The Heathcote mill today, yesterday, tomorrow
Heathcote Mill is a historic gristmill consisting of about 4,000 square feet, excluding attic storage.
Constructed in 1842, the Heathcote mill building is a masonry and wood-frame structure built into a sloped hillside. In addition to a partially below-grade ground floor, full second and partial third floors bring the space to approximately 6,000 square feet.
For most of the last half-century, the School of Living community land trust owned the mill building. It is now under the ownership of Heathcote Center, with a School of Living Trust lease on the land itself.
The former industrial structure has been renovated and repurposed to include residential, visitor, event, and classroom spaces. Informal and limited renovations over time led to deferments in building code compliance, life safety improvements, and access compliance.
In 2018, Baltimore County issued an exception that allowed the building to run public programs and house overnight guests. This opportunity brought considerations of improvements to not only meet requirements but advance the mission of the community and Heathcote Education Center.
The project provides code-required accessibility improvements per IEBC and 2010 ADA. Accessibility improvements include a new accessible parking space, a new accessible route from the parking area into the first floor of the building (via a new ramp), improved outdoor lighting, and a new accessible restroom on the First Floor.
The current proposal was prepared by JacobsWyper Architects (JWA), under a team led by Michael Carwile and Jamie Wyper. Michael Carwile is our main contact, a longtime friend of Heathcote who has been involved in many of JacobsWyper’s historic renovation projects, including the Philadelphia Art Alliance, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, and the Gershman Hall Student Center.
The renewal of the mill will meet compliance with life safety and building codes and effectively meet program needs, while preserving its historic appearance and materials.
Applying universal design principles to all aspects of programming and residential space meets Heathcote’s ongoing commitment to increased access and safety.
The mill in Heathcote’s history
The Heathcote mill was dedicated as the School of Living headquarters in the 1960s.
Heathcote Center was formed as a separate legal entity in 1977.
From the mid 1980’s to the early 1990’s Heathcote was a three-member women’s community. In 1994, they were joined by three Baltimore families who were independently forming a cohousing community, along with several other individuals and families. It became a multi-generational group housing center.
In 1997, Heathcote Center bought the Farmhouse, a neighboring residential property, with Heathcote Center owning the building and School of Living Land Trust owning the land.
After School of Living devolved, Heathcote’s mill building served many shifting purposes in an accordion community while hosting continued public events.
As the residential population grew in the 1990s, a restoration plan for the mill building was done by Kahn and Associates, Inc., a firm specializing in historic restoration:
- A large capacity septic system was installed along with improved kitchen facilities.
- Some members lived in outbuildings without running water, relying on the mill for kitchen and bathroom amenities.
- The mill also provided space for the Homeschooling Open Classroom, provided amenities for interns and workshop participants, and served as a conference room.
In 2008, the new Polaris residence was fully occupied, freeing the mill for dedicated use as the Heathcote Education space.
With expansion of programs, a zoning complaint was filed by neighbors. County officials ordered an end to residences in the cottages, which reduced residential memberships from fifteen adults and six children to six adults.
Despite existing requirements, Heathcote Education Center can conduct outdoor workshops under zoning as a farm. The mill, however, was effectively closed until exceptions are established or building improvements are made.
Heathcote is currently limited to outdoor workshops and internships.
Costs and Planning
Heathcote Center and the Heathcote Education Center are proposing to reopen the mill to resume indoor public programming.
Given funding and scope, an accelerated reopening would require phasing work on a floor-by-floor basis.
This would require three phases of legally required upgrades, followed by installing active air-ducts with anti-viral filtering, a fire sprinkler system, new network wiring, switches, and wireless mesh. Additionally, ramps and railings to ADA specifications along second floor discharge path.
Phase 1 costs: $66,800 (scheduled to begin in 2023)
First floor accessible bathrooms, entrance ramps, egress lighting, parking
Phase 2 costs: $29,600
Second floor fire separations, second floor exit and path upgrades
Phase 3 costs: $31,600
Third floor exterior stairs, walls, fire separations and alarms
Fire sprinkler system: $132,000
Concrete ramp and metal railings for 2nd fl.: $211,200