25th Anniversary Historical Highlight: Deering Hall Provides a Permanent Home

January 6, 2020

As the Berman Institute grew in prestige and achievement, one significant challenge persisted – the lack of a permanent and dedicated physical home that would bring together faculty, staff, and students to promote not only synergistic scholarship, but also simple efficiency.

“We would lose hours of travel time attending meetings in East Baltimore or Homewood campus space,” said founding director Ruth Faden. “Beyond the hassles of being so dispersed, we were missing out on those informal opportunities to collaborate with other members of the Institute.”

She and the Institute’s leadership were constantly searching for and weighing possible solutions. At various times, moves to dedicated space in other of the University’s East Baltimore schools were considered but ultimately rejected. Finally, Anthony Deering a board member of East Baltimore Development, Inc. (EBDI) and the husband of long time Berman Institute Advisory Board member Lynn Deering, suggested the Berman Institute consider moving to one of the few 19th century structures left in East Baltimore. Most recently, the building at 1809 Ashland Ave. had been EBDI’s headquarters as it worked with Johns Hopkins to revitalize the neighborhood adjacent to the University’s East Baltimore campus.

“Having a floor in someone else’s building would undermine our founding principle – that the Berman Institute was independent and university-wide. We had to hold out, not just for enough space, but for the right space, one with our own front door; we were holding out for an architecture that communicated our unique place in the university,” said Faden.

“This was a pivotal moment. Would our experiment succeed? Establishing an external physical identity in the landscape of Johns Hopkins answered that question literally, in bricks and mortar. The Berman Institute finally had its own building.”

The Institute’s new home was a wholly renovated red brick former police station, originally built in 1876. The 11,000-square-foot building is recognized by the Maryland Historical Trust and is one of the few original structures that remains amid Hopkins’ East Baltimore redevelopment. Glimpses of the building’s former life remain: Heavy cutaways of the original radiator that once warmed handlebar-mustachioed cops now hang as wall art just inside the main entrance. And at the building’s southeast corner, an attached garage-size structure that serves as flex space for PhD students, interns and bioethics trainees is nicknamed after its original charge: “the carriage house.”

“The most important aspect of the building is that, for the first time in our history, the Berman Institute had a distinct identity and place to call its own,” said Jeffrey Kahn, the Berman Institute’s Andreas C. Dracopoulos Director. “Since so many of our faculty hold joint appointments in other schools, this space provides an opportunity for them to spend time in a physical place for them to work on bioethics, a rich mix of ideas and shared expertise.”

Next for the Berman Institute will be a multidisciplinary building adjacent to Deering Hall that will honor the legacy of Henrietta Lacks.The building will support programs that enhance participation and partnership with members of the community in research that can benefit the community, as well as extend the opportunities to further study and promote research ethics and community engagement in research through an expansion of the Berman Institute and its work.

Groundbreaking is anticipated for 2020, with planned completion in 2022.