James M. Deems Music School
A Local Composer at 426 W. Baltimore Street
Spinning wheel manufacturers, cigar makers, tailors, hat makers, multiple banks, and a music school all occupied this site—often at the same time—going back to the early nineteenth century. During the decade after the Civil War, the upper stories provided a home for the James M. Deems Music School established in 1867 by Civil War veteran and well-known composer General James Monroe Deems.
Born in Baltimore in 1818, Deems played music since early childhood—later declared a "prodigy" for his performances with a group organized by his father. He traveled to Dresden, Germany in 1839 to study musical composition and cello with J. J. F. Dotzauer, a famed German cellist and composer. After his return to the United States, Deems became an instructor at the University of Virginia but maintained his ties to Baltimore, convincing Baltimore schools to adopt his Vocal Music Simplified instructional book for music education in 1851. After a brief but active military career during the Civil War, Deems opened his music school on West Baltimore Street sharing the building with the Haydn Musical Association. Even after the school left Baltimore Street in 1877, Deems remained an active composer and educator through his death in 1901.
In the years after World War II, the condition of the block deteriorated as the decline of the clothing industry left many small commercial buildings vacant. Fortunately for this handsome landmark, the building was restored and opened as a PNC Bank branch in 2009.