Environmental cleanup of 1904 Roland Water Tower begins

Work has begun to clean up and restore the long-closed iconic 107-year-old Roland Water Tower.

The Baltimore-based company Padeens Inc. started environmental cleanup of the tower at West University Parkway and Roland Avenue on Oct. 31 and expects to finish this week, according to Roland Park Civic League President Phil Spevak and league member Al Copp, who is involved in the project.

The $37,300 cleanup, the first phase of a longer project to restore the tower, includes cleaning the interior of debris, "including years accumulation of animal waste, mostly pigeon dung," Copp said in an email Sunday, Nov. 4. He said Padeens would also decontaminate and bird-proof the interior of the building, which are essential before restoration work can begin.

The state legislature last session approved a $250,000 bond bill to clean and restore the tower. A combination of state, city, foundation and neighborhood funding will be used for the cleanup, Copp said. He said the league is working with the city's Department of General Services on the overall project, which calls for restoring the tower, opening a display room of local history inside, and creating a community park around the base of the tower, as called for in the city-approved Greater Roland Park Master Plan.

Fundraising is ongoing, Copp said.

The league has long sought to fix the tower, a north Baltimore icon located in the Hoes Heights.

The bond bill is a matching grant, meaning that the community must raise $250,000 of its own in a dollar-for-dollar match. Restoration is expected to cost $900,000, and the park and display room are expected to cost another $300,000 to $600,000, bringing the total project cost to between $1.2 and $1.4 million.

Spevak said in February he was optimistic that the league can raise up to $1.4 million.

The eight-sided, 148-foot-tall tower is crumbling at the top under the weight of accumulated pigeon guano. It was deemed structurally sound last year, however, in a city inspection after a rare earthquake in the region.

The tower, with a granite base, brick walls and limestone trim, was built in 1904 in the Italianate architectural style and was used as a water tower until the advent of the city's reservoir system in the 1930s.

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