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Branches of Baltimore History

The Former ‘City Life Museums’

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The City Life Museums was a series of historically significant buildings and exhibits once maintained by the Baltimore municipality. In 1997, Mayor Kurt Schmoke shut them down due to poor attendance and funding issues. The Maryland Historical Society was able to acquire the significant contents of the museums after they were closed.


The MDHS is the big winner in the liquidation of the Baltimore City Life Museums, which was forced to padlock its doors June 21, 1997. It will add to the society’s collection 58 paintings by members of the Rembrandt Peale family, thus becoming the biggest repository of Peale art anywhere. The historical society will also acquire and display in its Mount Vernon buildings the rest of the City Life memorabilia. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the future of various City Life buildings is uncertain.

Independent companies have stepped in to keep some of the historic sites open. Carroll Museums, Inc. is running the Carroll Mansion complex and the Phoenix Shot Tower, offering tours on weekend afternoons for as low as five dollars. However, the Peale Museum and H. L. Mencken House are still closed, two important buildings that deserve being rescued. The Friends of the H. L. Mencken House is working to save the Union Square home that Mencken lived his entire life in. On December 13, 2009 the rowhouse was open as part of the neighborhood’s annual Christmas Cookie Tour.

The Peale Museum’s future is still uncertain. I’ve heard rumors that Baltimore may use the facility as a conference center for City Hall employees, but for now the building is vacant. Opened just months before the Bombardment of Fort McHenry, the Peale Museum is one of the city’s most significant historical artifacts.

The list below comprises the former City Life Museums:

Written by monumentcity

December 28th, 2009 at 8:39 am