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Maryland's National Register Properties



Photo credit: MHT File Photo, Undated Photo
Peale's Baltimore Museum
Inventory No.: B-13
Other Name(s): Municipal Museum of the City of Baltimore
Date Listed: 10/15/1966
Location: 225 N. Holliday Street, Baltimore, Baltimore City
Category: Building
Period/Date of Construction: 1814
NHL Date: 12/21/1965
Description: The Peale's Baltimore Museum building is a seven-bay three-story brick building with a two-story wing to the rear. Two large flush chimneys rise from each gable end of the building, with a small double window in the attic gable between. The center three bays of the front facade, facing west, consists of a stone recessed entrance porch on the first floor and three 6/6 sash windows surmounted by round-arched panels on the second. Both these floors and a large rectangular panel with an elaborate bas relief sculpture on the third story are of stone. This portico and loggia are a 1931 replacement based on the original. The bas relief sculpture was designed by R. McGill Mackall and installed in 1931 through the generosity of the Baltimore Gas & Electric Company. This relief depicts Wisdom seated between an American eagle and a sailing ship. The same company donated the historic elliptically arched sculpture mounted on the garden wall. Carved in 1807 by the French sculptor, Augustin Chevalier, it had originally graced the Union Bank building which had been designed by Robert Cary Long, Sr. The outer two bays on each floor of the front facade of the building hold 6/6 sash windows with splayed jack arches. A brick course separates the first and second floor, and a modillion cornice edges the gable roof. Inside, the central hallway opens onto four small rooms on the first floor, in which scientific and natural exhibits were originally displayed. A large drawing room occupied the second floor, and the third floor held a painting gallery. Very little of the original interior woodwork remained when the building was restored in 1931. Existing woodwork including moldings, doors, locks, mantels, and balustrade were salvaged from a group of rowhouses which were being demolished at the time. Other detail such as the plaster cornices and ceiling and the elaborate door frames on the second floor were copied from authentic examples of the museum's period. Behind the museum building is a small courtyard with statues, which now contains the salvaged bas relief sculpture from the Union Bank. Significance: Peale's Baltimore Museum was the first in the United States to be designed and erected exclusively for museum use. Under the direction of its builder, Rembrandt Peale, and later his brother Rubens, the museum operated for 15 years as "Peale's Baltimore Museum and Gallery of Fine Arts." Its early exhibits included portraits of famous Americans (many by the founder) and the complete skeleton of a prehistoric mastodon exhumed by C.W. Peale in 1801. In 1816, the building became the first public building in America to use gas lighting. In 1830, the building was sold to the City of Baltimore, becoming the first City Hall. When a new City Hall was built in 1876, the building was converted into the second home of "Number 1 Colored Primary School," one of Baltimore's first public schools for black students. In 1887, the building became the home of the city's Water Board. The back yard became a stable, and the building was used for both administration and the storage of pipe and equipment. In the early 20th century, the Peale Museum was on the verge of being sold when the Mayor was convinced to forestall the sale and restore the building. The museum housed both painting exhibitions and permanent exhibits concerning Rembrandt Peale and the history of Baltimore, becoming part of the Baltimore City Life Museums system in 1985. When this system was closed in 1997, the Peale Museum closed as well.

 

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