Some preservationists fight bulldozers and wrecking balls. Marty and Tony Azola had to outwit a black vulture.

The female vulture laid eggs in the attic of Ruscombe, a vacant 1860s-era mansion near Cylburn Arboretum that the Azolas proposed to restore for commercial tenants. Because the black vulture is a migratory species protected by law, the father-and-son development team had to wait until her eggs hatched and she and her offspring flew away before they could begin work. She came back the next year and laid eggs again, delaying the project even more.


Finally, the Azolas boarded up the building enough to keep the vulture out and were able to complete their restoration. The building at 4901 Springarden Drive, now called the Stone Mansion, is fully leased with a cafe and a mix of private businesses and nonprofits, as well as the headquarters of the Azola Cos. In the lobby are photos of the vulture's eggs and chicks as reminders of their not-so-brief tenancy in the "Vulture's Suite."

"We've had bats and snakes and rats in our buildings before, but this was a first," Marty Azola said.


The Stone Mansion was one of 10 projects honored Thursday night at the Garrett-Jacobs Mansion by Baltimore Heritage, a citywide preservation advocacy group.

Johns Hopkins, executive director of Baltimore Heritage, said he was surprised by the wide range of projects, groups and locations that were nominated, despite the economic downturn.

"We had as strong a pool as ever," he said. "No two projects were in the same neighborhood. Many of the developers and architects and contractors are being recognized for the first time. To me, that shows that preservation is strong throughout the city."

Other projects receiving preservation awards were: Lloyd Street Synagogue at 15 Lloyd St., owned by the Jewish Museum of Maryland; 16 W. Madison St., a building that houses offices for Agora Inc.; 901 N. Milton Ave., a former garment factory recycled as a center for nonprofits; Mount Calvary Church, 816 N. Eutaw St.; St. Casimir Church at 2739 O'Donnell St.; and the home of Brenda and Jeffrey Smith on Harford Road in Lauraville.

Preservation Honor Awards went to 801 Washington Blvd., a commercial building in Pigtown; Joe and Ann Schultz of Schultz Development, for restoring houses around Patterson Park; and Baltimore's Alley Houses: Homes for Working People Since the 1970s, a book by Mary Ellen Hayward.

A final award was presented to City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, the Tuscany-Canterbury Neighborhood Association and seven individuals for their efforts to prevent demolition of the Scottish Rite Temple at 3800 N. Charles St. and Castalia at 200 Tuscany Road, the former residence of the first headmaster of the Calvert School. Both are no longer threatened with demolition.