Dedicated in 1878 as Baltimore’s first art gallery, North Hall originally featured a replica of the Parthenon’s frieze and Classical sculptures illuminated by a glowing laylight set into the high ceiling, but when the Peabody Conservatory required additional music teaching spaces in the 1920’s, the long, narrow hall was cleared of its artwork and fitted with a stage and proscenium arch at one end. Fortunately, the interior was substantially restored to its nineteenth century appearance in 1998, and today, as Leith Symington Griswold Hall at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, the room serves as an elegant environment for flat floor events, such as banquets and social dancing, and concerts of music for organ, voices and period instruments.
Following the example of historic ceremonial rooms in Europe that support serious musical performance, a low platform serves as the base for a 3,000-pipe tracker instrument, built by the Holtkamp Organ Company, and raises other seated players just high enough for their instruments to be seen and heard by up to 150 audience members. Nearly silent air conditioning and ultraviolet-protective glazing at the sound-isolating window assemblies encourage audio recording projects and create museum-quality conditions for preserving a sixteenth-century Flemish Renaissance tapestry that contributes to the tuning of the hall’s acoustical response.
Home to the Baltimore Baroque Band and the Peabody Consort of Viols, Griswold Hall’s acoustical flexibility also allows it to also host chamber opera performances and accommodate the rehearsal needs of large vocal and instrumental ensembles.