Calvert School prevented from razing house

The Baltimore Sun

Calvert School yesterday was prevented from tearing down its first headmaster's residence, known as Castalia, when Baltimore's preservation commission voted to add the property to a "special list" that gives the city panel legal authority to block demolition.

Despite objections from the private school, Baltimore's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation voted, 10-0, to add the building and grounds at 200 Tuscany Road to the "special list" of places it seeks to protect.

The panel also voted, 10-0, to recommend that the property be added to the city landmark list, a process that requires approval from the Planning Commission and City Council. The special-list designation does not require approval from any other body.

A local preservation group known as Baltimore Heritage nominated Castalia for landmark listing last fall after Calvert School sought permission to tear down the house, possibly to make way for an amphitheater.

Although school leaders said they were unsure whether they would actually raze the building, they sought permission from the community to keep their options open. Word of possible demolition sparked concern from members of the surrounding community, who said Castalia was worth preserving because it was built in 1928 by Calvert School's first headmaster, Virgil Hillyer, and designed by the noted architect Laurence Hall Fowler.

At yesterday's meeting, community representative Kevin Lowery gave the commission a petition signed by 648 residents who wanted Castalia to be designated a landmark. "Overwhelmingly, the community wants this building [preserved] so that Calvert School does not now, or in the future, tear it down," he said.

Headmaster Andrew D. Martire told the commission that demolition is just one option that Calvert School has considered for Castalia. He said the school also has hired architect Walter Schamu to recommend ways that the residence could be preserved for use by the school. "There is no immediate threat to this property," he said.

After the commission voted, Martire declined to comment.

Community residents said they were relieved by with the commission's action.

"I'm very pleased," said City Council member Mary Pat Clarke, whose district includes Calvert School and Castalia. "It will all work out."

The panel "acted in the best interests of the city of Baltimore, the neighborhood and the community," said James Harris, a Johns Hopkins doctor who with his wife, Cathy DeAngelis, sold Castalia to Calvert School in 2005 and who has offered to buy it back if the school did not want it to become a landmark.ed.gunts@baltsun.com

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