After months of restoration work, the top of the Roland Water Tower is visible once again.
Contractors this week began removing scaffolding that has surrounded the building since last September when they began restoring the tower’s exterior. Removal of the scaffolding is a sign that the restoration work is coming to an end.
“Believe it or not… the fence and the scaffolding are coming down,” Mary Page Michel, president of the Roland Park Community Foundation, told members of the Roland Park Civic League this month. “Phase One will be complete.”
The community foundation has led a 12-year effort to restore the 148-foot-tall landmark at 4210 Roland Avenue. It was built in 1905 to provide water for Hampden but hasn’t been in use since the 1960s and needed extensive repairs to the masonry and roof.
A chain-link fence was erected around the base more than 10 years ago to protect people from falling tiles. Other communities involved in the restoration are Hoes Heights and Rolden, the area between Roland Park and Hampden. Lewis Contractors was hired to complete the repairs.
This is the third city-owned tower that has been restored in recent years, after the Washington Monument on Charles Street and the Shot Tower on Fayette Street. The Roland tower is different from the other two because people won’t be able to climb to the top with the repairs made so far. It might be possible to open the tower to climbers in the future, preservationists say, but that would require additional work.
The next phase of improvements at the tower is the creation of a new community park at its base. The foundation is working with a local landscape architect, Unknown Studio, to come up with a design for the park and is raising funds to begin work.
“We will have to raise a lot more money for that park but it’s very exciting,” Michel said. “A lot of you all have worked on this over the years. It’s a huge achievement for this community as well as Rolden and Hoes Heights.”
One unusual feature of the tower restoration is a “hotel” for peregrine falcons who make their home at the top of the tower for part of the year. Michel calls it “the Taj Mahal” of bird habitats. Although the falcons have been away while the tower has been under construction, “they’re in the area,” she said of the falcons. “They’re checking out their new home and they will be back.”
What was the point of spending all that time and money on the restoration of the tower if people aren’t going to be allowed inside of it? How difficult would it be to make the necessary structural improvements that would allow for people to climb to the top? I am sure that it would afford a lovely view of that part of Baltimore. Also why bother with a park? Why not something like a community vegetable garden where people could plant their own vegetables and flowers.
All I care about is whether the people who *actually* live in Hoes Heights are the only ones who get to vote on whether there is a road through the neighborhood. It’s difficult to get into the east side of the neighborhood without ANY access from Roland Avenue. If you live at the “top,” you have to go down Roland to 40th Street, turn right, and then right again on Evans Chapel to get to your house that’s right behind the Water Tower.
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