The Peabody Institute's historic North Hall will be renamed Leith Symington Griswold Hall. This is thanks to a $2 million gift from Wendy and Benjamin H. Griswold IV in honor of his mother, Leith Symington Griswold, who, from 1926 to 1936, studied piano at Peabody Preparatory and at the Conservatory.
The $2 million gift will endow both Griswold Hall and piano scholarships.
The renaming was announced by Peabody Director Robert Sirota at an inaugural organ recital for friends of the Peabody on March 8. Leith Symington Griswold and Benjamin H. Griswold III and Wendy and Benjamin H. Griswold IV were among the 20 members of the Griswold family who attended the recital.
Benjamin H. Griswold IV is chairman of the Peabody Advisory Council and also chairs Peabody's current $20 Million Campaign, part of the $900 million Johns Hopkins Initiative. He is also a trustee of the university. The senior chairman of BT Alex. Brown, Griswold represents the seventh consecutive generation of his family to be active in the investment banking firm of Alex. Brown and Sons, which was established in Baltimore in 1800. In 1997, the firm merged with Bankers Trust New York Corporation to form BT Alex. Brown.
The Griswolds' $2 million gift brings the total of Peabody's fund-raising campaign to $18 million, 90 percent of its $20 million goal.
North Hall, called after its northerly location on the second floor of the main conservatory building at 1 E. Mount Vernon Pl., was Baltimore's first art gallery. When George Peabody, an investment banker and philanthropist, founded the Peabody Institute in 1857, he created a four-part cultural center: the George Peabody Library, at 17 E. Mount Vernon Pl., which was Baltimore's first public library; the North Hall art gallery; an academy of music, which developed into the Peabody Conservatory; and a lecture series to provide intellectual stimulation for the town.
Over the past year, North Hall has undergone a major renovation, which has included restoration of both its skylight and the replica of the Parthenon's frieze that borders the ceiling. In addition, a new organ, custom-built at a cost of $668,000 by the Holtkamp Organ Company in Cleveland, was installed.
At the end of the summer, the larger of Peabody's two 16th-century Flemish Renaissance tapestries, which have undergone a 17-year restoration thanks to a grant from the Hearst Foundation, will be rehung in the hall. The installation of air conditioning and ultra-violet protective glass in the windows of the hall will create museum-quality conditions.
The most recent Griswold gift to Peabody is in keeping with the family's previous commitments to the cultural life of Baltimore. In 1987, Alexander Brown Griswold donated his collection of Thai art, one of the largest and finest in the country, to the Walters Art Gallery; the collection is on display in that museum's Hackerman House, also located on Mount Vernon Place.
Separate gifts to Peabody from Lyman and Nancy Woodson Spire; Linda Grass Shapiro, a member of the Peabody Advisory Council; and the Presser Foundation have also contributed to the restoration of the hall and the building of the Holtkamp organ.
A gala rededication of the hall is being planned for the fall. Griswold Hall will also be open to the public at Peabody's annual open house, scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 27.