A few weekends ago, on a whim, I visited the Evergreen Museum & Library with a friend.
It turned out to be one of my best local discoveries yet, and so I wanted to share why I think it’s one of the most underrated spots in Baltimore, and why you should plan a visit, pronto!
But first, some background on Evergreen . . .
Thanks to John W. Garrett’s position as president of the B&O Railroad, Baltimore’s Garrett family was sittin’ pretty back in the mid 1800s and early 1900s. For those of you who slept through your American history classes, railroads were a big deal in a lot of ways, from their many economic impacts to their importance in Civil War strategy.
The significance of the B&O Railroad, and the Garrett family’s accompanying affluence, is reflected in Evergreen, a 48-room mansion built in 1857 by another Baltimore family. It was purchased in 1878 by John for his son, Thomas Harrison Garrett, and houses extraordinary collections amassed by the two generations of Garretts who lived there.
Evergreen’s architectural style is classified as Gilded Age by both the Johns Hopkins University’s museum site, and by the docent who led our tour. That term may give you an indication of just how extravagant Evergreen is, from its imposing exterior to its elaborate and occasionally quirky interior.
I had no idea this hidden gem was in Baltimore, and I’m betting that there may even be some life-long Baltimore residents who don’t, either. Tucked back just off of North Charles Street near Loyola College, it’s all too easy to drive past the entrance without realizing that through the iron gates and up the hill sits Evergreen.
But even if you’re one of the few who’s spotted the museum from the street, I’m absolutely certain that you don’t know about all the cool things inside.
You’re (understandably!) not permitted to take photos inside, but I was a sucker for the library, with its extensive built-in shelves, cozy reading nooks, beautiful windows to allow for plenty of natural light, painted murals marking the travels of Ambassador Garrett (Thomas Harrison Garrett’s son), and best of all, rare books including: Shakespeare’s folios, complete Audubon volumes, and the signatures of every signer of the Declaration of Independence, just to name a few. I would highly encourage you to Google Image Search the Evergreen Library, and drool over it with me.
Beyond the library, some of my favorite parts of the tour included: pieces by Degas and Picasso; one of the world’s largest collections of Tiffany glass (there’s a fascinating story about Andrew Carnegie behind that one); and the only existing theater with sets by designer Léon Bakst, which people apparently come from all over the world to see.
There was a golden bathroom (completely ridiculous; I’ve never seen anything like it!), an extensive Japanese art collection, incredibly lush draperies and interior design elements, an elevator, and a stunning room designed in iron and glass, which showcases the many collections Thomas Harrison’s three sons assembled during their childhood, such as a magic trick collection.
While you’re busy gaping over the interior and its artifacts, your tour guides will regale you with stories of the colorful Garrett family, who would merit their own TV show in today’s world. I don’t want to give too much away (an ambassador! an Olympian! a patron of the arts!) and spoil the fun, but I promise you’ll be fascinated!
Suffice it to say, the Evergreen Museum & Library was the best $8 I’ve spent in a long time. I would highly encourage you all to scrap your existing weekend plans and pop on over at your next opportunity!
*Main image via Pexels