This week’s Baltimore Building of the Week from Dr. John Breihan is McKim’s Free School at 1120 East Baltimore Street,
“Democracy” became a byword for American society in the late 1820s, as property requirements for white, male voters were repealed, and the decidedly un-aristocratic Andrew Jackson was elected President. In architecture, this meant returning to the styles of ancient democracy in Athens. A remarkably fine example of this Greek revival is the McKim Free School on East Baltimore Street. John McKim, a wealthy merchant and a member of the nearby Old Town Friends Meeting, instructed his two sons to establish a school for poor children. The building they erected in 1835 was clearly intended as a monument of democracy. The small school, only 40 by 60 feet, boasted an elaborate (and expensive) stone portico and pediment in the Greek Doric order. Today, a nonprofit foundation preserves both McKim’s concern for disadvantaged youth and his sons’ classical monument.