Talk to the people who were there in 2004 and you can sense how poorly the National Park Seminary in Silver Spring, Maryland, was faring.

Years of neglect had left the campus’ buildings – constructed between 1887 and 1927 – nearing the point of no return. Leaking steam had rotted and ultimately collapsed some floors, vandalism had taken a toll, and parts of the facade were crumbling.

“From a condition standpoint it was horrible,” says Dave Vos, Development Project Manager at The Alexander Company, the developer behind the renovation. “It seemed like every time we opened up a wall there was another ‘I can’t believe what I’m seeing’ moment.”

Bonnie Rosenthal, Executive Director of Save Our Seminary – the preservation group whose decades-long effort ultimately rescued the architectural gem – puts it another way: “It was a great place for Halloween.”

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Originally published by Jared Foretek of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.