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NDMU Awarded National Trust for Historic Preservation Grant for Gibbons Hall Preservation Plan

July 22, 2014

Notre Dame of Maryland University (NDMU) has been awarded a $5,000 grant by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to hire an architect to create a preservation plan for historic Gibbons Hall. The award from the Johanna Favrot Fund for Historic Preservation comes as the Merrick Tower of the iconic campus building, opened in 1873 by the founding School Sisters of Notre Dame, is being readied for repair work this summer.

“Organizations like Notre Dame of Maryland help to ensure that communities and towns all across America retain their unique sense of place," said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "We are honored to provide a grant to NDMU, which will use the funds to help preserve an important piece of our shared national heritage."

“We are honored with the recognition by the National Trust for Historic Preservation of the cultural, historical and architectural importance of Gibbons Hall,” said NDMU President Dr. Marylou Yam. “The preservation plan will help Notre Dame steward Gibbons’ proud heritage as housing the first Catholic women’s college to award the four-year baccalaureate degree.”

The goal of the preservation plan is to assist NDMU decision makers and facility managers in preserving and restoring the exterior of the 140-year-old building. In its grant application, NDMU proposed to hire a preservation consultant to survey the exterior of Gibbons Hall and provide an inventory of the condition of its 278 windows and associated wood trim, the mansard slate roof, masonry walls, paint, and the associated composition of Merrick Tower, the building’s signature bell tower. The plan to be completed by July 2015 will recommend specific work to preserve, restore and recondition Gibbons; estimate costs of restoration work; and develop a phasing plan to complete work.

In addition to serving as a guide for the stewardship of Gibbons, Dr. Yam also expressed hope that the plan would help attract private and public funds to implement its recommendations. The National Trust grant requires matching funds to pay for the preservation plan, which have been provided through a $10,000 gift designated for Gibbons restoration work by a friend of the University, said Patricia A. Bosse ’81, the University’s vice president for institutional advancement.

In April 1896, the building now known as Gibbons Hall housed the administration offices, classrooms and dormitory of the Notre Dame Collegiate Institute for Young Ladies, when the State of Maryland College Charter granted it the right to award the bachelor’s degree. The founding School Sisters of Notre Dame were pioneers in the movement of 19th century women for equal educational opportunities. In 1961, the hall was renamed for Cardinal James Gibbons, the Archbishop of Baltimore who presided over the first commencement in 1899.

Today, Gibbons Hall is the historic hub on the campus of the only women’s college in the state. Gibbons’ Merrick Tower is a local landmark symbolizing the educational vision of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, a global congregation of religious women who came from Munich, Germany, to Baltimore in the late 1840s. The German Renaissance styled building was designed by Baltimore architect J. Crawford Neilson and reflects their Bavarian origins, with a bell tower, mansard roof, 278 windows, circular dormers and decorative frieze roof trim.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a privately-funded nonprofit organization that works to save America’s historic places to enrich our future. The National Trust for Historic Preservation is committed to protecting America’s rich cultural legacy and helping build vibrant, sustainable communities that reflect our nation’s diversity.

Grants from the National Trust Preservation Funds range from $2,500 to $5,000 and have provided over $15 million since 2003. These matching grants are awarded to nonprofit organizations and public agencies across the country to support wide-ranging activities including consultant services for rehabilitating buildings, technical assistance for tourism that promotes historic resources, and the development of materials for education and outreach campaigns.