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The County Courthouses and Records of Maryland -- Part 1: The Courthouses
Volume 545, Page 35   View pdf image (33K)
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BALTIMORE CITY

First Courthouse

When the government of Baltimore County was removed to Towson, the new government
of Baltimore City—judges, new clerk, new records—began to function in the old county
courthouse at Baltimore. But this structure, large as it was for the period, soon became
crowded. In 1866, extensive alterations and improvements were made, including an addition
to the west side. Also the cellar was converted into offices for the sheriff and other city
officials. In spite of this remodeling, two of the courts had to be removed from the courthouse
soon thereafter to find temporary homes in the old Masonic Hall on St. Paul Street, designed
by Jacob Small and finished in 1822.1

Second Courthouse

As this crowding grew more acute, it became obvious that nothing else would do but the
erection of a new and much larger courthouse. The General Assembly of 1876 passed an act
providing for the issuance of $750,000 in bonds for this purpose.2 Scharf notes that there was
an advisory building commission functioning at least as early as 1881, but nothing tangible
seems to have resulted from the efforts of either the legislature or the commission.3 During
the first months of 1892 it was obvious action could no longer be postponed. The General
Assembly of that year passed an act authorizing the mayor and city council of Baltimore to
issue up to $6,000,000 of stock, part of which was to be used for the purchase of ground and
the erection of a courthouse. The act also provided that before any further action could be
taken an ordinance to the same effect (upon which the citizens of Baltimore could vote) would
be required.4 The mayor and city council then passed the required ordinance October 7,
1892.5 It received a majority of the ballots cast at the November election following, but for
some reason the ordinance was not ratified until 1898.6 The sum set aside for courthouse
and grounds was at first fixed at $1,750,000. The final cost, however, was approximately
$2,250,000.

Even before the ordinance was ratified, the old courthouse and other buildings, both
public and private, on the same square block were pulled down. Razing began August 8, 1895,
and by June 25 of the next year, it was possible to hold cornerstone ceremonies. The con-
tractors finished the building in December 1899. It was occupied by the courts the following
month. The architects were J. B. Noel Wyatt and William G. Nolting, the builders, John Gill &
Sons of Baltimore and D. W. Thomas of Ohio. This enormous building is in the classical
manner, three stories, high with a basement and sub-basement. Above the ground it is of
Baltimore County marble; the basement is Howard County granite. The columns of the dome
over the courtroom are of marble from the quarries of the Holy See; the inside paneling is of
hardwood. The murals and statuary aroused the interest of various civic organizations who
offered several prizes to stimulate competition. Some of the artists whose work is represented
in the building are C. Y. Turner, Edwin H. Blashfield, John LaFarge and Jean Paul Laurens.7

1 Scharf, History of Baltimore City and County, p. 728.
2 Ch. 240
3 Op. cit., p. 728.
4 Ch. 138.
5 Ordinance No. 100.

6 Ch. 361, Acts of 1898.
7 For a detailed account of the materials used and the art
work see Clayton C. Hall, Baltimore, Its History And Its People,
New York - Chicago, 1912, Vol. I, pp. 320-22 and Murals in
The Baltimore Court House, Baltimore, 1912,

35


 

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The County Courthouses and Records of Maryland -- Part 1: The Courthouses
Volume 545, Page 35   View pdf image (33K)
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