The Evergreen Museum and Library is housed in a Gilded Age Mansion surrounded by Italian-style gardens. The museum houses a collection of decorative arts, rare books and manuscripts, and also serves as a venue for contemporary artists to showcase their work. The mansion was once the home of the Garretts, a wealthy family who made their money from the railroads. The house sits on 28 acres of land that includes the Bakst Theatre and the Carriage House.
The Gilded Age, the era in which the mansion was built, refers to a period in the United States lasting for about thirty years, from approximately the 1870s-1900s. Rapid economic growth, a raises in wages, particularly for skilled workers, and a rapid expansion of industrialization characterized the era. The term originates in a satirical work by Mark Twain, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873), which wrote that the era was rife with social problems masked by economic growth. In other words, the problems were gilded in gold. These social issues included prohibition and the growth of political machines taking over politics due to the rapid growth of cities.
John Work Garrett (July 31, 1820- September 24, 1884) was president of Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad from 1858 until is death in 1884. The Garrett family were heavily involved with various philanthropic efforts. Garrett’s daughter, Mary Elizabeth Garrett (1854-1915) was a civic activist, philanthropist, and suffragist. She helped found the Bryn Mawr School and the Baltimore Museum of Art (1914). The Bryn Mawr School is an independent, nonsectarian college prep school for girls. She was also instrumental in gaining women the right to be admitted to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She made this term a condition of supplementing the endowment for the school. Because of her actions, the Hopkins medical school became one of the first co-educational schools in the nation in 1893.