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Extreme Makeover

Grants from Maryland Heritage Areas Authority makes two groups flush (with cash)

It’s surprising the difference a bathroom makes. As Maryland Heritage Areas Authority divided its $2,617,146 of grant money between 55 projects, at least two projects in Anne Arundel and Calvert County got cash for bathroom upgrades. 

At Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, executive director Linnell Bowen has long hoped to update the old Annapolis high school’s facilities. “We have the volume of people,” she said, “and we need to keep up.”

The hard part was phrasing the proposal.

“How do you write a grant and make it sound anything other than it is?” asked Bowen.

The problem for Maryland Hall was also part of its charm. Along with being an historic building — and thus eligible for a Heritage Area grant — comes historic plumbing.

“Maryland Hall is a 1932 facility with a wonderful theater — and 1932 restrooms,” explained Bowen.

Now Maryland Hall must match the $90,000 grant, meaning its bathroom budget is $180,000.

“Honey do you know what bathrooms cost today? I mean it’s huge,” Bowen asked Bay Weekly. “I’m hoping I can do all six. So we’re grateful to the Heritage Area especially in these economic times.”

Construction must be approved by the Maryland Historic Trust.

Once the match is made and they approve, “then,” Bowen said, “we’re ready to go.”

Well, almost.

“We can’t impact the performance season,” said Bowen, mindful that the Ballet Theatre of Maryland, Annapolis Chorale and Annapolis Symphony Orchestra have busy schedules in fall and winter. “We can only do stuff during the summer. Of course this building is used all the time. We have summer classes.”

So it may be a while before Maryland Hall visitors experience the charm of 21st century plumbing.

Calvert Marine Museum will also be fixing a bathroom courtesy of Maryland Heritage Areas Authority. There, however, plumbing is a minor point in an ambitious renovation of the Cove Point Lighthouse keeper’s facility.

“This grant is paying for the removal of the drywall, new insulation, electrical wiring,” explained spokeswoman Traci Cimini of the museum’s $90,000 grant. “The weather over the years has really beaten this property up. So we’re going to make the building structurally sound. We’re replacing the windows with more historically appropriate windows. The kitchens and the bathrooms need to be updated.”

All of this renovation aims to attract more than casual museum goers. The Marine Museum also hopes to attract vacationers by offering the keeper’s house as an historic overnight destination.

“Our goal is to turn the property into a unique vacation rental,” Cimini explained. “There are only 32 lighthouses in the United States that do overnight accommodations. This is the only one in the Mid-Atlantic region.” 

To realize this full renovation, Calvert Marine Museum will have to raise more than $180,000. 

“This grant is putting us closer,” reports Cimini. 

So for now, neither grantee is likely to win Bay Weekly’s 2010 Best Bathroom award. Maybe next year.