February 5, 2013

Secret Spaces

Have you ever driven by an old building for years and years and wondered what it looks like inside? Is is all chopped up with no regard to its historical character, or has someone respected the place?

I had the opportunity to visit a building I’ve driven by too many times to count. I had a meeting there but told the people I met with that I wanted to see the space. They graciously accommodated my request.imageThis building is home to the Maryland Medical Society (aka MedChi), which was founded in 1799 as the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of the State of Maryland (Chirurgical was the common spelling of surgical at the time).  MedChi has been in this space since 1909, and there are rumours that a ghost also inhabits the building.The practice of medicine has a deep history in Maryland and MedChi was founded by an act of the legislature to ““prevent the citizens (of Maryland) from risking their lives in the hands of ignorant practitioners or pretenders to the healing art.” The University of Maryland Medical School was founded a few years later in 1807, and is one of the top medical schools today.

The Society purchased this building in 1909 for use as the State’s medical library. Modeled after the medical society libraries of Boston, Philadelphia, and New York City, the building included a roof-top apartment (described by the Baltimore Sun as the “first penthouse in Baltimore”) and a garden for a full-time, live-in librarian, who, it is said, still roams the stairs and the library stacks.

In addition to this library space, there are exhibits of antique medical equipment (which makes me squeamish!). While this piece looks very contemporary, it was used by ophthalmologists to learn their craft. Apparently, they inserted pigs eyeballs into the spaces to work on them. (thud. dead faint)

The halls and walls are lined with portraits and busts of leading lights in medicine in Maryland.

Thanks to everyone at MedChi for showing me around. You never know what treasures you’ll find in old buildings!


  1. The masonic lodge of any town/city settles circa 1850. where I live a temple of sorts exists and well, this impressive edifice is well impressive. for one who pays attention to Architecture and one who has visited the a lodge in Westville, Georgia I well can only imagine what is within. google Westville Georgia for a treat.

  2. I've always loved to explore interesting buildings, and most of the time people are willing to show you about. The Maryland Medical Society certainly is a beauty, and I would kill for that eye-mask thing.

  3. How exciting for you! I adore old buildings + they have done a beautiful job of maintaining it. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

  4. Those are excellent pictures.

  5. so is the penthouse apartment still inhabited?

  6. Swooooon. Could move right in. Pigs eyes and all... xxxxxxx

  7. Penthouse apartment is used as office space.


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