The Peabody Conservatory & Library
Growing up in a big city during the 40s and 50s was wonderful. At that time a child could still go most anywhere and be safe, no one hurt children, it just wasn't done.
My fathers office was in what at one time been the carriage house for one of the town houses that sat around Mt. Vernon Place and often he would take me to work with him. Sitting in an Insurance office with parents and grand-parents and aunts was not the most exciting thing in the world, particularly when you are seven or eight and there is a whole world waiting just outside so after the first hour or so I'd ask if I could go exploring.
Mt. Vernon Place itself is a great cross with the Washington Monument (the first one dedicated to George Washington in the Nation) at the center. It had a circular stairs inside (that always smelled bad) and you could climb the worn steps to the top and look out over the roofs of the buildings to the harbor down the bottom of the hill.
The Square was filled with statues and building with beautiful windows and pools and fountains and places to explore.
Then there was the Peabody Conservatory and Library.
The Peabody sat on south side of the square and you could hear the students practicing their music from the open windows, an enticing cacophony of scales and songs and the rap rap rap "No!" of the teachers. As you entered the front door there were often exhibits on the left and the 'information desk' where you always had to stop before you could go look at any of the books.
When I first went there they lady at the desk said I was too little to go into the "Stacks" where the books were kept. "How big do I need to be?", I asked.
"Well", she said, "You need to be tall enough to see over this counter."
So I found an old wooden milk crate and dragged it all the way over and stood on it and was tall enough to see over the counter and she said if I really wanted to read the books that much I must be old enough. But the stacks were way too high and sometimes you had to walk right near the edge and there was just a rail and I was scared and so the lady would come with me and hold my hand and help me find the book and I would take it down to the tables and read it and always take it back to the desk when I finished.
At the very bottom of the hill was the harbor and the boats came in and docked at Pratt St and along Light St. On the corner of Pratt and Light streets sat McCormick and Company, the spice folk. When they processed spices the whole area smelled of cinnamon or clove or garlic or coffee or teas. I also wandered in there and they would let me take a tour and I got to see how they taste teas and try it myself and they gave me a little button I could wear on my collar that said I was a tea taster and that I could slurp when I was tasting but not all the time or at the dinner table when there were guests.