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Timeless History

A new Visitor Center at the historic St. Mary’s Spiritual Center in Baltimore grew out of the need to interpret the St. Mary’s Chapel, which once served at the oldest Catholic seminary in the United States. Modern, yet traditional-looking building materials were selected to provide the new center with a timeless look that would blend well with its historic setting.

According to Alan Reed, president and design principal for Baltimore-based GWWO Inc./Architects, the project goal was to create a Visitor Center that would serve as an orientation and gathering place for tours to both historic sites—the chapel and an historic row house that was the Baltimore residence of the first native-born American to be canonized by the Catholic Church.

In a unique curved roofing application, Follansbee, W.Va.-based Follansbee's TCS II standing-seam metal roof provides a traditional aesthetic appeal to the project. Installed as a 1-inch (25-mm) double lock standing-seam roof, the TCS II curved metal roof combines visual intrigue with durability for a classic, high-performance addition to the building envelope.

"The building's roof is visible, so it was important to carefully consider roofing options,” Reed explained. “We wanted a modern material that would coexist comfortably within the historic setting of St. Mary's. Given the arched form, a metal roof was the perfect choice."

Organized around two walls—one brick and one stone—that are remnants of the original seminary that was demolished in the early 1960s. The Visitor Center provides access to both structures with an interior ramp and stairs that brings visitors to a lower lobby and garden level. The east side of the brick wall is new construction that is simple, but contemporary in design; while the west side incorporates an historic wooden colonnade that defines the eastern edge of the chapel grounds.

Wood columns, beams, curved brackets and joists were salvaged and reused in the new structure, rebuilding the existing arcade and restoring the backdrop for the chapel. A stone medallion that was discovered on the site, and is original to the seminary, is incorporated into a stone wall in homage to history and as a reminder of the site’s significance.

Construction on the new Visitor Center began in summer 2008 and was completed in summer 2009.

St. Mary’s Spiritual Center Visitor Center, Baltimore

General contractor: Henry Lewis Contractors, Owings Mills, Md.
Architect: GWWO Inc./Architects, Baltimore
Roofing installer: York Roofing, York, Pa.
Distributor: North Coast, York
Metal roofing: Follansbee, Follansbee, W.Va.,