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Maryland State Normal School Building Commission records

 Record Group
Identifier: 000-004

Scope and Contents

This collection includes the activities of the 1910-1915 MSNS Building Commission including the Commission’s minutes, Commission reports to Maryland General Assembly and the Public, correspondences, legal documents, financial records and statements, and miscellaneous items that relate to the MSNS’ move to Towson and the dedication of the new campus.


  • Creation: 1910-1916

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on access. This collection is open to the public.

Conditions Governing Use

Towson University Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) is the owner of the original materials and digitized images in our collections; however, the collection may contain materials for which copyright is not held. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials. Consult with SCUA to determine if we can provide permission for use.

Biographical / Historical

In 1865, the Maryland General Assembly passed an act authorizing the establishment of a Maryland State Normal School (MSNS) for the purpose of training public school teachers for Maryland. They passed this act in response to forty-five years of repeated criticism and demand from the public for a larger quantity of and better trained public school teachers. On January 15, 1866 the MSNS opened its doors at 24 N. Paca Street with eleven students and four faculty members including M.A. Newell as the school’s principal from 1866-1890. After seven years of demanding better accommodations for the students’ living and academic needs, Professor Newell finally obtained a new home for the MSNS. The accommodating Athenaeum Club at the crossroads of Franklin and Charles Streets was a large improvement over the conditions at the 24 N. Paca Street location. The building’s colonial designed structure included three large halls, parlors, a library, a sun porch, hat and cloak rooms and several rooms that could be adapted into classrooms. At this location, the MSNS, Model schools, and the office of the State Board of Education were all located in the same building.

In 1874 the General Assembly gave $100,000 to the Maryland Board of Public Works for the purpose of establishing a new home for the MSNS at the corner Carrollton and Lafayette Avenues. However, in 1875 a problem arose with the MSNS’ residency at the Athenaeum Club. The Allston Club purchased the building, which forced Professor Newell to rent out a portion of the Maryland Academy of Science building at No. 32 Mulberry Street. Workers had not completed construction at the new site for the MSNS and therefore it was necessary for Professor Newell to obtain temporary quarters. On February 15, 1876 while all students were in the main room of the Mulberry Street residence, 25 square feet of plastering fell from the ceiling and forced Professor Newell to cancel the school for two weeks until the new residence of the MSNS was going to be ready. On February 29, 1876, 206 students and ten faculty members began to inhabit the four completed classrooms of the new residence which was still under construction. The completed structure contained ten classrooms, a reception room, an assembly room, a laboratory, a library, a cabinet, gymnasium, cloak rooms, an office for the State Board of Education, and a residence for the principal. In 1909, Sarah E. Richmond arose to lead the MSNS as its principal and prioritized the need to move the institution out into the countryside. Citing lack of ventilation and fire protection, poorly lit classrooms, and a noisy congested neighborhood, Miss Richmond pushed strongly for a new campus for the MSNS. On June 10th, 1910, the Maryland State General Assembly passed an act creating a Commission that came to be known as the Maryland State Normal School Building Commission which consisted of the following members: • Senator J. Charles Linthicum- President • John S. Biddison- Vice President • Phillips Lee Goldsborough- Governor of Maryland • Emerson C. Harrington- Comptroller of Maryland • Murray Vandiver- State Treasurer • M. Bates Stephens- State Superintendent of Education • Ms. Sarah E. Richmond- Principal of MSNS • Carville Benson- House Representative • J. Mitchell Diggs- House Representative • B.K. Purdum- Secretary and Treasurer

The Maryland State Normal School Building Commission was given the responsibility to select the site, and to prepare plans and estimates for the construction of new buildings and campus for the MSNS. The first thing on the Commission’s tentative schedule was to choose a site appropriate for the school. The Commission deemed several factors necessary for the new campus: the site shall be no less than seventy-five acres, it must be easily accessible to a Baltimore trolley line, located in a town that contains many denominational churches and physicians’ offices, and it must be on or near a railroad line so that supplies can be easily transported to the construction site. In 1912, the Maryland State Assembly received a report of the most desirable sites that were concluded on by the Commission. Along with the proposed sites, architectural designs for the proposed buildings drafted by Theodore Wells Pietsch were also introduced. The commission’s report resulted in the proposal of a bill allocating for a $600,000 bond to be issued to the Commission for construction of the new Normal School. The State Legislature passed this bill in April, 1912, and by August, selected the present site near Towson on the west side of York road as the most ideal location for the school. With the location chosen and funds available, the Commission undertook the task of sending committees to inspect successful Normal Schools around the nation. The Commission reviewed the committees’ findings as well as enacted an architectural competition, sending invitations to successful architects only from the State of Maryland. James Rush Marshall of Washington was chosen to be the Commission’s consulting architect in which he advised the Commission and prepared the terms for the competition. The competition was won by Parker, Thomas, and Rice of Baltimore and Charles L. Reeder was selected as the consulting engineer for the construction of the site. Douglas H. Thomas Jr. of the architectural firm, chief designer of such Baltimore landmarks as the Belvedere Hotel, and the main campus of Johns Hopkins University, became the main architect to consult and work with the Commission. The general contract for construction of the Administration Building was given to Morrow Brothers in 1913, for Newell Hall dormitories the contract was given to Edward Brady & Son in 1914, and the contract for the Power House to Sweester Linthicum Jr., also in 1914. The General Assembly of 1914 also appropriated $225,000 to the Commission to aide with the project. By September 1915, the buildings were completed with Middle English style architecture, that incorporated fire proof reinforced concrete construction, and the most advanced features of early 1900’s school style architecture. The Maryland State Normal School at Towson was dedicated on November 19, 1915 with a full ceremony that included musical selections along with remarks by Dr. M. Bates Stephens, the State Superintendent of Education, and Miss Richmond, the Principal of the Normal School.


