Bowie Knights seek expansion, renovations to hall -- Gazette.Net


A long-standing Bowie organization is trumpeting the benefits a renovation of it historic headquarters will bring to the community.

The century-old Knights of St. John Hall in Old Town Bowie, which has served as a meeting place for the black community in Bowie since 1907, is on track for an expansion with plans for a 948-square-foot addition to the roughly one-story, 1,400 square-foot hall.

Officials of the organization, which has hosted numerous community events ranging from picnics to eye glasses and clothing collection charity drives, say the addition will allow them to better serve the community with events like their Nov. 15 annual senior Thanksgiving Day meal, which was held at Bowie’s Ascension Catholic Church.

The addition would be built in front of the existing structure and would be paid for with a $250,000 state grant issued to the group during the 2011 General Assembly session, said William Jones, a former Bowie resident, who serves as the organization’s business manager.

Bowie’s City Council unanimously supported the proposal during an Oct. 15 meeting, but the project awaits final approval from the Prince George’s County Park and Planning board. A public hearing is set for Dec. 13. Should the planning board approve the project, work could begin sometime next year, Jones said.

Planning board officials largely approved of the project while asking for slight alterations and assurances, such as ensuring the new structure’s guard rails match the existing building’s woodwork, according to staff reports from the project.

Outwardly, the new structure will mirror the existing facility, said Stephen Wagner, an architect and owner of Design Delmarva, which drafted plans for the new facility.

“You can definitely tell the difference but it’s nothing so egregious you’ll say, ‘Ewwww,’” he said.

The organization, which had to go through the Maryland Historic Trust to approve the construction due to the historic nature of the building, didn’t want to harm the existing facility, said Carlette Patten of Bowie, who is a member of the knights-affiliated Ladies’ Auxiliary.

“It’s very historic, with a lot of memories and tradition,” she said. “We’re not going to mess with the old structure.”

The addition is needed both for the organization and the surrounding community, said group members.

“It’s going to make it more of a meeting place and a conference room,” said Joseph Bates, president of Bowie’s Knights of St. John organization.

With the extra space, the knights will have an additional indoor, climate-controlled area where they can host events, which the group needs as its own space is too small for some activities.

The expanded facility could also be rented to other community groups or serve as a place for wedding receptions and other social events, said Gerald Wood, the group’s financial secretary.

“Our facility is really old,” he said. “[The new structure] will be a much better facility.”