Louisa May Alcott School
2702, Keyworth Ave., Baltimore, Baltimore City
Completed in 1910, the Colonial or Georgian Revival-influenced Louisa May Alcott School, originally known as School No. 59, stands at the north corner of Reisterstown Road and Keyworth Avenue in northwest Baltimore. Three of the five bays in proportion, the roughly rectangular footprint of the building and its surrounding sidewalks fill the lot. As the terrain slopes down to the southwest, this freestanding building rises 3 ½ to 4 levels from brick base to metal cornice. Each elevation of the building is symmetrically designed with brick and stucco bands, quoins, and panels, punctuated by multi-paned, mostly double-hung wood sash with granite or concrete sills, concrete heads, or brick flat arches. Decorative terra cotta features include surrounds with keystones at main entrances, brackets that visually support a circular balconette at the Keyworth Avenue façade, and sculptured, semicircular panels above several upper windows. Three metal cupolas crown the hipped roof. The interior contains 26 classrooms, an assembly hall, miscellaneous support spaces, and four staircases. Prevalent interior features include hardwood floors, paneled glass-and-wood doors with transoms, simple wood trim, and pressed metal ceilings. Vacant since 1983, the building has suffered deterioration and vandalism but retains a significantly high level of integrity of historic interior and exterior decorative detailing and plan.
Louisa May Alcott School, originally known as School No. 59, is significant for association with the progressive movement which dominated public education in the first quarter of the 20th century. The reform of Baltimore’s City Charter in 1899 resulted in the appointment of a Board of Education free from ward politics and an Architectural Commission to promote harmony in the design of Baltimore’s public buildings. Under these changes the professional standards of teachers and principals were raised, a progressive curriculum was introduced, and the city began to move its schools from the crowded and poor environments of rented spaces in warehouse structures to new school buildings that reflected a far more complex program and were conceived as monuments to learning and respectability. The new schools had built into them the philosophy of health and productivity. The Louisa May Alcott School is the one remaining school of the three whose designs were selected in the first competition by the Architectural Commission which was appointed in 1907. An important feature introduced into school design which came out of this first competition and became a staple in public schools of normal size is the assembly hall. In this building the assembly hall is on the ground level. Another significant feature introduced in the competition and found in the Alcott School is the pneumatic vacuum cleaning system which reflects the progressive concern with a healthy environment. The period of significance includes the dates of design and construction of the building.