Former St. Mark's School in MD was abandoned in 1979


Old Catonsville High School, Catonsville Maryland
Date added: March 04, 2024 Categories: Maryland School
South elevation (1988)

Built in 1878 and enlarged in 1898, this brick structure was erected to accommodate the educational needs of an expanding community. In the last half of the nineteenth century the Catonsville area (Baltimore County has no incorporated towns) grew rapidly, particularly with the start of the Baltimore and Catonsville Passenger Railway in 1862. The area population nearly doubled in this period. The county school commission responded to this growth first by building the 1838 section onto an earlier frame structure and then replacing the frame building with a brick building in 1898. In 1885 the school was designated a high school. By 1910, however, the faculty was too small to meet the demand, and a new school was erected. In 1910, the property was sold to the Catholic Church.

Old Catonsville High School is the most elaborate historic educational building surviving intact in Baltimore County. There is a small, two-room, Davis-designed school at 2007 Old Frederick Road that is now used as a dwelling. Another brick school survives on Old Hanover Road at Woodenburg-Boring, but is strictly vernacular in architecture. The Rayville School on Middletown Road at the north end of the county still has a louvered cupola set in the ridge line of the roof. The surviving Ashland school, designed by the Davis firm, shares some interior finish treatments with the Catonsville High School, but lacks a tower. Pikesville's now demolished brick school was very plain. The first Reisterstown high school was brick, originally built for the privately operated Franklin Academy; it was architecturally unimposing, looking much like an L-shaped brick house with a small cupola. Only the Old Catonsville High School has the distinctive tower and belfry.

Early development of Catonsville begins with the eighteenth century Baltimore Iron Works Company whose vast land holdings included an area known as "Frederickstadt". In 1810 the company properties were divided among members, of whom, Charles Carroll conveyed his portion to his son-in-law, Richard Caton. Settlement occurred by the subsequent division of this property into lots in the proximity of, am with access to, the established through fare traffic of Frederick Turnpike. The construction of a new road north to Franklintown created an intersection with Frederick Turnpike and encouraged commerce. St. Timothy's Hall and other professionally staffed educational institutions existed in the area and by 1850 Catonsville existed as a village.

Previous to the 1848 Maryland Assembly's passage of "An Act to Establish Public Schools in Baltimore County", attempts to establish public schools had been unsuccessful as conditions had favored home instruction, apprenticeship, private tutoring, education abroad, or a formal academy education. The new law provided for a Board of School Commissioners comprised of a representative from each election district who were charged to locate and establish schools, employ teachers, procure supplies, and report annually to the County Commissioners. Shortly thereafter, in 1849, a one acre lot on Winter's Lane was conditionally donated to the County Commissioners by Jae Gittings as the site for Public School Number Two District One, Catonsville.

There were 60 schools in Baltimore County in 1849 with a total of 1,858 pupils in attendance. The School Commissioners described conditions of schoolhouses in 1856 as "generally small, old, and dilapidated buildings, relics of the olden time, and totally unfit for the purposes of education; only a small number can be considered ordinary, none good- and of furniture there is nothing worthy of the name." A log structure, approximately 18 feet square, provided with front and back doors, a fireplace, pupil benches, a writing shelf along two walls and without ceiling or plastering may be considered the model for 46 of 99 schoolhouses then in use. Other facilities included rooms in private dwellings, church basements, and frame, stone or masonry buildings originally intended for other uses. The 1857 Catonsville School of 35 pupils was conducted by one teacher in a church basement.

The School Commissioners Annual Report for 1859 states, "Perhaps no provision for common school education has been so neglected as the proper construction and ventilation of schoolhouses. Shelter and warmth have heretofore been considered the only requisites. No such thing as a ventilator in a schoolhouse of the olden time could be found..." Commissioned by the County, the architects Thomas and James Dixon prepared plans for standardized frame buildings, modulated according to size and cost. The School commissioners reported "The general design of the houses is simple, but in appearance, they are neat and comfortable, and some of them are ornaments to the neighborhoods. Much attention has been paid to lighting and ventilation." The designs satisfied the basic requirements for a classroom facility and established the schoolhouse as a recognizable and functionally specific building type within the neighborhood context.

