Evergreen Museum & Library: Portal to the Gilded Age in Baltimore, MD

The Historical Significance of Evergreen Museum & Library

Nestled between the Notre Dame of Maryland University and Loyola University Maryland, the Evergreen Museum & Library is more than just a building; it’s a living testament to Baltimore‘s rich history. Built between 1857 and 1858, this mansion was purchased in 1878 by John W. Garrett, the then-president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

Railroads were the backbone of the American economy then, and the Garrett family, being at the helm of one of the largest rail companies, made the mansion both luxurious and renowned.

The mansion served as a home for the Garrett family until 1952, after which it was generously donated to Johns Hopkins University. This transition began a new chapter for the mansion, turning it into a historic house museum and research library.

The mansion’s historical significance was further cemented when it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 17, 1983. This recognition preserved its architectural integrity and made it a focal point for historical studies in Baltimore.

Architectural Marvels of Evergreen Museum & Library

The Evergreen Museum & Library is a marvel of Gilded Age architecture. Initially designed as an Italianate house, the mansion underwent significant transformations under the Garrett family’s ownership.

It expanded into a 48-room mansion with a 23-karat gold-plated bathroom, a testament to the family’s affluence and taste. The estate sits on a 26-acre landscaped site in Northern Baltimore, adding to its grandeur.

The mansion’s architectural styles blend Classical Revival and Renaissance, thanks to the contributions of multiple architects, including Laurence Hall Fowler. The mansion’s design elements reflect the Garrett family’s extensive travels and diverse interests, from a red Asian room displaying Japanese and Chinese items to works by renowned artists like Picasso, Modigliani, and Degas.

The Garrett Family and Their Collections

The Garrett family were not just business magnates but also avid collectors and patrons of the arts. John Garrett’s son, T. Harrison, added a wing to the mansion that initially contained a billiard room, bowling alley, and gymnasium. These spaces were later transformed into an art gallery and private theater, showcasing the family’s evolving interests.

The mansion houses an extensive collection of fine and decorative arts, rare books, and manuscripts, making it a treasure trove for art and history enthusiasts.

The collection reflects the Garrett family’s diverse interests and commitment to enriching Baltimore’s cultural landscape. From Tiffany glass to Dutch marquetry, the range is eclectic and exquisite.

The John Work Garrett Library

The John Work Garrett Library is another Evergreen Museum & Library crown jewel. Managed under the Department of Special Collections at Johns Hopkins University’s aegis, the library boasts over 30,000 volumes. John Work Garrett and his father, T. Harrison Garrett, collected most of these.

The library’s collection is solid in literature from the English Renaissance, including the Shakespeare Folios of 1623, 1632, and 1663.

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It also houses a wide array of natural history literature, travel literature, and early Americana, making it a haven for researchers and history buffs alike. The library even holds the earliest known example of printing produced in colonial Maryland, a small booklet by Nicholas Hasselbach in 1765.

Current Exhibitions at Evergreen Museum & Library

If you’re looking for things to do in Baltimore, Maryland, don’t miss the current exhibitions at the Evergreen Museum & Library. One such exhibition is “Art Glass at Evergreen,” from June 23, 2023, to September 8, 2024.

This exhibition showcases the museum’s extensive collection of 19th- and 20th-century art glass, featuring pieces by renowned makers like Loetz, Tiffany, Durand, Steuben, and Émile Gallé.

Another noteworthy exhibition was “Evergreen as Muse 2023,” from May 6 to August 27, 2023. This exhibition featured photographs by 12 Johns Hopkins University undergraduate students inspired by Evergreen’s history, inhabitants, and world-famous library and art collection. These exhibitions enrich the visitor experience and serve as platforms for emerging artists and scholars.

Visitor Experience and Tours

Visiting the Evergreen Museum & Library is not just a walk through a museum; it’s a journey through time. The museum offers guided tours that delve into the lives of the Garrett family, their extraordinary collections, and the mansion’s transformation over the years. These tours provide a comprehensive understanding of the museum’s significance in Baltimore’s cultural landscape.

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, between 11 am and 4 pm, making it a convenient option for locals and tourists. No reservations are required, and the Evergreen House Foundation and The Sheridan Libraries at Johns Hopkins University support the museum.

So, whether you’re a history buff, an art lover, or simply someone looking to explore the city’s heritage, the Evergreen Museum & Library has something for everyone.

Conclusion

The Evergreen Museum & Library is a monument to Baltimore’s rich history, architectural prowess, and cultural diversity. Its extensive collections, fascinating exhibitions, and engaging tours make it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in delving deeper into the city’s past and present.

While the mansion itself is a work of art, the stories it holds within its walls make it a living, breathing entity that continues to inspire and educate.

So, the next time you ponder over weekend plans or looking for a cultural excursion, remember that the Evergreen Museum & Library awaits you with its open doors and a wealth of knowledge. It’s not just a museum; it’s a slice of Baltimore’s soul.

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