BNHA Enoch Pratt Free Library

Interpretive Framework

Shaping a Monumental City: The City’s Growth in the 20th Century

Star Attractions

Charles Street Byway

Cultural Walk

Resource Type

Points of Interest

400 Cathedral St

Baltimore, Maryland 21201

In 1882, hardware merchant Enoch Pratt offered the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore a gift of a central library, four branch libraries, and an endowment of over $800,000 for their maintenance.  “My library,” Pratt said, “shall be for all, rich and poor without distinction of race or color, who, when properly accredited, can take out the books if they will handle them carefully and return them.”

In 1886, a central library on this site and four branch libraries opened as the Enoch Pratt Free Library. It was the first city-wide library system in the country.  This impressive Art Deco building, completed in 1933, is the second Central Branch of the Pratt Library on this site. The new Central Library, which features an inviting street-level entrance and 12 changeable display windows, was a major departure from previous library models. Since opening in 1886, the Enoch Pratt Free Library has become one of the most widely used and emulated public libraries in the nation. Its Mencken Room houses the most important H.L. Mencken collection in the world. The Central Branch has been named as the State Library  Resource Center and its holdings are available to all Marylanders through their local libraries.