Explore Washington D.C.

Touring Evergreen, One of Baltimore's Historic Homes

Nineteenth-century Baltimore was a wealthy town, and it shows in the city's historic homes

Thanks to its position near the sea, 19th-century Baltimore became a wealthy town. Blessed with shipping ports and railroads that linked it to the nation, it also (fortunately) straddled the borders and loyalties of North and South. No surprise then that new money and New World skill built some magnificent residences. Here, the story behind Evergreen.

The Broadbent family built Evergreen in 1850s Greek Revival-style as a setting for the treasures they gathered around the world. The next owners, also connoisseurs, were the Garretts of B&O railroad wealth, who added Italianate gardens, libraries for rare books and collections of art decorative (Tiffany) and fine (Degas, Picasso and Dufy).

In 1922 Alice Garrett turned her husband’s boyhood gym into an intimate theater and commissioned its decor by Léon Bakst, set and costume designer for Les Ballets Russes in Paris. Bakst also influenced the dining room palette of vibrant yellow walls and  Chinese red scrolls.

Folk art meeting the European avant-garde in kaleidoscopic patterns at Evergreen’s Bakst Theatre (©James T. VanRensselaer, Courtesy Evergreen Museum & Library)
Folk art meeting the European avant-garde in kaleidoscopic patterns at Evergreen’s Bakst Theatre (©James T. VanRensselaer, Courtesy Evergreen Museum & Library)

The Garretts often hosted artists, musicians and celebrities like Cole Porter. (Lore has it that one night guest H.L. Mencken, in a drunken state, introduced the rhumba to Baltimore.) But many creative types accepted long-term hospitality, a practice that inspires a current artist-in-residence program. Johns Hopkins University, which inherited the property in 1942, books concerts here and even weddings in the theater.

On the grounds through September, find 10 sculptural panels, a tribute by visionary artist Loring Cornish to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.