Best of Maryland: Craftspeople of Enoch Pratt Free Library Restoration Project honored with Preservation Artisan Award

09/30/2020
By Preservation Maryland

Baltimore City’s ca. 1933 Enoch Pratt Free Library Central Library is the flagship location of one of the oldest public library systems in the United States, and through the work of many skills hands during an extraordinary renovation and modernization project, the Library shines bright as a beacon of community, knowledge, and betterment. For their craft and commitment, Preservation Maryland has awarded the 2020 Best of Maryland Preservation Artisan Award to EverGreene Architectural Arts and F.C. Vogt Company.

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President & SEO of Pratt Library, Heidi Daniel with Brooke Russell of EverGreen and Meagan Baco of Preservation Maryland, 2020.

Like the work of innumerable authors housed in the Library, the renovation project itself was the collective work of dozens of skilled artisans led by EverGreene Architectural Arts based in New York City with several national offices and F.C. Vogt Company of Richmond, Virginia to revive this Temple of Learning. The project totaled over $115 million dollars in renovations and modernizations and reopened to the public in September 2019.

Heidi Daniel, President & CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, stated, “The work of the artisans on the Enoch Pratt Central Library renovation is awe-inspiring and deserving of this Preservation Maryland award. None of this would be possible without the support of city and state lawmakers as well as the Pratt’s generous private donors. The restoration of this crown jewel of the Pratt system is truly a gift to the city of Baltimore and state of Maryland.

During the course of the massive project, conservators from EverGreene conducted in-situ investigations on painted and adorned surfaces, and historians referenced archival photographs for design guidance. Touching just about every surface of the 300,000 square foot library the artisan team worked throughout the building on historic materials and finishes such as plaster, millwork, and terrazzo were restored; decorative metal and painting were brought back to their original state and preserved, and historic lighting was restored or replicated. Even the custom-designed furniture original to the building was restored for reuse.

Preservation Maryland and partners on a hard hat tour of the Pratt Library, June 2018.

Rick Vogt, president of the F.C. Vogt Company along with 22 highly skilled restoration carpenters, woodworkers and wood finishers, restored the approximately 200,000 square feet of historic bookcases, wall paneling and millwork in the building. While most of the work was performed onsite, items requiring more extensive restoration were transported to the Vogt studio in Virginia. In addition to restoration, various woodwork elements needed to be reproduced to precisely match the existing ones. Both traditional and contemporary methods were employed, but always with the priority of preserving as much of the original and historic fabric of the building as possible. Additionally, the renovation was designed by Beyer Blinder Belle Architects of New York and managed by Ayers/Saint/Gross with Gilbane Building Company as the general contractor.

In addition to the tremendous scale of the renovation and the difficulty of modernizing the historic and highly-decorative 30,000 square foot structure, the project team designed the project in phases that allowed the Pratt Library to remain open much of the project and to carry on its mission as a resource serving all Marylanders. The public grand reopening in September 2019 was attended by U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, Maryland State Senator William C. “Bill” Ferguson IV,  Maryland State Senator Mary Washington, Maryland State Delegate Brooke Lierman, former U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski, Baltimore Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young, among others and over 1,000 citizens.

For their individual skill and stunning collective achievement, Preservation Maryland and the Campaign for Historic Trades is proud to recognize the Pratt Library project team with the 2020 Preservation Artisan Award.

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