First Avenue School
13, SW 1st Avenue, Glen Burnie, Anne Arundel County
The First Avenue School is a large classically inspired building prominently situated on a mostly residential street, one block west of Glen Burnie's central business district. The school displays two periods of construction. The first section of the building was built in 1899. This brick, one-story, two-room, hip-roofed building now serves as a rear wing to the 1917 addition. The large two-story brick gable-roofed Classical Revival-style building was added to the front (north) of the original school, more than quadrupling the school's size. The exterior of the 1917 section has not significantly changed since its construction, retaining its slate roof. The rear 1899 building has experienced a series of alterations, but when considered as one entity the First Avenue School is in very good condition and possesses a high degree of integrity. The elegant and dominant front section has an I-shaped plan composed of a 50-foot lateral center block flanked on either side by a 25-foot-wide, front-gabled projecting wing. The wings' steep roof pitch and segmental parapets introduce elements associated with the Tudor Revival fashion to an otherwise Classical Revival-style building. The front section's central block has a low-pitched roof and flush eaves. A plain wide frieze board assumes the place of the original dentiled cornice. Walls are laid in Flemish bond above the water table and five-course common bond below. A simple course of soldier bricks gives the effect of water table and belt course. Stone or concrete coping accents the parapets. The central entrance bears an assortment of classical embellishments, including swags and wreaths decorating an arched opening. The door surround features a full entablature with dentiled cornice and fluted pilasters. Original sidelights are now enclosed. The modern metal and glass doors detract from the otherwise attractive opening. Windows are 8/8 wooden sash, spaced at regular intervals. Five openings illuminate the second level of the facade's center block, while on the first story two windows flank the front door. The gable-front wings have one window in each story. The upper openings are very elaborate and feature a tripartite window and compound architrave beneath a recessed arch. An ornamental, cast-iron faux balcony provides further decoration. The side wings are four bays long on the east and west facades, with the same cornice treatment as the front of the building. The original 1899 building, nestled between the projecting wings at the rear of the main block, has a hip roof with overhanging eaves, nicely finished with a dentiled box cornice. A tall, 1950s chimney projects above the roofline on the south side. Walls are laid up in Flemish bond. Glazed headers are liberally but randomly used on the three exposed walls. The 1899 building's upper walls are one brick width thinner than the base, and the resulting setback gives the illusion of a water table. Bricks used in the original school are distinctly softer and lighter in color than those employed in the front building. Window openings are either enclosed with hard modern brickwork or replaced with mid-to-late 20th century aluminum and glass replacements. The interior of the entire school has undergone repeated and extensive renovations, including changes to the floor plan. With the exception of the staircase and the interior front door surround, no original interior fabric remains. The building was recently used as a beauty school and church, but conversion to condominiums was planned at the time of nomination.
The First Avenue School achieves significance for its association with the early development and growth of the Baltimore suburb of Glen Burnie, Maryland. In addition, the school reflects a critical change in school building philosophy taking place in the early 20th century; specifically closing small, local schools and constructing large, regional consolidated schools. The building is also eligible for its architectural merit and associations. The school represents a distinctive type and style, and is associated with an important local architect and builder. The oldest part of the First Avenue School dates to 1899. Constructed a decade after the town was platted, it represents one of Glen Burnie's oldest surviving examples of civic architecture. It was built and probably designed by Edward Woodfall. The English-born Woodfall was a noted local architect and builder. He was also a Glen Burnie resident and constructed many of the community's earliest homes and public buildings. The First Avenue School assumed its present form in 1917. In that year a large Classical Revival-style building was constructed in front of the original school. The new section, also designed by Woodfall, was built according to a standardized plan. Standardized plans achieved widespread popularity in the latter half of the 19th century. An expedient and economical alternative to an architect, standardized plans were widely used throughout the country for both public and domestic building construction. Variations of the First Avenue School plan were used for at least two other Anne Arundel County Schools.