By 1859 Catonsville contained 4 taverns, 12 rum mills, 6 stores, 2 blacksmiths, 2 wheelwrights, 4 shoe shops, a harness maker, and a public schoolhouse. "The house is frame, built by plan No. 2. The building is 24 x 36 feet, with a vestibule. The ceiling is 12 feet high to the square, with the centre raised 3 feet above the square. The contract was awarded to George A. Nagle at $650, but he agreed to build the house for $600, relying upon the people in the neighborhood to pay him the balance of_fifty dollars." There were thirty pupils and a teacher to use the new house.

The concern for the physical schoolhouse was only a part of the problem facing the early school system. Geographically dispersed facilities conducted the Matters of education in a rather self-styled fashion in the absence of centralized control. Reverend Libertus Van Bokkelen, who founded and directed St. Timothy's Hall, later served as Baltimore County School Commissioner from 1859 to 1865. Van Bokkelen initiated a "temporary normal school" which assembled the county's teachers. The Annual Report for 1860 states, "The five days during which this normal class convened, did more to awaken the zeal of its members, and give new life and energy to our Public School System, than could have been accomplished by any other method." Concluding the week of the normal class, teachers were examined and certified either Second or First Grade, in accordance with subject matter. Appointed as State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1864, Van Bokkelen introduced strategies to uniformly organize the school system and outlined a "Plan for the Classification of Pupils in Mixed Ungraded Schools (through the Sixth Grade)" in 1866. In 1873 Baltimore County School Commissioners adopted a "Schedule of Studies for Ungraded Schools and the Lower Classes of Grade Schools (through the Sixth Grade)" and reported that "...Schoolhouse No. 2, at Catonsville, has been enlarged by the addition of two rooms, each 24 x 18 feet. This house will now accommodate one hundred and fifty pupils." The original design of county school buildings previously established the schoolhouse to be a _ single classroom simply sized for several general pupils. The rigors of teaching diverse courses to increased pupil numbers, grouped by achievement grades, demanded the physical accommodation that was afforded by duplicating the basic building unit and dividing that space into secondary units.

Catonsville's development as a suburb of Baltimore City is attributable to accessibility, at first by turnpike, and later by railroad. The Baltimore and Catonsville Passenger Railway offered commuter service to the public on August 5th, 1862, enhancing commerce and development. Catonsville continued to develop through the 70s as evidenced by the need to enlarge the schoolhouse within six years of the previous addition. The Annual Report for 1878 says, "The addition to the schoolhouse 2, district 1, is built of brick, one story in height and contains two rooms, contract price $2,745. It is located in Catonsville, a short distance from the turnpike. The old building is frame containing three classrooms, originally built in 1859 and enlarged in 1872. The building was in need of repairs, the classrooms small and crowded to double their capacities, yet the patrons did not complain, and their patience has been rewarded by one of the handsomest two-room schoolhouses in the State. The building will now accommodate over two hundred and fifty pupils." In 1881 the County School Commissioners declared the facility a High School, as entitled by having one permanent assistant or more and three grades above the sixth. The county educational system had attained administrative and supervisory sophistication while the schoolhouse, renamed a high school, remained an accumulation of add-on classrooms.

The 1880s were times of community organization in Catonsville coinciding with intensified development. The Argus, a local newspaper began publication, water and gas services became available, and fire, police, and health officials came into existence. Well-to-do Baltimoreans built impressive summer residences and speculative housing development intensified. The Catonsville Improvement Association formed an effective legislation committee to lobby at County level enabling Delegates to the Legislature to pass bills for the building of schoolhouses without consulting the School Board. Catonsville news, as reported 1898 in the Maryland Journal, states, "The plans for the new schoolhouse have been completed by architect H. R. Davis. The contract for the erection of the building will be awarded as soon as possible. The building will be erected on part of the old site. The brick part of the present building will be left standing and will be utilized in connection with the new building. It is expected that the frame portion of the present building will be moved..."

Regionally, the social structure was increasingly affected by conditions generated by developing industries, agricultural methods, transportation, and communication. Increased population migrating to the city and the rapid expansion of suburbs demanded a solution for the small and geographically dispersed schools which had become inadequate for the number of pupils and impractical in terms of the logistics of administration, staffing, and building maintenance. The education profession sought to consolidate schools by convincing the public of the need for modern and centrally located buildings. Survey of the new site and plans for a modern building were in process in 1909 and construction followed in 1910 and 1911. The Archdiocese of Baltimore purchased the old property from the County Board of School Commissioners in March 1910 and used the building as a Catholic elementary school and meeting hall. A new parish school was opened in 1950 and between 1950 and 1979 the building functioned as a place for meetings for various parish groups. The factors which induced the development of the old public school facility are responsible for its abandonment.

