PEABODY INN: A STORY OF SUCCESSFUL DESIGN AND RENOVATION By Christine A. Rowett The Peabody Inn has had a very good year. In the 12 months since it opened, the five-story building overlooking Mount Vernon Place has received three awards, for excellence in design, preservation and management. The inn serves as guest and classroom space for Peabody's Elderhostel program, part of a nonprofit network of academic programs for people 60 and older. The building's most recent accolade comes from the National Association of College and University Business Officers, which recognized the inn with an Innovative Management Achievement Award. Last week Jim Zeller, associate dean for administration at Peabody, accepted the $4,500 third-place award at NACUBO's annual meeting in San Francisco. In May, the inn was one of seven projects presented with a Historic Preservation Award by Baltimore Heritage, a nonprofit preservation organization in Baltimore. The building also received an Award for Excellence in Design from The Baltimore Chapter of the American Institute of Architects last fall. "It's hard to think of anything negative about the project," Zeller said. All of the planners' goals, including historic renovations and saving the university money, were met, he said. When they were built in the 1840s, the four large town houses that make up the Peabody Inn were prime residences in the center of town. But by 1983, they were unlivable. The Peabody Institute bought the buildings in the 1960s and for several years used them as private apartments for Peabody students. The space was used solely for storage from 1983 until early 1992, when the conversion from condemned living space to a five-story residence for Elderhostel participants began. On almost any given week, the inn houses close to 100 residents, older students from across the country who join the Elderhostel program to take classes in music, culture and fine arts. Hostelers pay about $350 for their classes, food and weeklong stay at the inn, Zeller said. A portion of that fee is used to pay back the money borrowed for renovations. "It should become a little more profitable each year," Zeller said. "It was a win-win situation for everybody." The plans were developed in accordance with restrictions mandated by the Baltimore Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation. About 18 months and more than $3 million later, the conversion was complete. "The thing that makes it so unique is that they really maintained the integrity of the existing town houses," said Anne Kefauver, Peabody assistant director for public information. "It very much retains the flavor of what those town houses might have been." Kefauver has a pretty good idea about what those town houses were, at least in 1976. She had her first student apartment in the Mount Vernon Place building when she was a student at Peabody. "There are those of us who really know how run down they used to be," Kefauver said. "We were just astonished at how beautiful they turned out to be." The architectural firm of Murphy and Dittenhafer and the construction company of Struever Brothers, Eccles and Rouse were contracted for the project.
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