Jeff Jerome, CHAP
Public School No. 99
North Ave., E. & Washington St., N, Baltimore, Baltimore City
The Columbus School, #99, is a Romanesque styled structure, the chief features of which are a central square tower with pyramidal roof and a flanking pair of cylindrical corner towers with conical roofs. The two-story, eleven bay wide building is defined by the corner towers and large three-story central tower. The entrance is recessed into a large stone arch supported by two columns with decorative capitals, and is ornamented with a lion’s-head keystone. A large multi-paned semicircular transom surmounts the double doors. Four 1/1 windows with single-light transoms are divided by three stone pilasters. The second and third story levels are divided by a stone band course. A large stone lintel is surmounted by louvered semicircular windows set into a blind archway with gauged brick voussoirs. A wooden arch, painted white, encloses the two windows. Round stone ornamentation at the spandrels displays star designs. The tower façade is capped with a dentiled wooden cornice, metal roof gutter, and large pyramidal slate roof with ball finials. The flanking wall east of the tower is four bays wide, while the west flanking wall is three bays wide. First floor windows have semicircular gauged brick arches. Second floor windows are 1/1 sash with a twelve-light transom. More ornamentation in the form of a water table, recessed brick panels, stone lintels, and stone band courses occurs on these walls. The building walls are capped by corbeled brick and a metal roof gutter. A brick parapet rising above the walls is decorated with corbeled openings and topped by a metal cap. The round cylindrical towers each have six windows identical to the second story windows on the building walls. The towers rise above the cornice, ending in concial roofs. Eight openings defined by pilasters punctuate the towers above the building’s roof line. A flag pole is hung from the western cylindrical tower. The school is located in a neighborhood just south of Clifton Park, a primarily residential area of 19th and 20th century rowhouses in good condition. The structure is currently used as the South Clifton Park Community Center.
The Columbus School is a representative example of the best of Romanesque Revival architecture in Baltimore. The cylindrical end towers, large stone entrance arch, and central tower are characteristic of this style of architecture. The central pyramidal tower and end turrets are highly visible on North Avenue, a major traffic corridor. The original building was constructed in 1891 by A.S. Brown. It housed 14 classrooms, cloak rooms for each class, well lighted, wide corridors, and the Smead system of ventilation. The interior metal ceilings are rare for Baltimore City schools. In 1905 an additional eight classrooms were added, as well as a new stairway. The final rear addition was constructed in 1912 when, at a cost of over $53,000, ten new standard-size classrooms (26 feet by 32 feet) were added. From 1912 the building housed 33 classrooms , three later converted to a library, health suite, and multi-purpose room. Since this school is still occupied, it has suffered less vandalism than the other five schools proposed for conversion to new housing. As the Columbus School was built in three different stages, it represents the changing quality of school construction in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.