The surviving building complex is representative of the beginning and intermediate stages of school building development. The one-story portion is an example of the original one-room schoolhouse partitioned to accommodate two classrooms. The three-story building vertically echoes the plan of the clustered frame classrooms as evidenced by the irregular foundation walls compared with the Annual Report accounts of previous additions. The relationship of classrooms remained similar though provision for vertical circulation oriented the classroom to the building's corners and consolidated the ad hoc classroom configurations into a single building. The interior wall common to adjacent classrooms incorporated the latest advances in heat and ventilation technology allowing vertical air shafts to deliver conditioned air to the classroom from patent furnaces featuring jacketed constriction.

Building Description

Located at the N.E. corner of Winter's Lane and Melrose Avenue, only a short distance from Frederick Road, the old Catonsville High School remains intact within a quiet neighborhood. The masonry schoolhouse prominently occupies its site among mature hardwood trees and is comprised of a one-story, single-bay structure (1878) and a three-story, four-bay addition (1899). The buildings are immediately recognizable to be a school by the ample provisions for light and ventilation featured at each elevation and by the location of the entrances which are centered at each of the four elevations except the north, which occurs at the interface of the one and three-story building portions. In appearance, the buildings are unified by the use of matching materials and detailing of stone foundation walls, brick masonry walls, and shingled gable ends. On the interior, the various rooms and their configurations remain intact with original interior finish materials, where exposed, in very good condition. Some floor, wall, and ceiling surfaces have been concealed by relatively recent coverings such as carpet, tile, and paneling, and over time there have been modernizations made to plumbing, electrical, and heating systems.

The one-story portion is situated at the street corner and upon approaching the site, presents a simple rectangular aspect that is easily perceived to be a single bay. The granite foundation walls are randomly coursed up to a cut sill course at floor level, above which, brick masonry extends to the roof line in common bond. There is a belt course of turned brick which occurs between the window openings at the height of the jack arched heads. The double-hung wood windows have bull nose frame sections and are evenly spaced along each wall. The roof features slate shingle gables with wooden attic louvers and a pair of large, double-hung ten-over-ten windows at each end. Closer observations reveal perforated rake boards, beaded soffits, and moulded detailing at the gable ends. A third slate shingle gable features a half-round fan light occurring above the west entry door which is flanked at each side by six over six double hung sidelights extending from the door head down to a railing height sill. The raised six-panel door appears to be a fairly recent replacement.

On the interior, the roof structure exposes half-circle timber frames beneath a sloped pilaster ceiling. The room volume is allowed light and ventilation from above by the gable windows, however, a fiber tile ceiling presently conceals this area, reducing it to an attic. Around the room perimeter, there are eight over eight double hung windows along each of the four plaster walls with beaded wainscot extending from sill height to floor level. Original hard pine strip floors are concealed beneath composition tile. The one-story portion is connected to the three-story building by a pair of five-panel doors, one at each side of a partial partition constructed of beaded tongue and groove. The partition is open across most of the room but separates the present attic space. At the exterior entry door, the partition forms a vestibule with a pair of five-panel doors. Door and window casings are plain. An intersecting gable roof meeting the west wall of the three-story portion connects the two building portions.

The three-story portion presents a vertical and more complex aspect that is not immediately comprehensible upon approaching the building. The perimeter walls jog in and out to define classroom bays which feature vertically aligned groups of large double-hung windows at each floor level. The classroom bays extend above and interrupt the general roof line with wood shingle gables that occur in right-angled pairs at three corners of the building. The southwest corner features an open belfry complete with a bell, hip roof, flemish eaves, and a wind vane. At the north elevation, there is a recent metal stair extending from grade to the third floor where one window opening has been modified, probably recently, for a door. Similarly at the east elevation, there is a deteriorated exterior wooden stair that accesses four classrooms, each with a modified window/door installation. The north and south primary building entries feature vestibules with interior and exterior door pairs. Both exterior door pairs have been replaced with steel doors set in the original bullnose wood frame. The interior five-panel wood door pairs are set with double-hung sidelights and transom frames. Except for the steel doors and tile floor finish, the entries appear to be the original construction.

