Hampden Hall, a former veterans' meeting hall that looms above the shops at
the southeast corner of 36th Street and Roland Avenue, will be converted to 14
loft-style apartments by mid-2006.
Baltimore businessmen Joe Preller
and Bob Geis bought the building last year and plan to create two-level loft style
Both say they already own "high-end" rental apartments
in Hampden and believe there is a strong demand for more.
vision is to restore the exterior of the building to its original beauty and make
the interior into loft apartments so it's a vibrant part of the community," Geis
"It's one of the last architectural gems of the neighborhood" that
hasn't been renovated, Preller said. "There's very little supply and very large
demand for quality apartments and townhouses throughout Hampden."
owns the building where the well-known Cafe Hon is located, among other properties,
and has been trying for years to buy Hampden Hall, which is located at 921-931
W. 36th St. He teamed up with Preller, he said, because Preller has the construction
expertise needed to carry out the conversion.
Kathleen Sherrill and Mahendra
Parekh of SPArch Inc. are the architects for the $2.5 million project. Preller's
Lance Contracting Co. is the contractor.
Hampden Hall was constructed
as a meeting hall for Civil War veterans in 1882, six years before Hampden became
part of Baltimore City.
It was initially used as an outpost of the Grand
Army of the Republic - a patriotic organization of Civil War veterans who served
in the Union forces. It was later used as a "town hall" and as a setting for dances
and concerts, among other events.
In 1913, the building was acquired
by Baltimore businessman Theodore Cavacos, who owned the pharmacy at the southwest
corner of 36th and Roland. With the purchase, the Cavacos family controlled two
corners of the intersection.
The next year, Cavacos expanded the hall
by building storefronts along 36th Street - a new source of revenue that partially
obscured the main hall. In 1975, the Cavacos family worked with artist Bob Hieronimus
and the city of Baltimore to create a large mural on the north side of the building
that celebrates Hampden and its two Medal of Honor winners, Wilton Ricketts and
The Cavacos family owned the building until its sale last
year. The storefronts will remain as part of the conversion. The fate of the mural
has not been determined, Preller said.
Under a plan approved by Baltimore's
Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals, the entrance to the apartments will be
on the Roland Avenue side, and off-street parking spaces will be created on the
south side of the property.
Inside, the building has unusually high ceilings,
and it's possible to see Baltimore's harbor and the Key Bridge from almost every
level. The architects' plans call for part of the roof to be carved away on the
south side to create roof terraces with views toward the harbor. Large wooden
beams salvaged from the building will be reused in the renovation, and some of
the brick walls will be left exposed.
Preller says he asked the architects
to salvage as much of the original building as possible and to develop floor plans
that capture the "funkiness" and "quirkiness" of Hampden while appealing to today's
"Would you have thought you could see the water from here?"
he asked, pointing to an upper-level window. "Most people don't. This is going
to be striking."
Baltimore businessman Ted Cavacos, grandson and namesake
of the man who bought the building in 1913, maintains an office in one of building's
storefronts along 36th Street and says he's pleased with the renovation plans.
"It's going to be beautiful," he said. "I wish them the best. It certainly brought
a lot of success to my family."
From veterans' hall to loft-style
Architecture: Edward Gunts
Architecture Column - Baltimore
Originally published Mar 7, 2005&