Archive for July, 2009
The cornerstone of Baltimore’s third courthouse building was laid on June 25, 1896 and construction was completed in 1900. The Greek Revival style structure, designed by the architectural firm of J. B. Noel Wyatt and William G. Nolting, is six stories tall and occupies the entire city block bounded by Saint Paul, Calvert, Lexington and Fayette Streets. The Century old structure has 218 rooms and cost 1.75 million dollars. The building’s 16 massive pillars weigh 35 tons each and were supplied by Beaver Dam Quarries in Cockeysville, MD. In 1985, the building was named after civil rights activist Clarence Mitchell. The regal Calvert Statue guards the Saint Paul Street entrance, while the Battle Monument stands at the Calvert Street side in what is known as Monument Square.
The Severn Building was constructed in 1895. Designed by Charles E. Cassell, the Renaissance Revival style apartment building is located on the corner of Cathedral Street and West Mount Vernon Place. Cassell also designed the Stafford Hotel on the north side of the Washington Monument. The Severn was purchased by the Caplan family in 1976 and underwent a full rehabilitation in 2007. The Military Courage statue is directly in front the historic structure.
Location: Belair Road & Shannon Drive
This WWI Servicemen Memorial is inconspicuously placed within a large bush on the edge of Herring Run Park. At the corner of Belair Road and Shannon Drive, the monument displays an eagle atop a scroll containing the names of Belair community members that died during WWI. Edward Berge, one of Baltimore’s most important realist sculptors, was commissioned to create the memorial. Dedicated in 1921, the sculpture’s condition is decent, yet could stand some attention. The 300 year old Columbus Obelisk towers nearby.
The James Cardinal Gibbons birthplace marker resides at the east side of War Memorial Plaza in downtown Baltimore. Gibbons was born in Charm City at this location in 1834, the tablet commemorating the occasion. Archdiocese of the Baltimore Catholic Church from 1877 until his death, the Cardinal was famous for fighting for worker’s rights, defending the vast numbers of Catholic laborers during the industrial period of America at the centuries turn. His book, The Faith of Our Fathers is an enduring success, and continues to be his hallmark statement. A statue of Gibbons sits outside of America’s first Cathedral, the Basilica of the Assumption.
Location: N Gay Street & E Lexington Street
On the Fire Department Headquarters building at War Memorial Plaza is a plaque erected in 1929 commemorating the 200 year anniversary of Baltimore Town. In 1729, a group of citizens petitioned the British for the rights to establish a town near the Jones Falls. The commission was authorized to buy 60 acres of land north of the Patapsco River, a tract of earth known then as Cole’s Harbour. The town was to be divided into 60 lots, available first to the inhabitants of Baltimore County. In 1732, Jonas Town (later Jones Town) was established east of Baltimore Town and, in 1745, the two were combined to form the heart of Baltimore. The tablet was designed by R. Foxhall Nolley.
Location: E Fayette Street & N Front Street
When completed in 1828, the Phoenix Shot Tower was the tallest free-standing structure in the United States. Designed to make ammunition for pistols, rifles and cannons, molten lead was dropped from the top of the tower into cold water at the bottom, forming a round “shot” in the process. Rendered obsolete in 1892, the building was almost razed for a gas station until local residents pitched in to save it. In 1971 the Phoenix Shot Tower was designated a National Historic Landmark. Carroll Museums, Inc. maintains the tower today, offering guided weekend tours by appointment.
On September 22, 1878 the Merchants’ Shot Tower (as it was then known) was devastated by fire. The building’s interior was completely burned out and 15 tons of lead fell from the tower’s peak to the ground floor. Flames could be seen pluming out of its top like a torch. No one was injured in the event and the tower’s brick shell was salvaged.
Location: S Linwood Avenue & Eastern Avenue
This memorial plaque was affixed to a flagpole at Patterson Park in 1923. The World War I marker is just a few steps away from Hans Schuler’s General Pulaski Monument, a majestic sculpture honoring one of America’s, and Poland’s, greatest war heroes.
The original Peale Museum was founded in Philadelphia by Charles Willson Peale. Charles Willson was a fascinating and gifted man, bouncing between art, politics and science. After a short career in civil service he began painting in earnest, eventually studying under Benjamin West in London. Upon returning to the states, he settled in Annapolis, embarking on a career in portrait art. During this period he traveled to Charles Carroll of Carrollton’s Mount Clare mansion (in Carroll Park, Baltimore) to paint portraits of the Senator and his wife. A few years later Peale moved his family to Philadelphia, a city establishing itself as the artistic capital of America. There he painted the founding fathers and other Revolutionary War heroes, even painting the first ever portrait of George Washington. At his Philadelphia studio he began displaying his work along with the various wildlife he collected (C. W. Peale always maintained a strong interest in science). This location became known as Philadelphia Museum or Peale’s American Museum, one of the first natural history exhibits in America. He turned the operation over to son Rubens in 1810.
When the senior Peale retired, his other son Rembrandt, a famous painter in his own right, decided to start a museum in Baltimore. Opening in 1814, the Peale Museum (sometimes known as Rembrandt Peale’s Museum) consisted of paintings, manufactured pieces and animal specimens. The 3-story building, designed by Robert Cary Long, is crafted in the federal style, its most unique architectural feature being the 2-story gallery attached to the rear of the building. The gallery consists of two open rooms, the top floor lit by skylight, and the ground floor receiving sun through its eleven windows.
Inside the third floor studio, Sarah Miriam Peale fine-tuned her portrait skills under Rembrandt’s Tutelage. Sarah Miriam was the daughter of James Peale, Charles Willson’s brother, and cousin to Rubens and Rembrandt. She became one of the first professional female American artists, earning steady commissions for her portraiture.
The museum as a business never earned Rembrandt financial stability he desired for his family. Being short on initial investment funds, he sold stock in the museum to businessmen, granting them free access and a percentage of ticket sales. This arrangement proved fatal for Rembrandt, the financial burden too much for the artisan. In 1817, he and a group of local entrepreneurs started the Gas Light Company of Baltimore, targeting the city government for a gas street lamp contract. The company eventually succeeded, but not before Rembrandt was forced out due to his financial inadequacies. Younger brother Rubens took the museum over in 1822, but was compelled to close it permanently in 1830. Rembrandt promptly returned to painting as his primary profession.
Through the years the Peale building served as Baltimore’s City Hall (1830 to 1876), a public school, the water board’s headquarters and even an organ factory. In 1930 the building was renovated with John H. Scarff as lead architect. For over 60 years the institution showcased the broad history of Charm City, featuring portraits, photographs, fine art and anything else Baltimore. After closing in 1997, along with the City Life Museums, the salon’s exhibits were moved to the Maryland Historical Society.
Peale Museum reference links:
- The Architecture of Baltimore: An Illustrated History (2004)
- Baltimore: its History and its People, Volume 1 (1912)
- Maryland: A Guide to the Old Line State (1948)
- The Amiable Baltimoreans (1984)
- Mr. Peale’s Museum (1980)
- The Chronicles of Baltimore (1874)
- Baltimore Past and Present (1871)
- Rembrandt Peale biography at Butler Art
- National Park Service entry