Then and Now: College Manor
A weekly column highlighting historic buildings in Lutherville-Timonium and how they have stood the test of time.
To think of what one young lady’s cigarette could do.
Of course, in 1911, the young lady with her cigarette was probably in the height of fashion, smoking in her dorm room. Chances are she wasn’t breaking any rules by smoking at school. Quite possibly, she was in good company with her equally fashionable roommates.
Or maybe she was alone in her room, studying for an exam while she smoked. It was just past Christmas, already January, and the Maryland College for Women would have been gearing up for a new year, having just put 1910 to rest.
Long before our scholarly young turn-of-the-century smoker would have been born, the Maryland College for Women was known as the Lutherville Female Academy, chartered in 1853. The founders of Lutherville, John Kurtz and brothers John and Charles Morris, commissioned builders Dixon, Balbirnie & Dixon to build a school for women, as they decided one was needed south of the Mason-Dixon line.
In 1895, the Lutherville Female Academy changed its name to the Maryland College for Women, but enjoyed only 21 years under that appellation before disaster struck in the form of a devastating fire, allegedly caused by a student smoking.
The fire was exactly 100 years ago.
“In January 1911, despite the efforts of the Lutherville Volunteer Fire Department and the companies from Towson and Roland Park, all buildings burned except the gymnasium, still standing today,” according to the Baltimore County Public Library’s website.
The photos tell a grim tale. Stone walls rise starkly from the winter snow, their windows empty of everything except the sky that stares through both sides of them. The rooms they once sheltered are entirely gone. The adorning onion-shaped cupola on the roof is collapsed, only to ever exist again in some very old photos and an engraving. (See photos.)
But Luthervillians are enterprising, and merely nine months later, in October, a new college had been built out of the ashes of the former, and it remained in existence until 1952, when it closed its doors.
“The student body was supposed to be 325 to 350, but in the last year there were only 125 because of the Depression,” said Jane Moore Banks, the current administrator of today’s College Manor retirement home and the daughter of the last president of the Maryland College for Women. Banks’ father, William Moore III, made the decision to close the school, since most education-seeking young women were attending schools that could offer them scholarships. The Depression affected many.
Moore decided to turn his thoughts a totally different direction, from educating the young to caring for the old. “Dr. Moore predicted the need America's aging population would have for quality care and accommodations,” reads today’s College Manor website. “Following his intuition, Dr. Moore transformed the elegant building and 11-acre campus into College Manor.”
The Maryland College for Women reopened in 1952 as College Manor, preserving the word “college” in its title to commemorate the building’s history. College Manor, a retirement home for the elderly, has been a family-operated facility ever since.
College Manor is licensed to take care of all three levels of assisted living, according to Banks. Level 1 is independent, and Levels 2 and 3 require increasing supervision and nursing care. The residents at College Manor can enjoy family buffets, lectures from visiting doctors, flower and vegetable gardening, bingo, church services, sing-alongs and exercise. Residents may rely upon escorts to help them get to the mall, a museum or a concert.
College Manor opens its doors to the community every year for public lectures on the history of Lutherville. It opens its grounds every year, as well, for its outdoor Fourth of July celebration — a not-to-be missed Lutherville mainstay.
Held the Saturday evening before or after July 4, College Manor hosts a free fireworks display to picnickers and revelers. A live band plays big band music, the Lutherville Volunteer Fire Company lets children climb on its trucks, and Lutherville’s ubiquitous ice cream trucks are present and selling out quickly. At dusk, the fireworks show begins — exhilarating and fairly lengthy, especially considering it’s free.
Enjoy the fireworks — just don’t smoke on the grounds. We wouldn’t want history to repeat itself.