The Kenneth N. Weaver Building
A History of the Kenneth N. Weaver Building - Home of the Maryland Geological Survey
The Maryland Geological Survey is housed in two of the older buildings in central Baltimore. In the late 1800s, the buildings were part of the Woman's College of Baltimore City (founded in 1885; renamed Woman's College of Baltimore in 1890; renamed Goucher College in 1910 1).
The main building (right, in the drawing) facing St. Paul Street was originally known as Bennett Hall. The second building to be erected on the campus, it was named in remembrance of Eleanor A. Bennett, first wife of Benjamin F. Bennett, who served as the contractor for the first building on the Woman's College of Baltimore campus. Bennett donated the entire cost of Bennett Hall. The main building was designed in the Romanesque Revival style by architect Stanford White. Preliminary drawings were submitted to the college for review in the fall of 1887, and returned to the firm of McKim, Mead and White at the end of 1887 so they could prepare construction documents.2
Completed drawings were sent to Bennett on March 28, 1888. The cornerstone was laid in 1888, construction was completed in the fall of 1889, and the building was dedicated on December 10, 1889. Bennett Hall was designed as a gymnasium for women and was equipped with the most up-to-date facilities, including an indoor swimming pool in the basement. The building's exterior was built primarily of Port Deposit Gneiss from Harford County and trimmed with Woodstock Granite from western Baltimore County.
Ground was broken for an adjoining building, known as the Bennett Hall Annex (left, in drawing below) on November 2, 1893. The Annex was located across Lovegrove Alley on the west side of Bennett Hall. Bennett Hall and Annex were linked by a two-story, enclosed Venetian bridge spanning Lovegrove Alley. Inspired by the covered bridges of Venice, Italy, the bridge seems to have been the only involvement Stanford White had with the design of the Annex. The Annex housed the biological laboratory on the first floor, with quarters for vocal culture on the second floor. 2 Further addition to the complex occurred in the fall of 1917, when a two-story extension was added to the north end of the Annex. The Annex is built mainly of Ellicott City Granite, a native Maryland building stone.
Goucher College sold most of its original buildings between 1941 and 1953, as it had built a new campus a few miles north of Baltimore, beginning in the 1930s. Bennett Hall was sold to the State of Maryland on February 11, 1945 for $50,000 and the Bennett Hall Annex the following day for $25,000. 3
Bennett Hall and Annex underwent extensive interior and exterior remodeling and to become the home of the Maryland State Health Department from 1950 to 1976. The cupolas were removed from the roof of both buildings and two small chimneys were removed from the roof of Bennett Hall. Also, the front portico was removed and a new main entrance created on the ground floor. And tennis courts in front of Bennett Hall were converted into a parking lot. Following the Health Department's departure, the buildings were unoccupied and drifted into a state of disrepair.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources acquired the buildings in 1983 and soon undertook plans to renovate Bennett Hall and Annex to house the Maryland Geological Survey. Renovations were supervised by Kann & Ammon, architects, who were employed by the State of Maryland to restore the building and grounds with an eye for historical details. The buildings' exteriors today appear nearly identical with the original structures, with the major exception of the cupolas and chimneys. The front portico was rebuilt to duplicate the original. Although modern on the inside, even the interior walls are painted gray, in keeping with a common color in the late 1800s, and most of the original wooden ceiling and beams in the gymnasium grace what is now the Survey's library. The Goucher swimming pool was removed, however. The Maryland Geological Survey moved into its new home on June 20, 1986. The buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
From 1896 to 1982, the Maryland Geological Survey had been housed on the campus of the Johns Hopkins University. In 1982, the Survey was scattered among several locations in Baltimore, with the main offices moving into temporary quarters at the Rotunda, an office building and shopping complex on West 40th Street, while awaiting the completion of renovations to the Bennett complex. The move into Bennett Hall and Annex in 1986 was the culmination of years of planning and perseverance on the part of the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of General Services, and the Maryland Geological Survey.
The Maryland Board of Public Works 4 renamed Bennett Hall the Kenneth N. Weaver Building on September 28, 1994, in honor of Dr. Kenneth N. Weaver, who served as State Geologist and Director of the Maryland Geological Survey from 1963 to 1992. The renaming was a fitting tribute, because it was largely Dr. Weaver's vision and leadership that led to DNR's acquisition of the property and to its subsequent renovation and restoration.
Today, the main building houses the Survey's administrative offices, publications sales office, and library. Geologists' offices and laboratories occupy the annex. For directions to the Survey offices, click here.
- 1 The History of Goucher College by Anna Knipp and Thaddeus P.Thomas (1938).
- 2 Adapted from "Appendix B: The Woman's College of Baltimore City (Goucher College): Overview of Early Architecture" in The Restoration of Lovely Lane Church by David Gilmore Wright (1980).
- 3 Goucher College Archives, quoted in Musser, Frederick, O., 1990, The History of Goucher College, 1930-1985: The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 296 p.
- 4 The Board of Public Works is made up of the Governor, the State Comptroller, and the State Treasurer. In 1994, they were William Donald Schaefer, Louis L. Goldstein, and Lucille Maurer, respectively.
Compiled by James P. Reger, Maryland Geological Survey, 1988 (revised, 1996, 2000)
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