Eighty-four years ago this month, Hopkins engineering students and faculty members moved into their first academic center on the Homewood campus, a three-story structure dubbed the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Building. In 1931, it received a new name, Maryland Hall, in honor of the state's contribution to the project.
This week, the engineering school and its supporters will gather in the same place to celebrate another major milestone: the completion of an $8.5 million makeover, modernizing the basement labs and some classroom space in Maryland Hall and adjoining Krieger Hall.
The project reached a midpoint in October 1996, when work was completed on the Krieger section. The following year, workers began gutting and refurbishing the basement of Maryland, which holds the distinction of having been the first occupied academic building on the Homewood campus.
(Historical purists point out that construction of Gilman Hall began first, in the spring of 1913, while work on Maryland began shortly afterward. Maryland Hall, however, was ready for occupancy in October 1914, while Gilman did not open until the following June.)
At 4 p.m. Friday, under a tent on the bustling Engineering Quad now anchored by Maryland, a "Renovation Celebration" will salute the structural overhaul of parts of this building. Ilene Busch-Vishniac, dean of the Whiting School Engineering, will welcome the participants, provide a short history and recognize key donors.
"Maryland Hall is the oldest academic building in the School of Engineering," Busch-Vishniac said last week. "Over the years, it has had heavy use, with maintenance being deferred, rather than taking the faculty off line. This renovation returns Maryland Hall to its former state as a jewel in Engineering's crown and allows our faculty to do state-of-the-art work in a modern laboratory environment."
During Friday's ceremony, Mark E. Rubenstein, a Hopkins trustee who also chairs the Whiting School National Advisory Council, will present "The Perspective of an Alumnus." The audience will also hear from two faculty members who will occupy labs in the revamped space: John H. van Zanten, assistant professor of chemical engineering, and Timothy P. Weihs, assistant professor of materials science and engineering. A representative from the National Science Foundation will also speak. President William R. Brody is scheduled to provide closing comments. Public tours of the renovated space will follow.
When it opened in 1914, Maryland Hall was a modern building designed to provide classrooms and research areas for seven faculty members, two instructors and their students. Hopkins' undergraduate engineering program had been launched two years earlier with just 27 students.
A June 1914 alumni magazine article reported that the new engineering building was equipped "for special experiments in photometry, high voltage, high frequency, electrolysis, wireless telegraphy, fuel analysis, oil testing, dynamometers, refrigeration, testing of materials, measuring of air, etc."
As the decades passed, however, technology advanced, and the aging building posed challenges for researchers.
The basement labs lacked central air conditioning and, in some cases, even windows. That forced some engineers to place window-type air conditioners in the transoms above the lab doors, venting hot air into the hallways.
Old plumbing fixtures sometimes failed to provide enough water pressure to cool lasers in the labs. As result, some lasers switched off to avoid overheating whenever a nearby toilet was flushed.
Shortly before his departure in June 1992, former engineering dean David VandeLinde proposed a major renovation of the labs in Krieger and Maryland halls. The project was endorsed and advanced by his successor, Don Giddens.
The $8.5 million effort kicked off with the Krieger Hall work in 1995. The state of Maryland provided $2.5 million in bond funds. Another $1 million came from the National Science Foundation. Remaining expenses were covered by corporate and individual donations.
After the Krieger labs were finished, workers began rebuilding the Maryland basement in August 1997. The newly air-conditioned area now includes 27 modern laboratories, assigned to the departments of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering. One room is a large undergraduate materials science teaching lab. Some of the new labs are already occupied, while others are receiving a few finishing touches.
As part of this project, workers last week were also transforming one large first-floor classroom into a high-tech instructional center that can accommodate computer displays and other new audio-visual teaching aids. One first-floor office was also being renovated.