Archive for the ‘Downtown’ Category
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 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.
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
Born near Dublin, Ireland, in 1778, Mother Catherine McAuley dedicated her storied life to helping others. A devote catholic, McAuley was challenged when, after her parents died, she was sent to live with anti-catholic relatives. This difficult period in her life only strengthened her convictions and she began establishing the Sisters of Mercy. The organization’s goal was to aid suffering families and children as well as training women for employment. When Catherine was in her mid-twenties a Quaker family offered her residence in their home. The family grew to adore her and when they passed away they left their entire estate to their adopted daughter. In 1827, McAuley used this money to set up her first House of Mercy. In 1990, Pope John Paul II declared her venerable.
Location: N Gay Street & E Lexington Street
Across Gay Street from the War Memorial Building is a plaque commemorating the rededication of War Memorial Plaza. The marker reads: “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.” This same inscription was on the front facade of Memorial Stadium and is on the new war monument at Camden Yards.
In 1986, William Donald Schaefer had a small plaque placed at the west end of War Memorial Plaza. The monument honors the members of the Baltimore community who have “unselfishly given their time, labor and talents to help improve the quality of life in our community without ever seeking reward or recognition.”
N Gay Street & E Fayette Street (Street View)
GPS: 39° 17′ 26.85″ N 76° 36′ 31.96″ W
Construction on the War Memorial Building at 101 North Gay Street began in 1921, and was completed four years later. The massive monument to Maryland’s soldiers that died in World War I is the work of Laurence Hall Fowler, a local architect who’s design won a competition held by officials for the commission. Directly across from Baltimore’s City Hall, the lot was chosen as part of the 1910 Olmstead plan to focus the city’s more important buildings into a civic plaza.
Flanking the Neoclassical edifice are two aquatic war horse sculptures created by by Edmond R. Amateis that are said to depict “the might of America crossing the sea to come to the aid of the Allies.” Made of Indiana limestone, the horses, when viewed up-close, display fossils of marine organisms. Along the sides and back of the building are German cannon confiscated during WWI. In 1977, the memorial was rededicated to honor the state’s lost from both World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
Inside the building is an impressive banquet hall occupying the top floor. With high ceilings and room for hundreds of people, the vast open space is used for various events. Usually occupied by veteran’s groups and city or state politicians (the memorial is owned jointly between Baltimore and Maryland), the location has recently been used for fashion shows and movie sets. A large mural depicting the “sacrifice to patriotism,” painted by Charm City artist R. McGill Mackall, covers the back wall. Throughout the auditorium are the names of the 1752 Maryland fatalities of WWI.
100 N Holliday Street (Street View)
GPS: 39° 17′ 27.21″ N 76° 36′ 36.05″ W
Dedicated on May 30, 1972, this monument to African-American servicemen slain in the protection of their country is by artist James E. Lewis. Paid for by an anonymous donor, it stands on the west end of War Memorial Plaza, facing the magnificent War Memorial Building with its aquatic horse statues. Behind the statue rises Baltimore City Hall. The statue was originally installed on the north side of the Battle Monument, but opponents argued it would detract from the importance of that memorial, and it was moved to it’s current location.
On January 17, 2009, President-Elect Barack Obama came to War Memorial Plaza to deliver a well-attended speech in which he referenced Baltimore and Maryland’s historic role in the formation of the United States. The Black Soldiers Statue stands on the former site of the Holliday Street Theatre, a famous playhouse where Junius and John Wilkes Booth once performed.
N Gay Street & E Lexington Street (Street View)
GPS: 39° 17′ 29.05″ N 76° 36′ 33.06″ W
This monument dates from 1990 and is by artist Tylden Streett, who taught for a time at the Maryland Institute College of Art and was also responsible for the statue of Capt. John O’Donnell in Canton Square. The monument is dedicated to all members of the Baltimore City Fire Department, past, present and future. Erected by the Baltimore City Firefighter’s Monument Committee, the statue cost some $150,000, much of which was raised by private donations.
The statue stands at the north-east corner of War Memorial Plaza, outside of the plaza proper. A sister memorial to Baltimore City’s police lies just to the east across the terminus of the highway, within view of the Shot Tower.