The Evergreen Museum and Library is a must see if you’re planning a day trip to Baltimore. The museum’s collection includes amazing original artwork from artists such as Tiffany, Pablo Piccasso, Rodin, Degas, Defy and many others.
Railroad magnate John W. Garrett purchased the original Italianate mansion in 1878. He immediately began adding on to it. Its next owner, Garrett’s son T. Harrison, served six presidents as an ambassador. The second Garrett transformed the mansion into the 48-room, multi-wing Gilded Age mansion it is today, filling it with his art collections. The mansion holds many layers of architecture and history within its walls.
In the mid-19th century, railroads were a key industry in the United States. And the Baltimore-based Garretts owned and managed one of the biggest rail companies, the B&O. The home grew with their fortunes.
T. Harrison added a wing containing a billiard room, bowling alley and a gymnasium. Eventually, however, the Garretts converted the gymnasium into an art gallery and private theater. The Garretts lived in Evergreen until 1952, when their wills donated it to the university.
You can still see the bones of the original, more modest Italianate house. But the Garretts added opulence and luxuries such as a 23-karat gold plated bathroom, a 30,000-book library and a theater. Although we didn’t get to see it during our tour, famous Russian artist Léon Bakst painted the theater, so not seeing it was disappointing.
Evergreen Is More Than a House Museum
As you tour the mansion you can’t help but be impressed by the works of art on display. The latter Garretts avidly collected pottery and ceramics, paintings, Tiffany glass and more. They decided that upon their deaths, the mansion, estate and art collections should go to Johns Hopkins University to be run as a museum. The pride and joy of the museum is the famous John Work Garrett Library, added to the house in the 1920s. This library holds more than 30,000 books, including some of the oldest and rarest in history.
The Garretts travels and interests filled the house with many decorative items. A red Asian room displays Japanese and Chinese items. The walls display works by Picasso, Modigliani, and Degas, glass by Tiffany. Many of the rooms have lovely pieces of Dutch marquetry furniture.
The second Alice Garrett (her mother in law, wife of John W Garrett, was also an Alice) actively supported the arts. Both wealthy and beautiful, her image appears throughout the mansion in paints, sculpture and photographs. She frequently invited artists, composers, authors and musicians to stay at the mansion in the “Genius Wing.”
Two artists in the museum’s collection struck me the most. I loved the stained glass windows, lamps and chandeliers by Tiffany — nearly every chandelier was a Tiffany. And I loved the paintings of Alice W Garrett (the second Alice Garrett, who was herself an accomplished artist).
Know Before You Go
Evergreen Museum & Library is open for guided tours. Tickets must be purchased in advance. Although the gardens were once lovely, now they’re mostly just grass lawns.
Getting there: 4545 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Website: Evergreen House Museum
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