Hattie Fields Russell
School No. 27
2031, Fayette St., E., Baltimore, Baltimore City
The former Commodore John Rodgers Elementary School was built and opened in 1913 at the southwest corner of Fayette and Chester Streets in East Baltimore. Most of its lot is consumed by the roughly rectangular footprint of the building, leaving small open areas to the south and west. As the ground slopes gently down to the northwest, this freestanding building rises 3 ½-4 levels from a low granite base to its essentially flat roof and parapet. The exterior of the building is mostly brick with some granite and various artificial or cast stone features predominantly at the front and sides. Slight projections of the end and central sections and bands of multi-paned windows articulate the five-bay façade which looks north across Fayette Street. Particular embellishment appears at the façade’s central bay where a double stair of granite leads up to the main entrance at the first floor of the building. Here, paneled wood doors with glass sidelights and transom are framed by a pointed, segmental archway of cast stone. Above, a similar but wider arch surmounts the upper of two levels of leaded glass windows which are flanked by blank windows of coursed cast stone. The parapet crowning this bay features a slight pediment, a triangular form that repeats at corresponding locations on the building’s side and rear elevations. Secondary entrances are provided at each side of the building where the central of three bays contains double doors with sidelights and transom. At the upper floors above these doorways, large, multi-paned windows are flanked by flush arched panels of brick. At the otherwise simpler rear elevation of the building, most of the windows feature segmental brick arches. The building retains an unusually high level of integrity.
School No. 27, the Commodore John Rodgers Elementary School, is significant primarily for its association with an important phase in the progressive movement in public education in Baltimore in the first quarter of the 20th century. The period from 1866 to 1900 was a time of "arrested development" for the city’s education program. The reform of Baltimore’s City Charter in 1899 resulted in the appointment of its first Board of Education separate from the pressures of local ward politics. Under the new system, 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 environment of rented spaces in warehouse structures to new school buildings, interior arrangements of which were those of a far more complex program and, being conceived as monuments to learning and respectability, the new schools had built into them the philosophy of health and productivity. By 1911, however, several politically motivated appointments had been made to the Board of Education and an administrative accident allowed the mayor to shift the balance against the progressives. School No. 27 is one of the first four schools designed and built after this shift. Whereas during the height of the progressive movement, schools were architect designed, the shift against the progressives brought a standardization of school designs, particularly for elementary schools, that did not employ professional architects but utilized plans on file, with modifications. This trend continued until about the end of the decade. School No. 27 is an important example of these buildings because it retains a high level of integrity of its historic and architectural character. These buildings are generally characterized by streamlined Gothic decorative features and large expanses of windows for light and air.