Across the street from F. Scott Fitzgerald Park in Bolton Hill is the die Botschaft 1628: Art & Culture Gallery. Built in 1873, the house in which the gallery resides was “a shell when I bought it in 2004,” said gallery owner Marcia Hart.
According to Hart, the Geatty family built the house at 1628 Bolton Street and it stayed in the family for more than a century. Unable to maintain their 6,000 square foot home, the Geatty’s sold it in 2000. Hart said, “The new owners made disastrous attempts at renovation. There was a tarp on the second floor that collected water which had pooled and smelled.”
Acoustically hung ceilings – the kind that are found in office buildings that drop into sections – had been attached by notching the house’s ornate plaster cornices. The night before the closing of the sale to the previous owners, the marble fireplaces were stolen.
“The house sat for a couple of years, neglected,” added Hart. The first and second floor ceilings were falling down, but Hart felt that “the house was the right shape.” An architect, Hart began an 18-month renovation that unearthed such treasures as a newspaper dated 1871, under a fireplace hearth. (Hart had the marble fireplaces completely restored by Ben Rittelberger of Housewerks in Baltimore.)
Botschaft is a German word for embassy. A friend who worked in cultural affairs for Austria, called Hart’s new home, “positively ambassadorial. It is so welcoming.” The name stuck.
Hart lives in the rooms behind the gallery and on the second floor. The house has 11 rooms, not including the bathrooms or the walk-in closet which she converted from a former room in the house. Hart’s office on the second floor is spacious, with large windows. She has also created a guest room, two bathrooms and her master bedroom out of the 1,400 square feet of floor space. The walls are decorated with artwork Hart has collected and many of the pieces are by artists who have exhibited their work in her gallery.
die Botschaft 1628 opened as a private gallery on October 3, 2009 with an exhibit by Baltimore artist Matthew Kern. Kern uses charcoal, pencil, ink transfers, markers, paint and a number of other mediums to alter many layered collages of photography.
“I seek local artists,” said Hart who has featured many Baltimore artists in her gallery. With restored oak floors and molded, 12-foot ceilings, the gallery — which encompasses two large rooms on the first floor, one measures 13 by 25 feet and the other 12 by 12 feet – has also been used for banquets and a film festival. Except for Susan Amons, an artist from Maine, the exhibits have featured all local artists: Tom Scott, Mark Eisendrath, Eric Dyer, Gay Cioffi, Andre Portyanko, Janet Mathias, Francine Halvorsen, Rachel Rotenberg, Anthony Weber, Kini Collins and Katherine Meredith.
“I met Katherine Meredith, a portrait artist, at a neighbor’s party in Bolton Hill,” said Hart, who explained that one of her goals for the galley is to connect local artists with people who like art. At the neighborhood gathering, Meredith approached Hart about showing her work in the gallery. Hart did not hesitate, “I told her, ‘That’s a great idea. Let’s do it!'”
A member of the Portrait Society of America, Katherine Meredith exhibited her “Partners” portraits last summer at die Botschaft 1628. “Marcia’s gallery is such a beautiful space,” said Meredith. “My very traditional work looked so great because it [1628 Bolton Street] has a warm feeling of a home.” Meredith, who is a New York University graduate with a degree in studio art, added that “Marcia is extremely generous. I also found her to be wise in all matters. Some of her insights have really stuck with me. She is a great woman, and is handy with power tools.”
Marcia Hart also creates furniture in her workshop in the basement of 1628 Bolton Street. From cabinets, consoles, chairs and a dining room table, Hart builds them in a space that is massive. “The house is 85 feet long and 21 feet, six inches wide,” said Hart. The basement’s ceilings are eleven feet high and the walls are stone.
Hart also consults on the architectural features of commercial office design. “It’s a narrow specialty that uses my architectural expertise,” Hart explained. ROOMTAG is the software company she founded with a data management system that determines space requirements for clients who may need real estate, renovation or technology expertise and want to maximize their productivity at the least cost.
Hart, who has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Architecture from Princeton University, earned a Master of Architecture degree from Harvard. She is a native of Short Hills, New Jersey and a graduate of the Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire.
die Botschaft 1628is open by appointment only. Hart welcomes art enthusiasts to her home and maintains a mailing list for events hosted at her gallery. She added, “I make the space available and the artist does the rest of the work.”
The next exhibit to be held at die Botschaft 1628 will take place the weekend of April 13, 2012. It is an installation of art with a soundscape by a member of the Maryland Institute College of Art faculty, Katherine Kavanaugh, whose works primarily consists of large, temporary sculptures. To see Kavanaugh’s display and be included in future events at die Botschaft 1628, contact Marcia Hart at [email protected] to have your name added to the mailing list.
“I had access [to the gallery] anytime,” said Katherine Meredith. “Marcia Hart was extremely accommodating.”
Indeed, die Botschaft 1628: Arts and Culture Gallery is ambassadorial.