Named after George Washington’s Virginia plantation, the Mount Vernon neighborhood has been the address of literary greats, political leaders, and many other influential members of American society, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Woodrow Wilson, and H.L. Mencken.

Mount Vernon was at the heart of Baltimore’s metamorphosis in the 1800s and 1900s, from a harbor city to a nationally prominent society of wealth and culture. Donated by John Eager Howard, the Governor of Maryland from 1788 to 1791, the land on a wooded hillside became the setting of the first memorial to George Washington. In 1829, Robert Mills completed his 178-feet-high classic Greek Doric column that would come to serve as the city’s centerpiece. In the 1830s, Mount Vernon’s four parks were laid out around the monument based on the London residential squares of the Georgian period.

After the Civil War, many of American society’s leaders, including railroad barons and statesmen, moved to Mount Vernon and built magnificent residences in the house lots facing the squares. The neighborhood’s brownstones and townhouses represent a cross-section of 19th century architectural styles, including Georgian, Greek Revival, Renaissance Revival, and Beaux Arts. After the Peabody Institute was founded in 1857, English architect Edmund Lind designed and built the Peabody Institute in the Renaissance Revival style, completing the original building in 1866. Known as Baltimore’s “Cathedral of Books,” the George Peabody Library opened in 1878 and is considered to have one of the most dramatic interiors on the east coast with its elaborate wrought iron stacks soaring up to a skylighted roof.

The gentrification continued, with many wealthy residents, including Robert Garrett and William Walters, commissioning famous architects to design buildings and monuments for the area. Notable buildings that rose during that prosperous period include the Thomas-Jencks House, by Niernsee and Nielson (1 West Mount Vernon Place); the Jacobs House, by Stanford White and enlarged by John Russell Pope (9-11 West Mount Vernon Place); and the Walters Art Gallery, by Delano and Aldrich (Washington Place and Centre Street).

In the early to mid-1900s, many of the area’s wealthier residents moved to the suburbs, and preservationists fought to sustain Mount Vernon’s historic buildings and monuments. After several wars and a depression, the area has experienced periods of urban renewal and its museums, galleries, and arts institutions have made Mount Vernon Place the cultural center of Baltimore.

A symbol of Mount Vernon’s continued growth, the Peabody Institute completed a $26.8 million renovation in 2004, including a grand arcade with curving, balustrade stairs that cascade down from the entrance, designed to reflect the institution’s openness to residents and visitors. Another significant campus renovation project is in the early planning stages in 2024.

Today, Mount Vernon is a vibrant neighborhood, home to a diverse mix of students, artists, musicians, professionals, and families. In addition to its cultural institutions, galleries, and museums, there are more than 35 cafes and restaurants, more than 100 shops, the Washington Monument and its four adjoining parks, several boutique hotels, and five blocks of antique stores, making a visit to Mount Vernon both an edifying and an entertaining experience.

Originally established as a community cultural center, Peabody remains deeply rooted in the Baltimore community, building and strengthening meaningful connections today through its Preparatory community school for the performing arts; its plethora of opportunities for students to engage deeply with Baltimore arts organizations and community groups; and its free performances that are open to all.