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Maryland's National Register Properties

Photo credit: MHT Files, n.d.
Baltimore County Jail
Inventory No.: BA-205
Date Listed: 8/26/2009
Location: 222 Courthouse Court, Towson, Baltimore County
Category: Building
Period/Date of Construction: 1855, 1905, 1940
Architect/Builder: Architects (1855): Dixon, Balbirnie, & Dixon; Architect (1905): James S. Nussear, Jr.; Builder (1855): William H. Allen
Description: The Baltimore County Jail, constructed in 1855, is a 2-story Italianate-style stone building that was used as a correctional facility until 2006. The building consists of a 5-bay-wide warden’s quarters with a central 3-story entry tower and a rear cell block that houses 3 levels of jail cells. Connected to the south side of the warden’s house is a 1-story garage of stone construction, built in 1940, to transfer prisoners to and from police and department of correction vehicles. The symmetrically designed structure measures 52’ wide and 62’ deep. A low pyramidal hipped roof covers the warden’s quarters and its 3-story entry tower. A low gable roof covers the rear cell block. The entire building is constructed of stone load-bearing exterior walls approximately 30” thick, laid in a coursed fieldstone pattern. The windows are divided-light double-hung units with stone lintels and sills. The 3-story entrance tower with its low hipped roof and chimney is at the center of the 5-bay 2-story east elevation and contains a wood double-door entry with an arched transom containing iron bars in a fanlight design. At the second story in the tower is a 1/1 window with a stone lintel and sill, and at the third story are 3 narrow 2/2 windows. The tower has a wooden cornice with a 16” overhang and a chimney that extends approximately 5’ above the roof. Flanking the tower are 2 bays of original 6/6 windows with stone lintels and sills approximately 4’-6” tall at the raised basement, 5’-6” at the first story, and 4’-6” at the second story. Some of the windows have wooden frame screens which are not original. The north elevation is composed of 2 sections: a 2-bay warden’s quarters and a connecting 3-bay cell block section which is set back 2 feet from the face of the warden’s quarters. The fenestration of the warden’s quarters matches the east elevation except for an original wooden door at the basement level at the northeast corner and a new door that has been cut into an original first-story window which is accessed from grade by a wooden stairway leading to a concrete slab platform supported by stone piers. The platform connects to a large stone chimney that was built at a later date. The cell block fenestration is 6/6 wood windows with stone lintels and sills. Every window in the cell block is fitted with steel bars. Both the warden’s quarters and the cell block have a simple wood box cornice with a 12” overhang. The west elevation, which is the rear exterior wall of the cell block, is a 3-story, 2-bay composition with the same windows as on the north elevation of the cell block. A walk-out basement wood door is located at the northwest corner. The south elevation is similar to the north elevation, composed of 2 sections: a 2-bay and a connecting 3-bay cell block section which is set back 2 feet from the face of the warden’s quarters. The fenestration of the cell block is identical to the north elevation. Connected to the warden’s quarters is a 25’ by 28’ 1-story garage which has a low slope gable roof with a built-up membrane. It is constructed of matching stone and has an overhead door with large steel windows with 6” x 9” divided lights of obscured glass on its south and west elevations. The fenestration of the warden’s quarters is similar to the north elevation at the first and second stories except for a door infilled in an original window opening at the second story which opens onto a steel fire stair that exits behind the garage. There is a walk-out basement door located at the northeast corner. The exterior of the jail is largely intact with its original stone walls, entry tower, doors, and roofs unaltered. Most of the original windows are intact except in two locations where new exit doors were cut into existing window openings. Two windows were removed on the south elevation when the garage was added in the 1940s. The rear cell block building, which was reconstructed in 1905 using the same basement walls to provide new cel Significance: The Baltimore County Jail, built in 1855, is of local historical significance in the area of Politics and Government for its association with the establishment of Baltimore County as an independent jurisdiction. The jail, and the nearby Baltimore County Courthouse (listed on the National Register), which was built at the same time and designed by the same architect, survive to reflect the creation of Baltimore County in 1851. The Baltimore County Jail derives architectural significance as a rare and largely intact example of prison architecture from the pre-Civil War period in Maryland. The building still shows the layout and operation of a county jail, retaining its original rooms for administration and warden’s quarters, and three levels of cells. Its construction of massive load-bearing stone walls and timber framing characterize prison architecture of the era. It is also an outstanding example of governmental architecture designed in the Italianate style in the region. Its massing, proportion, fenestration, detailing, and tower are all important architectural features that exemplify this style which was popular before and after the Civil War. The design of the building is a restrained handling of the Italianate without the usual ornate detailing, giving the jail an imposing fortress-like presence. The interior features a pyramidal skylight in the central 2-story hall, and a curving stair and balcony with all of its detailing intact. The building exhibits the local craftsmanship of fieldstone masonry of the period. The jail is the work of the well-known mid-19th-century Baltimore architectural firm Dixon & Dixon, whose other projects include the Baltimore County Courthouse, Lutherville Seminary, St. Agnes Church in Baltimore County, and the Baltimore City Jail.


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