Photo credit: Breck Chapman , 02/2004

Property Name: Ira Remsen House
Date Listed: 5/15/1975
Inventory No.: B-3728
Location: 214, Monument St., Baltimore, Baltimore City

Description: Constructed in the 1880s, the Ira Remsen House is typical of the row houses constructed during the period and is of no architectural significance. The three-story brick row house has been altered. The original cornice was removed and replaced in 1945 at the time of a general remodeling. At the same time the front was sand blasted and the interior divided up into rental units. Apartments are located on the second and third floors with a commercial establishment on the first floor. Air-conditioners are mild intrusions on a visible side wall.

Significance: Ira Remsen moved from 12 East Biddle Street to 214 Monument Street about 1901, the same year he became president of Johns Hopkins University. The house was his home until approximately 1925. Ira Remsen, chemist and educator, was born in 1846 in New York City. Educated at Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons, where he graduated at the age of 21 in 1867, Remsen went on to study chemistry in Germany, earning a PhD in 1872. After a brief teaching position at Williams College, Remsen was called to organize a chemistry department on the German model at Johns Hopkins University, where he spent the rest of his professional career. Between 1876 and 1901, he directed the chemistry department, building it into one of the finest in the country. In 1901, upon Daniel Coit Gilman's resignation, Remsen became president of the university until 1913. After stepping down as president, Remsen continued as a professor of chemistry and also served as a consultant to Standard Oil of Indiana. He died in Carmel, California in 1927 at the age of 81. His ashes were placed in a new laboratory at Johns Hopkins that had been named in his honor. Although Remsen made important research contributions in chemistry, such as "Remsen's Law" and the discovery of saccharin, he is best remembered as a teacher, synthesizer, and institution builder. In his classes and laboratory at Johns Hopkins, Remsen developed pedagogical techniques that were adopted throughout the country. Basically his techniques consisted of lectures explaining chemistry followed by laboratory work on problems raised during the lecture. Remsen was a brilliant lecturer and his daily visit to the work table of each graduate student made him a legend among his students. As a synthesizer Remsen had the gift of being able to survey the literature of chemistry and then presenting this knowledge in readable textbook form. Although his own basic research discoveries did not rank him as a great experimenter, this made him a dominant figure in American chemistry.