A recurring Southeast dilemma: What to do with an old, historic church?

Written by on July 3, 2013 in Neighborhood News - No comments

The Canton Methodist Church, which was originally called the Canton Methodist Episcopal Church, is historically significant both in its architecture and its role in Canton history. - Photo by Erik Zygmont

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Canton United Methodist Church, located at 1000 S. Ellwood Ave., is seeking to be put on the city’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation special list.

“Upon placement on the special list by CHAP, any exterior change made to the property is subject to CHAP review,” said CHAP commissioner Tom Liebel.

According to CHAP, the Canton Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1846, and was the first church established in Canton.

The church is owned by Schultz Development, the developer of three new townhomes adjacent to the church on Dillon St. as well as the former church rectory at 1006 S. Ellwood Ave.

Darryl Jurkiewicz, president of the Canton Community Association (CCA), said he contacted Councilman Jim Kraft about initiating the CHAP process when he heard that Schultz had applied for a demolition permit.

Joe Schultz, who owns several properties in Canton and Highlandtown—including the Haussner’s building at Eastern Ave. and Clinton St.—did not return the Guide’s calls regarding the property.

Until recently, 1000 S. Ellwood Ave. was under contract by developer Ray Jackson of Stonewall Capital.

“Initially, I was under the impression that the building was coming down, and the plan was to build five townhomes. But the community didn’t want the building torn down, so we altered the plans,” Jackson said. “I reached out to the neighbors, to CCA, and to CHAP. I was interested in what they and the community would like to see happen.”

Jackson said he hired a structural engineer who noted that while the foundation and walls of the church are sound, the roof is a hazard and needs to come down.

Jackson said his contract recently expired, and Schultz would not provide an extension.

“I’m still interested in the property, but at this point, the ball is in Schultz’s court,” Jackson said.

Jurkiewicz  believes that the church is an important part of Canton’s character and should be preserved.

“I understand that it’s cheaper  to tear down, but we don’t have many of these types of buildings left in our neighborhood—or in the city for that matter,” said Jurkiewicz, who says he’d like to see a practical re-use of the building.

“Take a look at the Montessori school down the street [at Potomac and Dillon]. Look at the all the buildings on Boston St…that are retrofitted,” he added.

According to a report prepared by Lauren Schiszik, a city planner at CHAP, the church building is Gothic Revival in style and was designed by Baltimore architect Charles L. Carson and built by prominent Baltimore builder Benjamin F. Bennett in 1883 and1884. It became known as Canton United Methodist in the 20th Century.  The report also noted that the historic Canton Company had donated land for the church building, and the property’s special designation eligibility is due to its role in the history of the Baltimore’s largest company town as well as its architecture.

Jurkiewicz said that he had met with Jackson while Jackson had the property under contract, and his plans looked like they had potential.

“The plans were for three condos in the church with parking underneath,” Jurkiewicz said.

Jackson noted that he would still like to develop the property and believes that a design that satisfies CHAP, the community and the developer is definitely possible.

“It’s a process we go through. We were making progress,” Jackson said. “But the onus is on Joe Schultz at this point.”

CHAP will consider Baltimore City special list designation for Canton Methodist Episcopal at a hearing on July 9, in the Phoebe Stanton Conference Room of the Department of Planning, 8th Floor, 417 E. Fayette St.

In addition, Kristyn Oldendorf, of First District Councilman Jim Kraft’s office, said that Kraft introduced legislation to the City Council last week to have the building put on the Baltimore City Landmark List.

“We should find out that outcome within a few months,” Oldendorf said.
by Danielle Sweeney

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