George Peabody Library

Baltimore, Maryland | C.1866

Photo Credit: Atlas Obscura

Recognized as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, the George Peabody Library in Baltimore is a research library within The Johns Hopkins University educational system. Formerly known as the Library of the Peabody Institute of the City of Baltimore, it is a leading center for teaching and research.

The Library was first established in 1857 when George Peabody – a successful Baltimore merchant and veteran of the War of 1812 – pledged $300,000 as an investment for a cultural center to be named the Peabody Institute. The Institute was set to open in 1860, but the onset of the American Civil War pushed construction back six years.

In 1866, the west wing of the Institute was completed. Thousands of Baltimore City Public School children welcomed Peabody at its steps during its opening. More than a decade later, the east wing – including the Library – was officially opened. Designed by architect Edmund G. Lind, the structural design of the stack room includes five tiers of cast-iron balconies that rise to a skylight 61 feet high

Along with its beauty, the Library is known for its collection. Focusing on texts from the 19th century, the 300,000 volume collection includes books on a wide range of topics including religion, art, architecture, topography, science, geography, exploration, and travel.

The Library remained part of the Institute for nearly a century before it was transferred to the City of Baltimore. After a short stint as part of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, it was transferred again to The Johns Hopkins University in 1982. Keeping with Peabody’s intention to create a library “”for the free use of all persons who desire to consult it””, the George Peabody Library is still open to the public.

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