The nonprofit Preservation Maryland recently bestowed its 2020 Best of Maryland “The Phoenix Award” to the large-scale renovation project of the former Hebrew Orphan Asylum building, which is now the Center for Health Care and Healthy Living.

Located in West Baltimore’s Copping Heights/Rosemont neighborhood, the center will soon be 100 percent occupied by the Baltimore City Health Department and Behavioral Health System Baltimore. The space will be used for the Maryland Crisis Stabilization Center, where patients will receive short-term medical attention and services for those addicted to drugs or alcohol, with additional space for lease to other medical service providers.

The Phoenix Award was presented to the project team and community stakeholders of the $17 million renovation, which took more than 16 years to complete and utilized Maryland Sustainable Communities tax credits, National Park Service historic tax credits and other incentives.

The building stands on the site of the former Calverton Mansion, the country home of Baltimore banker Dennis Smith. The mansion was built in 1815 and burned down in 1872. The property was then donated to the Jewish community by a Baltimore Jewish merchant, William S. Rayner.

Designed by the architectural firm of Lupus & Roby, the Hebrew Orphan Asylum was built in 1876 with the donations of Baltimore’s affluent German-Jewish community through the auspices of the Hebrew Benevolent Society of Baltimore.

The four-story, Victorian Romanesque structure, located at 2700 Rayner Ave., served the Jewish community until 1923, when the Hebrew Orphan Society and the Hebrew Children’s Sheltering and Protective Society moved to the Northwest Baltimore tract of land now occupied by the Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital.

A vintage postcard of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum (File photo)

The Hebrew Orphan Asylum building served as West Baltimore General Hospital from 1923 to 1950 and the Lutheran Hospital of Maryland from 1950 to 1989.

The 30,000-square-foot building was vacant from 1989 until recently, and owned by Coppin State University. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.

Advocacy for the renovation project since 2004 was led by Baltimore Heritage Inc., which recruited community stakeholders and critical new partners. The Coppin Heights Community Development Corp. and Cross Street Partners brought the Baltimore City Health Department to the table.

“The creative reimagining and hard work to bring the Hebrew Orphan Asylum back from the brink of being lost to history not only saved a remarkable architectural gem but reference the original intent of the building — to help those in need — and is continuing that long commitment to our fellow Marylanders in need,” said Nicholas Redding, executive director of Preservation Maryland. “I cannot think of a more deserving and appropriate project for this year’s ‘The Phoenix Award’ than the project team of the Maryland Center for Health Care and Healthy Living.”

Katherine Good, of Waldon Studio Architects; Dr. Gary Rodwell of Coppin Heights Community Development Corp.; Meagan Baco of Preservation Maryland; and Donald Kann of Waldon Studio Architects
Touring the building are (left to right) Katherine Good, of Waldon Studio Architects; Dr. Gary Rodwell of Coppin Heights Community Development Corp.; Meagan Baco of Preservation Maryland; and Donald Kann of Waldon Studio Architects. (Provided photo)

In accepting the award, Dr. Gary D. Rodwell, executive director of the Coppin Heights Community Development Corp., said, “For over a year before undertaking the project, Coppin Heights CDC carefully gathered input from local residents, and they told us they wanted a health care facility. What you see today is the outcome of a unique combination of the strong support of the community, Baltimore City government, the State of Maryland, local foundations, and our development and construction partners. Each component of this coalition was essential to making the Center for Health Care and Healthy Living a reality.”

Rodwell thanked Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development for their financial support.

“I would also like to acknowledge the support of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, the Baltimore City Health Department and many others,” he said. “Finally, I thank the board of the CDC, who fought tirelessly to ensure that this long-term health care asset not only serves the community but also, through the ownership interest of the CDC, truly belongs to it.”

For information about Preservation Maryland, visit presmd.org.

In the video below, Johns W. Hopkins, executive director of Baltimore Heritage, offers a concise history of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum building.