Community leaders recognized that Mount Vernon Place suffered from years of deferred maintenance and that there was no plan or funds in place to reverse continued deterioration. The formation of the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy in 2008, with the full support of the City of Baltimore, was a milestone in preserving Mount Vernon Place for the future. Capable of being a world-class destination, at that time, the closed Monument and the parks’ appearance of physical neglect (both hardscape and softscape) prevented it from realizing its potential. A master plan developed in 2010 by OLIN guides the future restoration of this special place.
The Washington Monument
The Conservancy’s first phase of work restored the Washington Monument in 2014-15. Reopened and rededicated on July 4, 2015, the Bicentennial of the laying of its cornerstone, the award-winning restoration returns this nationally-important landmark to its rightfully-prominent place as a “must see” destination in Baltimore. The entire structure was gently cleaned on the exterior, repointed, and damaged marble surfaces restored. The Monument’s exterior finishes, including those on the cast iron fence and the wood doors, were both restored to their original “bronze” finishes, documented by historical records and forensic evidence. On the Monument’s interior the gallery’s failed stuccoed was restored and marble surfaces cleaned. The thousands of bricks in the Monument’s stair tower were repointed as necessary. Throughout, all new systems were installed, and the structure brought up to date with handsome digital exhibits that allow the visitor to explore the Monument and the history of Mount Vernon Place.
The Squares of Mount Vernon Place
The present design of the squares was installed between 1917-1924, at which time extensive marble balustrades and fountains as well as concrete sidewalks were installed throughout the squares. While these elements remain, in many areas they are in poor or fragile condition. The balustrade on the West Square is leaning precariously inward, and that on the East Square is unstable because much of the pointing is missing. In places the sidewalks are cracked or heaving on account of tree roots, and much of the original concrete edging to the beds and lawns is fractured into small sections. The soils in Mount Vernon Place have had no significant upgrades in decades, and are not engineered to resist compaction, not allowing grass to bounce back after even the most casual use. There is also no irrigation system in place, and the existing hosebibs routinely break, have rusted supply lines, or lack significant water pressure to be used. Almost all previous accent lights remain on site, broken, and unusable. There is also no infrastructure in place to support the annual festivals that are part of the traditions of Mount Vernon Place, requiring temporary wiring to be strung through trees and bushes at great expense, and in ways that damage the historic fabric and plant life in Mount Vernon Place.