The Baltimore Department of General Services (DGS) owns and stewards many historic properties across Charm City and maintains the buildings for the public good. One of the most interesting buildings owned by the city is the Peale Museum — currently undergoing rehabilitation in preparation for a reopening as the Peale Center for Baltimore History and Architecture.


Designed by artist Rembrandt Peale, the Peale Museum was completed in August 1814 and was the first building in the Western Hemisphere to be built specifically as a museum.


The Museum originally showcased the Peale family’s contributions to art, science and natural history. Exhibits included the first complete mastodon skeleton ever discovered, and the first demonstration of gas lighting in Baltimore, which eventually gave rise to the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE). Throughout the 19th century, the Peale building later served as the first City Hall, and then as the first public high school in Maryland open to African American students. From 1930-1997, it was the Municipal Museum of the City of Baltimore before closing due to lack of funds.


Today, the Peale Center and DGS are in the process of a multi-stage rehabilitation in order to preserve this historic landmark as a cultural venue to celebrate the unique history of Baltimore, its people and their environment.

Roof repairs at the Peale in 2017 in Baltimore

Roof repairs at the Peale, 2017. Photo from Baltimore DGS.

Phase I of the project included repairs to exterior masonry and the replacement of the aged tin roof with a historically accurate terne-coat standing seam metal roof. With help from BGE, the original 19th century gas lamps in the garden were restored and relit with gas flames. This preservation project was designed by SM+P Architects with construction services by Ruff Roofers.


Phase II is currently underway and includes window restoration by removing frames and sashes, paint removal and using traditional methods to repair any deteriorated or damaged material. One exciting discovery made during the work was evidence that many of the second and third story window sashes are likely original to the early 19th century. These were carefully repaired and will be reinstalled this month by C&H Restoration & Restoration.

More DGS-owned historic buildings

Visit the Peale Museum


This post was written by Jennifer Baehr, Historic Preservation Associate with the Baltimore Department of General Services. The Peale Center for Baltimore History and Architecture is generously supported by many individuals and organizations, including the State of Maryland, the Middendorf Foundation, the Macht Foundation, the Abell Foundation, the Riepe Family Foundation, the Baltimore City Historical Society, the Delaplaine Foundation, the City of Baltimore’s Department of General Services, Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, the Michael J. & Patricia K. Batza Foundation, Baltimore Gas and Electric, Baltimore National Heritage Area, and the William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund.