This structure is the oldest museum building in the United States. Designed by Robert Cary Long, Sr. for Rembrandt Peale, the museum opened to the public in 1814 as "an elegant Rendezvous for taste, curiosity and leisure." For a 25-cent admission fee, Baltimoreans came to admire "birds, beasts ... antiquities and miscellaneous curiosities" as well as paintings by members of the Peale family.
The audience was dazzled on June 11, 1816, when Rembrandt Peale illuminated the museum with burning gas. This feat led to the founding the same year of The Gas Light Company of Baltimore, the first commercial gas company in the country.
In 1830, the City bought the museum for use as the first City Hall. In 1876, the building also served as a public school for African-American children.