According to Frank R Shivers Jr, author of The Architecture of Baltimore: An Illustrated History, “Baltimoreans love their city in part because of its architecture … and because so much of it recalls the city’s history.”
It’s for this reason that AIABaltimore, the local branch of the American Institute of Architects, and the Baltimore Architecture Foundation teamed up to create Doors Open Baltimore, the highlight of their Baltimore Architecture Month events.
For two days, Doors Open Baltimore opens the doors to beautiful, unique and historic buildings in the city, some of which are generally not open to tours or require a fee to get in. Featuring museums, places of worship and turn-of-the-century industrial buildings repurposed as breweries, to name a few, each site reflects a piece of Baltimore’s history from the late 1700s to modern day.
The 2018 Doors Open Baltimore event featured 60 buildings, some of which offered tours for the first time on both days. Sites included the Inner Harbor’s Power Plant Design Collective, the George Peabody Library, the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, Charm City Meadworks (the city’s only meadery), the Lord Baltimore Hotel and Rachel’s Dowry Bed & Breakfast (once host to George and Martha Washington).
“This event is really a great opportunity for the public to see the city in a new way,” says AIABaltimore executive director Kathleen Lane in an article for The Baltimore Sun, “to learn more about architecture and to understand the history of the city through the buildings that are going to be open to the public that are not normally open to view.”
Each year the event includes self-guided itineraries and audio guides as well as limited guided tours, by reservation. Select sites have architects or industry professionals available to talk about the history and design. A few participating restaurants, like Birroteca and Mt. Vernon Marketplace, even offer food and drink specials for mentioning Doors Open.
Doors Open Baltimore began in 2014 after architect Chelsea Thomas, inspired by Denver’s long-running Doors Open event, met with Lane with the idea to spotlight Baltimore architecture in a similar way. With Thomas as event chair, the inaugural Doors Open Baltimore, a single-day event, featured 42 buildings. The positive reception has helped the event grow, stretching to two days with 20 more buildings.
Thomas hopes Doors Open Baltimore helps people become more familiar with their neighborhoods and explore places they’ve never been to before. In The Baltimore Sun, she says, “I hope they go to new places and feel more comfortable visiting them again, learn a little about Baltimore’s industrial heritage, and just feel more comfortable with Baltimore city in general, especially people who haven’t been here their whole lives.”