Well worth the 7-mile drive north from the Inner Harbor, this grand 19th-century mansion provides a fascinating glimpse into upper-class Baltimore life of the 1800s. The house is packed with fine art and masterpieces of the decorative arts – including paintings by Modigliani, glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany and exquisite Asian porcelain – not to mention the astounding rare book collection, numbering some 32,000 volumes.
Johns Hopkins University caretakes this and another historic house museum, the more contemporary Homewood Museum. Both are in Baltimore’s historic Charles Street corridor. Located between the campuses of the Notre Dame of Maryland University and Loyola University Maryland and surrounded by 26 acres of gardens and woods, it is also a popular venue for private weddings. Visits here are by guided tour, offered on the hour until 3pm.
Garrett family history
Even more impressive than the collection is the compelling story of the Garrett family. Patriarch John W Garrett was president of the B&O Railroad and he purchased the home in 1878 for his son T Harrison. The Garretts were world travelers – T Harrison's son John W, who inherited the house in 1920, was an active diplomat for some years. They were also astute philanthropists, as well as lovers of the arts, if not always successful performers in their own right – though that didn't stop the younger John W's wife, Alice, from taking the stage (her own, which you'll see in the intimate theater below the house).