January 27, 2015 / Love Letters

Love Letters: The McKim Free School


My Little Love Letter to a Tiny Temple

by Meg Fairfax Fielding

One winter, many years ago, I used to serve coffee and muffins to homeless people over on East Baltimore Street. They congregated around a building that I fell in love with. It was the McKim Free School, in the historic Jonestown neighborhood. The building was built in 1835 by Isaac McKim, and was designed by William Howard and William Small. It was modeled after the Theseum, an ancient temple of the gods of arts and crafts.

McKim served the early Jewish, Polish, Irish and other immigrant children who came to Baltimore and operated as a school until Baltimore’s public school system was created in the 1890’s.

It is a perfect little building in the most classic order of architecture. This building has all of the elements of a Doric Temple: columns, capitals, an architrave, a frieze and tympanum. It’s simple, elegant and graceful. The building is a tiny temple, measuring only 40×60 feet.

Most unfortunately, the building has fallen into disrepair with a leaky roof and other problems.

Meg is the president of the Baltimore Architecture Foundation

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