Court House

The site of Baltimore's courts for over two centuries

In a former part of the present work, we had occasion to speak of the Old Court House, (with the powder house placed at its foot,) with the tasteful and much admired steeple which it bore upon its aspiring roof tree, imparting that dignity to justice, that a child feels, when for the first time he sports a paper cocked hat: and we have also mentioned with fitting reverence, the ingenious labour of that zealous craftsman, Leonard Harbaugh who mounted the same Court House upon an arch, like an old greybeard upon stilts. But steeple and arch were both fated to follow the common fate of all sublunary creations, and in 1809, they were taken down with the building to which they belonged, and except in the page of the annalist, became as things that never had been. At this date, the present Court House was finished, so far as to receive the records and afford accommodation to the judges. It is now, and long has been, completely appropriated to its exclusive purpose, and is one of the most convenient establishments of the kind in the State. We have attempted its delineation on the adjoining page.

The building was designed by Mr. George Milliman, a self instructed architect, but a man of taste and judgment, whose work, had it been executed entirely of stone, instead of alternate brick and marble, red and white, would have done fair credit to his abilities. As it is even, it certainly does not disgrace him. It is built upon the declivity of a hill, whose descent is from west to east, while the Court House fronts north and south. Consequently, while the western end of the building was rather below the natural surface of the ground, it was necessary to prop up the eastern to the same level; and this has been done at great cost of masonry and pavement and railing, and the Court House looks as if it was mounted upon the parapet of a bastion, rather than quietly located for civic purposes exclusively. ... The building is 145 feet in length on Lexington street, and 65 feet in breadth on Monument square. A passage divides the building on each story from north to south. On the first floor, and to the east, is the City Court room, and immediately over it the County Court room. The Orphan's Court is on the first floor, and with the county clerk's office, occupies the western part of this floor,--over which are the clerk of the city court's office, and the grand jury room;--other apartments accommodate the sheriff, the petty juries, the commissioners of insolvent debtors, and the county commissioners.

Excerpted from John H.B. Latrobe, Jr., Picture of Baltimore (Baltimore, MD: Lucas Fielding, Jr., 1832), 81-82.


Court House

Court House

A detail from Poppleton's 1822 map of Baltimore | Source: This plan of the city of Baltimore | Creator: Poppleton, Thomas H. View File Details Page

Access Information:

The current Baltimore City Courthouse stands in same location as the historic Court House.

Street Address:

100 N Calvert St, Baltimore, MD 21202 [map]

Cite this Page:

John H.B. Latrobe, Jr., “Court House,” Battle of Baltimore, accessed August 24, 2019,
comments powered by Disqus

Share this Story