BNHA Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins – George Peabody Library


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In 1857, philanthropist George Peabody, in an effort to bring culture to city residents, founded the Peabody Institute, the first academy of music to be established in the nation. The Peabody Institute, which began in the building at 1 East Mt. Vernon Place, now fills all of the buildings in the block and a number of other close-by buildings. The conservatory, which has been a nationally important school of music throughout the 1900s, was rescued from financial insolvency by Johns Hopkins University in 1977.

The institute was to consist of an academy of music, a gallery of art, a lecture department, but “first”, in the words of the founder, “a library.” The library was dedicated in 1866 with 20,000 volumes on the shelves. Most of the books in the collection are quite old, the oldest going back to 1470.  Only Harvard Library and the Library of Congress exceeded it in quality at the time.

To house what eventually numbered about 250,000 books, architect Edmund Lind was hired to create the palatial stack room: six stories of cast-iron balconies surrounding a marble court. With its grand space and decorated cast-iron ornaments, painted grey-green and touched with gold leaf, this space is probably the most beautiful room in Baltimore.