Baltimore in Winter: The Other Mount Vernon

Much to my embarrassment, it took me years to appreciate Baltimore beyond its aquarium. The turning point was one wintry day last year. We woke up early, the flat, frozen city before us, and decided to explore.

Baltimore in winter - view from above

Wintry Baltimore

Our primary destinations on that visit were the two museums–the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum–and I was charmed by both. Still, when I think of that day, the elegant Mount Vernon Place springs to mind. It was too cold to linger then, so I’d love to see the entirety of the Mount Vernon neighborhood again during the cherry blossom season. Once upon a time, this was the gilded heart of Baltimore’s high society, and monuments to its philanthropic denizens still speak eloquently to that past. My first association with it all, though, will always be the grumpy hospitality of that still, grey morning.

The sea urchin, Baltimore's Mount Vernon Place

The Sea Urchin, helpfully single-gloved, in front of the columnar Washington Monument, the nation’s first monument to honor its first president

Wintry statues in Baltimore's Mount Vernon Square

It was a cold day–even for statues

The Peabody Institute plaque and Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, Baltimore

The Peabody Institute complex is nothing short of impressive. Behind the sign is the spire of the Victorian Gothic Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, sporting unique Maryland stone and built atop the place where Francis Scott Key, the poet of “The Star Spangled Banner,” died.

Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica by Newton

Newton’s Principia (the first edition!)

Steps away from the Washington Monument, we were grateful for the warmth of the Peabody Library.

An exhibition gallery on the first floor was open to the public. That day, it displayed some of the brightest stars of scientific discovery, rare manuscripts and bound volumes by Copernicus, Kepler, Galilei, Newton, and Halley (sadly, no longer on view).

Kepler's book at the Peabody Library

Two large doors at the center of the exhibit led into the library’s reading room, a bibliophile’s Valhalla. We were not allowed in just then, but could peek through the glass. I think I could spend an afterlife there:

Peabody Library reading room, Baltimore

From this dream paradise, our day meandered pleasantly to the Walters close by, and the Baltimore Museum of Art after that, where, as luck would have it, we got another glimpse of the library–Candida Hofer’s this time. Baltimore and I had a lovely first date; I look forward to continue the acquaintance this spring.

Candida Hofer's Peabody Library at the Baltimore Museum of Art

17 thoughts on “Baltimore in Winter: The Other Mount Vernon

  1. Pingback: Floating through Baltimore’s National Aquarium « Transplanted Tatar

    • Yes, a glove on the Sea Urchin and a parka on the other kid. Apparently, Baltimoreans do this in winter, the caring lot that they are. As for the Peabody Library–ah, I can’t WAIT to get back there.

  2. I live in Baltimore, and I am at the Walters about twice a month.However, I have never really spent a lot of time in the Peabody Library. I need to plan a visit. Sometimes when you have things so close to home, you never take the time to visit them.

    • You are so right. Having this blog actually encourages me to explore my “home turf” more, and I can’t believe that I overlooked Baltimore so badly until relatively recently. Can’t wait to go back to the Peabody Library. When we were there, the reading room didn’t seem to be readily accessible, so I’d love to hear more about the logistics of spending time there, if you get to it before me.

  3. I’m so close and I’ve never been to the Baltimore Museum of Art. I am, however, a little obsessed with the Walters. I never thought about going to the Peabody — I can’t believe I never knew about the library. Must now go to see it and the Hofer.

    • I LOVED Walters. I think BAM-appreciation is helped if there is an interesting exhibit at the time. When we were there, the exhibit was of Candida Hofer’s larger-than-life interiors–I hope BAM owns at least some of them, especially the one of the Peabody Library. It really was stunning. As for the library “in the flesh”–I only found out about it because of a book at the hotel! Had no idea it existed before that. Counting days to spring, so we can go back.

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