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Parkway Theatre considered for landmark designation

Baltimore's long dormant Parkway Theatre on North Avenue, a fixture in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, would be added to the city's landmark list, if public officials approve a plan now before the City Council.

Baltimore's Commission on Historical and Architectural Preservation is holding a public hearing at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday to decide whether to designate the theater a city landmark.

The theater was designed by Oliver B. Wight and opened in 1915 as a first-class movie house. According to historian Robert Headley, the Parkway cost about $120,000 and was modeled after two theaters, the West End (later called the Rialto) Theater in London and the Strand Theatre in New York.

According to Headley, the theater was later acquired by Charles Whitehurst, whose portfolio included many of the first-run theaters downtown. After Whitehurst died in 1924, it became part of the Loew's organization. It was converted to an art theater in the 1950s and its name was changed to the 5 West. It ceased full-time operation as a movie house in the late 1970s and has been largely dormant since then. It is owned by the city of Baltimore, which recently sought redevelopment proposals and received three bids, which are under review.

Tuesday's hearing is an early step in the designation process. If the preservation commission votes to recommend that the building be granted historic designation, it also must be approved by the City Council and MayorStephanie Rawlings-Blakebefore it becomes official.

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