At the top of the drive into the 's Catonsville campus sits a hulking white structure that few have examined closely, and fewer have had the opportunity to visit inside.
"People in the community don't even know this building is here," said Kenneth Westary, CCBC's vice president for institutional advancement, while guiding a group of visitors from Arbutus through the 1828 Hilton Mansion that the school uses as an administration building.
One of CCBC Catonsville's "most treasured buildings," the Hilton Mansion was built as a federalist-style home between 1828 and 1835 by Dr. Lennox Birkhead. It was later purchased by the Glenn family, who hosted such distinguished guests as Robert E. Lee, according to the school.
The deteriorating estate was purchased by George Knapp in 1917, who tranformed the home into a stately Georgian Revival mansion.
The mansion became part of Catonsville Community College in 1962, and over the years has served as classrooms, offices and meeting space, according to the school.
"At one time, this building was Catonsville Community College," Westary said.
On Thursday evening, a group from the Arbutus Business and Professional Association toured Hilton Mansion and listened to plans to renovate and modernize the facility.
According to Westary, plans for the renovation include installing and elevator and widening hallways to make the building accessible, constructing new seminar rooms, and restoring the building to create a facility that can be used for special occasions such as meetings and weddings.
"When we rehab the building, it won't just be for students, it will be for the community," he said. "We'd love to open up this space for community friends."
Plans for the building include creating space for two new academic programs--hospitality and restaurant management, and the Center for Global Education.
A new catering kitchen in Hilton Mansion would be used for the education of students, and for special events at the facility, Westary said.
The Center for Global Education is aimed at taking advantage of expertise in the region, including the 's incubator complex, in the increasingly worldwide marketplace.
The price tag for the Hilton Mansion renovations is estimated to run $5.6 million--a figure that is not commonly raised by community college donations, Westary said.
A capital campaign to raise the money will begin to ramp up in coming months, he said.
The final result will be a showcase historic home that will not only enhance the CCBC campus, but serve as a venue for the community.
"When this is done, this will be one of the best things to happen to Catonsville in a long time," Westary said.