The Baltimore Museum of Art has re-invented and renovated dual parlors from the Robert Mills house in Mount Vernon Place which was once located in a group of nineteenth century houses called Waterloo Row. This group of brick houses built in the flourishing port of Baltimore City were called Waterloo Row party to commemorate the defeat of Napoleon and partly because the expense of these houses was the demise of their developers. The Mills parlors are the original originals.
You will have seen their style copied all over Baltimore in academic centers, the offices of doctor’s and lawyer’s, and Roland Park. The pink shades of these two rooms dominated by folds of satin drapes over a large front window are neoclassical – the trademark of their architect – but the rooms are also warm, comfortable looking, and the definite presence of a very successful feminine hostess.
Most people know the name of Robert Mills because he was chosen to design the George Washington Monument in historical Mount Vernon Place; as a matter of fact, he also designed the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. too. Mills was chosen to design his Baltimore monument in 1815, and the cornerstone for the monument was laid as part of the July 4th celebration in that year.
Baltimore’s Washington Monument is constructed of while marble which was removed from a quarry in Cockeysville, Maryland. The doric column went through several design compromises due to financial difficulties. The Baltimore monument’s doric column is inspired by Greek architectural designs since it is thicker than the later Roman acquired shapes for columns in classical buildings. The Baltimore monument was completed in 1820. Mills designed the iron fence around his monument in 1838.
Robert Mills is considered to be the first American born architect. He studied under James Hoban who designed the White House. While residing in Baltimore, Robert Mills designed Saint John’s Episcopal Church, the Maryland House of Industry, and the Maryland Club. His neoclassical designs include Palladian influences such as symmetrically balanced lines, Georgian structural elements similar to buildings in the re-built revival of colonial Williamsburg,Virginia, and Greek Revival elements exemplified by the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.
Of course, a landmark could not be located in the historical Mount Vernon without a pretty interesting history. The Mills monument to George Washington is mentioned in chapter 35 of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. It was filmed for the movie “And Justice for All” with Al Pacino running around the periphery. And it served as the backdrop for the opening scene of the movie “Pecker”. In 2010 the driver of a van ran through the iron fence around the monument damaging 15 feet of the protective barrier. Mills was prepared for anything.
The architect liked to use non-flammable materials in his designs. The parlors on display at the BMA are the timeless mark of an artist (with all due respect to General George Washington). They also remind us that the historical Mount Vernon neighborhood has attracted artistry for a long time including a former residence of Harry Walters and today’s Peabody Conservatory musicians.