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When the Institute of Notre Dame on Aisquith Street in Baltimore could no longer accommodate its growing enrollment, the School Sisters of Notre Dame purchased land on North Charles Street in 1871 to build a new school for elementary and secondary students. Then called Notre Dame of Maryland, since it was the only building on campus, Gibbons Hall housed the entire institution. In the College's Master Plan for the Next Century, Robert A.M. Stern Architects note, "the single, monumental, multi-use building on a hill followed a model used by Georgetown, Vassar, Swarthmore and other academic institutions built during the period, conveying a strong image of the College as a single, unified community." ("History of the College's Physical Development," [Robert A.M. Stern Architects, 1996]). The architect, J. Crawford Nielson, designed many other important buildings in Baltimore, including Latrobe House, the Greenmount Cemetery chapel, Calvert and Camden Stations, and the Thomas Jencks-Glading House.
The first major renovation took place in 1960 when the preparatory school moved to a new location. The front entrance was modernized and the building renovated to conform to existing fire codes. At this time the building was renamed Gibbons Hall after James Cardinal Gibbons, long-time friend of Notre Dame. Cardinal Gibbons presided over the June 14, 1899 commencement when Notre Dame became the first Catholic college for women in the United States to award the baccalaureate degree. An additional 1991 renovation involved restoring the 278 windows, adding new heating, lighting, and air conditioning systems, and reconfiguring space to accommodate growing academic departments.
President and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant attended the 1876 graduation in Commencement Hall, which was located on the fourth floor of Gibbons. Bessie Sharp, the Grants' niece, was a student. President Grant conferred the awards.
Merrick Tower of Gibbons Hall has become an important landmark in the Baltimore community. One can see it from a great distance due to the height of the land and of the tower. Gibbons Hall is a landmark building which symbolizes the mission of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.