November 21, 2005

Media Contact:
The Walters Art Museum
410-547-9000, ext. 277
[email protected]


Centre Street building, housing Contemporary Museum and Maryland Humanities Council, to be purchased by the Walters from the Maryland Historical Society; Purchase made possible by a $1.5 million gift from a donor to the Walters

Baltimore–In a major step towards expansion, the Walters Art Museum (the Walters) has signed a contract with the Maryland Historical Society (MHS) to purchase a building just west of the Walters for $1.5 million. A donor has come forward with a gift to the Walters of $1.5 million to make the purchase possible.  Located at 100 West Centre Street at Park Avenue in Baltimore, the building houses the Contemporary Museum, as well as the offices of the Maryland Humanities Council and storage for the Maryland Historical Society.  Closing on the purchase of the building from MHS to the Walters will occur before December 31, 2005.

In 2001, when the newly renovated Walters’ Centre Street building opened, it was already understood that there was not enough space to house and attract many major exhibitions, as well as store the Walters’ renowned collection of art from around the world.

Because the Walters’ collection continues to grow, most recently with gifts from Berthe and John Ford, Doris Duke and John and Marisol Stokes, there is a need for expanded space to show them in enlarged permanent collection galleries.  As part of a long-term strategic planning process by the museum’s board of trustees, a strategic expansion committee was formed to address the expansion of the physical plant. The committee was in the midst of exploring options when the 100 W. Centre Street building became available for purchase.

“Buying this building is a golden opportunity for the Walters,” explains William Paternotte, President of the Walters’ Board.  “The Board saw the purchase as an essential component of the future expansion of the Museum, and consistent with the Walters’ strategic plan, adopted 18 months ago.  We are especially grateful for the generosity of a single donor in helping us toward this goal.  The new building provides additional options for the Walters’ expansion that we frankly did not have before.”

Henry H. Stansbury, President of the Board of the Maryland Historical Society, comments, “We are very pleased that The Walters can use 100 W. Centre Street to their benefit.  The Maryland Historical Society has just finished completing and filling its new museum and its refurbished library and has freed up enough space on our square block campus to let the building go.  This is a “win-win-win” situation.  MHS will reduce its costs.  The Walters gains needed space.  And the Mt. Vernon Cultural District sees further advancement of our collective efforts to make us all a desired destination for museum-goers and serious students of the arts.”

Dr. Gary Vikan, Director of the Walters, explains, “Making the new building part of the Walters’ complex is ideal, as it is adjacent to property we already own and utilize for museum parking. Our neighbors know that the historical integrity of the neighborhood is vital to the success of the Walters and our other museum neighbors, including the Contemporary Museum and the Maryland Historical Society.”

Dr. Vikan continues, “The Walters appreciates our existing partnership with the Contemporary Museum, sharing exhibitions such as ‘Going for Baroque’ in 1995 and ‘Louise Bourgeois: Femme’, opening in February 2006.  We are very pleased to be sharing physical space with them as well.”

Thomas F. O’Neil III, President of the Board of the Contemporary Museum, agrees, saying, “We are delighted the Walters has decided to acquire the building.  For over a decade, we have collaborated on a host of cutting-edge, exciting projects, such as Going for Baroque, that have leveraged their world class collection in the context of a contemporary dialogue.  And the timing could not be better with the next venture on the horizon:  the opening of the Louise Bourgeois exhibition in the spring.  So we are looking forward to an even closer relationship in the future.”

“I am delighted to hear that the Walters is buying 100 West Centre Street,” says Charlie Duff, former President of the Baltimore Architecture Foundation, and President of Jubilee Baltimore, Inc.  “It’s a good building and the Walters’ ownership will help to make Centre Street a real arts corridor.  Moreover, the Walters is a great neighbor. Mount Vernon has the potential to be a magnetic place, with a very rare mixture of history, culture, and dynamic current life; and the Walters is a big part of Mount Vernon in all three of its facets.  All of us in the neighborhood look forward to working with you for the future of a great museum and a great Mt. Vernon.”

The next step for the Strategic Expansion Committee is to contract for a Master Planner, most likely an architect, who can assess the specific needs of the Walters and assist in determining the options and scope of the expansion project. All options and available avenues for improvement to the existing building will be carefully explored in the master planning process. At 36,000 square feet, the building was built in 1928 for the Home Mutual Insurance Company. The architect was Clyde M. Fritz, who was also the architect of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, two blocks away on Cathedral Street.

In preparation for expected and needed future expansion, the Walters has been raising government funds since 2001 when the State of Maryland first awarded a $1 million bond bill. Since that time, additional bond bills have been approved by both the state and Baltimore City voters. The legislature and the voters have allocated $2,650,000 to securing the Walters’ future through four different bond bills.

The Walters Art Museum

The Walters Art Museum is located in Baltimore’s historic Mount Vernon Cultural District at North Charles and Centre streets. Its permanent collection includes ancient art, medieval art and manuscripts, decorative objects, Asian art and Old Master and 19th-century paintings. Peabody Court is the official hotel of the Walters Art Museum. For hotel reservations, call 1-800-292-5500.