Who is the man immortalized in this statue on Baltimore’s Mount Vernon square? I drive by this statue at least twice a month, so I wondered: just who is Severn Teackle Wallis?
The statue sits down the hill from Baltimore’s Washington monument. After years of driving by Mr. Wallis on my way to volunteering at the Walters Art Museum, my curiosity got the best of me, so I decided to look him up. My source is wikipedia, so take it for what it’s worth. (I also came across this cool Monument City blog, which talks about the statue itself as well as Wallis’ life).
It turns out, Severn Teackle Wallis was a prominent Baltimore attorney who served in the state legislature and strongly opposed the Civil War. He spent more than a year imprisoned in several Union forts because of his alleged transgressions. He was released in 1862 without ever knowing the reason for his arrest.
Wallis was also a poet and a writer, who penned a book on philanthropist George Peabody, so it makes sense for Wallis’ statue sits across from the Peabody Institute and down the hill from Peabody’s own statue. Wallis is buried in Green Mount cemetery in Baltimore, where many famous Marylanders are laid to rest.
Here’s another connection to the Walters, which is also on Mount Vernon square. Wallis delivered the address at the unveiling of a William Rinehart sculpture of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Brook Taney (I have actually never heard of him, now I have to look him up!)
William Rinehart was a favorite sculptor of William Walters, and there are many Rinehart works in the museum. When I first started volunteering, I sat across from a Rinehart sculpture called “Love Reconciled with Death,” which William Walters commissioned in honor of his late wife Ellen. It’s really beautiful with a twin sculpture marking Mrs. Walters’ grave in Green Mount cemetery – see it all comes together. (Actually, it’s probably not much of coincidence since these people of are the same era and were likely in the same social circles).
Are there any statues that you pass on a regular basis? Do you know who the people are? Take a moment to stop and look, and then look them up. You never know what stories and connections you’ll uncover.