.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Series 1: Minutes of Commission Meetings (June 10, 1910-April 23, 1915)

This series includes the minutes of the Building Commission’s meetings from 1910-1915. The minutes were drafted by the secretary and treasurer of the Commission, B.K. Purdum.

Topics include the progression of the Commission’s project to select and allocate funds for the building of a new location and campus for the Maryland State Normal School. The daily functions of the Commission are reported as well as discussion among the members on aspects such as plot selection, and which architects and engineers were to be hired for the design and construction of the site.

Series 2: MSNS Building Commission Reports (1912, 1915)

This series contains two separate reports of the Building Commission in 1912 and in 1915.

The 1912 Commission Report proposes future sites for the MSNS to the Governor and the Maryland State General Assembly. Includes the conditions of the Lafayette Square location, architectural proposals, and descriptions of the proposed buildings, requests to merge the Baltimore city training school and MSNS, and a request for funds of $600,000 for the construction of the new MSNS.

The 1915 Commission Report provides a description of the buildings dedicated in November 1915, the Commission’s budget, a history of the Normal School and of the Commission by J. Charles Linthicum, address of William Warburton, member of the State Board of Education, address of Miss Sarah Richmond, MSNS principal, and a dedication by Philander Claxton, the U.S. Commissioner of Education.

Series 3: Correspondence (1912-1915)

The series contains correspondences between the Commission and outside firms involved in architectural design, insurance, and the construction of a railroad siding near the Towson campus.

Correspondences were sent from architectural firms interested in competing for the architectural design of the MSNS, from the American Institute of Architects headquarters in Baltimore, between attorney Malloy and the Commission, between Anderson architectural firm and Governor Goldsborough. Correspondences between insurance companies from Baltimore and the Commission, and between Camden Fire Insurance and the Commission. Contracts, receipts, and correspondences between the Commission and President Nence, Vice President King, Superintendent G.E. Nirru, and Auditor Shinn all of the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad.

Topics include the architectural competition between the involved architectural firms including their recommendations and concerns with the competition. Acquisitions and renewing of insurance for the MSNS, and the process of acquiring a siding station from the MA and PA railroad, including labor costs, and negotiations.

Series 4: Legal Documents (1914-1915)

This series contains legal documents of the Commission including a contract established by the American Institute of Architects for roads and walks for the MSNS and a bond issued by United States Fidelity and Guaranty Company to the MSNS Building Commission for $10,000.

Series 5: Financial Statements (1912-1916)

This series contains financial documents, correspondences between the Commission and financial institutions of Maryland, law firms, architects, politicians, and public services institutions with receipts of bonds, deposits, and withdrawals for allocating money and services for the construction and completion of the MSNS at Towson.

Series 6: Miscellaneous (1910-1915)

The series contains newspaper clippings about the plans for moving the MSNS to Towson and the activities of the Commission. Also, campaign letters sent from the MSNS Alumni Associations to Alumni requesting their support for a new Normal School location and invitations and programs for the New Buildings Dedication of November 1915.

Existence and Location of Copies

All newspaper articles are photocopies of originals that have been discarded.


Baltimore Sun Historical (1837-1985), Mar 1, 1876. Proquest.

Documents from the Building Commission Collection UA00004

Seventy-Five Years of Teacher Education. 1St Edition ed. Seattle: The Alumni Association, 1941.

Processing Information

Transferred three folders to 3/6/1 Campus Land Acquisition and Development record group. -Folder of deeds for purchase of Towson Land 1913 -Folder of deeds for building in Baltimore 1874 -Folder of MSNS Building, Baltimore

Guide to the Maryland State Normal School Building Commission records
Ryan Williams (updated by John Esh, 2020)
Fall 2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Towson University Special Collections and University Archives Repository

Albert S. Cook Library
8000 York Rd
Towson MD 21252 United States