The basement is half above grade with windows at each wall. The stone and brick foundation walls are exposed except for the northeast and southeast bays which are concealed in deteriorating fiberboard. The northeast bay is partitioned for toilet rooms with a terrazzo floor. The southeast bay has strip pine flooring evidencing moisture damage and poor quality interior wood sheet partitions. A fairly recent oil-fired boiler is located at the northwest bay. The southwest portion of the basement contains the original wood stair, presently carpeted, and two cast iron coal furnaces located to either side. The ceilings are plaster throughout and the floors are concrete except as noted above. Situated at the east wall between the north and south bays, there is an entry area to the exterior and access up to the first floor by a narrow wooden stair. The five-panel entry door and double-hung sidelight with beaded sill panel survive in poor condition.

There are three high-ceiling classrooms each, on the first and second floors within the three-story portion with generous provisions for light and ventilation. The classrooms are oriented to the building corners allowing for two exterior walls provided with groups of large two over two double-hung windows and two interior walls with blackboards. There are two masonry ventilation shafts integral with an interior wall of each classroom that extend from the ground floor to the attic where a section of the hip roof is provided with open eaves. The shafts are equipped with a patent air control device and ventilation grills at classrooms. These controls are labeled "Isaac D. Smead & Co., Toledo, Ohio, Smead's Patent. August 1, 1882." Also, there are operable nine light transoms above five-panel classroom doors which communicate to a short, wide hallway and stairs. The wood strip floors and plaster ceilings of the classrooms have been overlaid with tile, however the continuous baseboard, picture moulding and plain castings remain. The hall and stairs are carpeted with wood sheet paneling occurring at wall areas of the hall. Cloakrooms are adjacent to and finished as the classroom.

Old Catonsville High School, Catonsville Maryland West elevation (1988)
West elevation (1988)

Old Catonsville High School, Catonsville Maryland South elevation (1988)
South elevation (1988)

Old Catonsville High School, Catonsville Maryland South elevation (1988)
South elevation (1988)

Old Catonsville High School, Catonsville Maryland Exterior masonry detail (1988)
Exterior masonry detail (1988)

Old Catonsville High School, Catonsville Maryland East elevation (1988)
East elevation (1988)

Old Catonsville High School, Catonsville Maryland East and north elevation (1988)
East and north elevation (1988)

Old Catonsville High School, Catonsville Maryland North elevation (1988)
North elevation (1988)

Old Catonsville High School, Catonsville Maryland North and west elevation (1988)
North and west elevation (1988)

Old Catonsville High School, Catonsville Maryland North elevation (1988)
North elevation (1988)

Old Catonsville High School, Catonsville Maryland North elevation, entry (1988)
North elevation, entry (1988)

Old Catonsville High School, Catonsville Maryland North elevation; entry detail (1988)
North elevation; entry detail (1988)

Old Catonsville High School, Catonsville Maryland 2<sup>nd</sup> floor hall (1988)
2nd floor hall (1988)

Old Catonsville High School, Catonsville Maryland 2<sup>nd</sup> floor hall and stair (1988)
2nd floor hall and stair (1988)

Old Catonsville High School, Catonsville Maryland 2<sup>nd</sup> floor stair detail (1988)
2nd floor stair detail (1988)

Old Catonsville High School, Catonsville Maryland 2<sup>nd</sup> floor stair detail (1988)
2nd floor stair detail (1988)

Old Catonsville High School, Catonsville Maryland 2<sup>nd</sup> floor hall (1988)
2nd floor hall (1988)

Old Catonsville High School, Catonsville Maryland 2<sup>nd</sup> floor hall (1988)
2nd floor hall (1988)

Old Catonsville High School, Catonsville Maryland 2<sup>nd</sup> floor, typical coat room (1988)
2nd floor, typical coat room (1988)

Old Catonsville High School, Catonsville Maryland 2<sup>nd</sup> floor southeast classroom (1988)
2nd floor southeast classroom (1988)

Old Catonsville High School, Catonsville Maryland 2<sup>nd</sup> floor southeast classroom (1988)
2nd floor southeast classroom (1988)