About a decade after the 1918 influenza pandemic ended, a grassroots effort from citizens and journalists saved Baltimore’s Peale Museum. Nearly a century later, and incidentally amid another pandemic, the team at the nonprofit Peale Center for Baltimore History and Architecture—now known simply as the Peale—is hoping for a similar result.
In 1928, the Peale was set to be demolished by the City of Baltimore. However, there was a strong public sentiment that the building was too historically significant to be torn down and could be repurposed instead. The Evening Sun amplified this message multiple times, including in December 1929, when journalist Gerald W. Johnson wrote an article with the headline “Baltimore’s Carnavalet” to champion the idea that a newly established municipal museum in the Peale building could rival the famed Carnavalet Museum in Paris.
This time, however, the building is in no danger of being torn down. It now has a fifty-year lease with the city and is a part of the Department of General Services Historic Properties Program, an initiative that provides support for the preservation of fourteen historical landmarks in Baltimore, including the War Memorial, City Hall, the Shot Tower, and other prominent sites.
What the Peale Museum building needs now is another round of renovations, following an initial round in 2017 that included a new roof. The second cycle will focus on internal revitalization, including fire suppression and an elevator, making it a safer, more accessible place for Baltimore’s residents and visitors to learn about and celebrate the stories of the city.