Have you ever wondered about the history of University of Baltimore’s buildings? Was your college building constructed just for UB or did it have a previous life? Who used the space before you were a student or staff person at UB? Who designed these buildings?
If you’d like to learn more about the history of one of UB’s properties, you can visit the UB Liberal Arts and Policy building during Doors Open Baltimore October 5 & 6, 2019. According to their website, Doors Open Baltimore is a festival celebrating the architecture and neighborhoods of Baltimore. This is a chance for anyone interested in the buildings of Baltimore to explore the city’s built spaces by taking a self-guided tour or by participating in special tours led by architects and designers. Check out their website to learn more!
This year, the University of Baltimore’s Liberal Arts and Policy building is participating in Doors Open Baltimore! We hope you’ll visit during the event and enjoy learning about the history of this building.
Though it may not have a fancy title or a moat, the UB Liberal Arts and Policy Building was once the home of knights! In a previous life, the current home of Liberal Arts and Policy (LAP) on the corner of Preston Street and N. Charles Street was the Grand Lodge of the Knights of Pythias. The building was also once the headquarters of a bank, all before it was acquired for the University by former UB President H. Mebane Turner in the late 1990s.
In 1997 UB President Turner was working to expand the university and create new spaces for UB students and staff. A Baltimore Sun article from August 23, 1997, explains that Turner proposed plans to the University System of Maryland Board of Regents for the acquisition of several properties in Baltimore’s Midtown area for UB in order to increase student space, increase enrollment, and rejuvenate the area (Gunts, 1997a). The current LAP Building, then well-known as the former headquarters of Loyola Federal Savings and Loan Association, was a key piece of this plan. You can still see the name of the bank on the outside of the building.
President Turner proposed to use the building for administrative offices at the university in order to make other spaces on campus more available as classrooms, student meeting space, a new admissions office, or other uses (Gunts, 1997a). This was an era of growth and expansion for UB and the article notes that Turner had already successfully acquired and re-purposed other buildings for the university’s use. At the time, the plan to acquire the building on the corner of N. Charles Street and Preston Street was supported by community members and then-Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who saw it as an opportunity for the Mt. Vernon-Belvedere neighborhood to benefit from the university’s presence (Gunts, 1997a). Today the LAP Building is certainly a picturesque centerpiece of the urban UB campus!
Turner’s proposal must have been popular, because a few days later on August 28, 1997, a second Baltimore Sun article reported that the USM Board of Regents supported the plan (Gunts, 1997b).
The Italian Renaissance style building was originally built in 1927 for the Knights of Pythias, a nonsectarian fraternal order as the Grand Lodge. According to their website, the Knights of Pythias were founded in 1864 and adhere to the principles of friendship, charity, and benevolence. They support charities and community service. The knights remain active today, and their seal can still be found on the exterior of the building.
According to the same August 28, 1997 Baltimore Sun article, the building, designed by Clyde N. and Nelson Friz for the Pythias, was highly praised and awarded a certificate of architectural merit from the Baltimore chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Charles Street Association (Gunts, 1997b).
The Knights of Pythias used the building through the 1950s until they moved to other locations in Maryland (Gunts, 1997b). The Baltimore Sun article explains that the building was then a nightclub, and later home to the Loyola Federal Savings and Loan Association, which was bought by Crestar Bank in 1995. By the late 1990s when Turner was pursuing it as an addition to UB, it was owned by First Union National Bank (Gunts, 1997b). The former home of the knights was important for Turner’s plans for expansion and in summer 1998, a third Baltimore Sun article reported in June that the building was on its way to becoming an addition to UB (Gunts, 1998).
Today if you attend classes in the building, you may see the ornate stained glass windows that portray the symbols of the Knights of Pythias in the circular staircase. You might also notice the fraternity’s seal on the entrance of the building. The legacy of the L.A.P. Building’s past lives can still be seen today if you know where to look!
Gunts, E. (1997a, August 23). College unveils plan to expand Univ. of Baltimore seeks acquisition of half-dozen properties; ‘It’s intelligent growth’; Projects seen as way to help strengthen Mt. Vernon-Belvedere. Baltimore Sun. Retrieved from https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bs-xpm-1997-08-23-1997235003-story.html
Gunts, E. (1997b, August 28). Knights’ loss may be university’s gain Change: The University of Baltimore’s interest in acquiring the former Pythian “castle” comes at a time of waning interest in fraternal organizations and growing need for a campus center. Baltimore Sun. Retrieved from http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bs-xpm-1997-08-28-1997240066-story.html
Gunts, E. (1998, June 11). UB gets close on Crestar building Control: A University of Baltimore desire, first expressed 20 years ago, to turn a former bank headquarters into a campus administrative center might be near reality. Baltimore Sun. Retrieved from https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bs-xpm-1998-06-11-1998162108-story.html
The Knights of Pythias. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://knightsofpythias.squarespace.com/