks Preservation Commission has given preliminary approval to the request.

The sites include the old Dundalk YMCA building, 10 Dunmanway; St. Rita's Roman Catholic Church's annex building and DeLawder Hall, both in the first block of Dunmanway; and the National Distillers Products, commonly known as Seagram's, distillery buildings, 7101 Sollers Point Road. Several buildings stand on that property, along with a smokestack bearing the words "Baltimore Pure Rye."

Also included is the Frankfort Distillery, now Montebello Brands Co., on a 20-acre site with four warehouse buildings and water tanks at 1919 Willow Spring Ave.

Community leaders say they are confident their plan will be approved by the county executive and the County Council after a public hearing that will likely be held early next year.

"There is a twofold purpose in attempting this," said Jane Willeboordse, executive director of the Dundalk Renaissance Corp. "We'd like to preserve what was part of the area's rich industrial heritage while looking at possible adaptive uses of some of the properties."

For instance, she said the old Seagram's distillery, which was converted to make other forms of alcohol during the two world wars, might be used for condominiums or stores.

"The architecture is part of the town, part of which has already been recognized by the state as having historic value, and that can lead to interesting creative usage as our revitalization continues," she said.

In 2002, an Urban Design Assistance Team visited Dundalk and made a series of redevelopment recommendations that ranged from enhancing the community's waterfront to strengthening links to Baltimore. Highlighting the area's history is an important element of Dundalk's redevelopment, the team found.

"That's part of what we were thinking in submitting the list to the county landmarks commission," said H. Edward Parker, a retired high school principal and a Dundalk community leader.

Parker, who also sits on the county Planning Board, made the recommendations to the Landmarks Preservation Commission in September. The commission voted unanimously last month for preliminary approval of the sites.

The commission forwarded its recommendations to County Executive James T. Smith Jr., who has 60 days to send them to the County Council. The council will conduct a public hearing on the recommendations and then vote to approve or reject them.

Tim Dugan, an official with the Landmarks Preservation Commission, said that body averages up to 20 requests annually for historic designations. But in recent years, Dugan said that communities have recognized the importance of having historic landmarks and requests are up slightly.

One major project under way in Dundalk is a streetscape along Dundalk Avenue. Other redevelopment plans include an extension of Center Street to create a "Heritage Trail" connecting the original Dundalk shopping center with the water, and a major housing restoration project using public and private grant funds along with private mortgage money.

Other older communities in Baltimore County working on revitalization are Essex, Middle River and Randallstown.

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