The McKim Center | Building Strong Community Since 1821
An Enduring Legacy
The McKim Center has served the people of Jonestown and greater Baltimore for nearly 200 years. What began as Baltimore’s first free school in 1821, over the years expanded and evolved to include a night school for young men, an alternative school for youth who had a difficult time in public school, a community outreach center, and a recreational center. Throughout its many manifestations, one focus remained: service to community. This then, is the story of The McKim Center.
John McKim was a successful Baltimore merchant in the 18th and 19th centuries. Inspired by the testimonies of his Quaker faith, John McKim had a dream to establish a free school in Baltimore that would be open to all children, regardless of denomination or background. He gave detailed instructions to his sons, Isaac and William, who fulfilled John’s dream and established the McKim Free School in 1821. Construction of the main school building – the iconic Greco-Doric structure still standing at the corner of Baltimore and Aisquith Streets – was completed in 1833. During the first half of the 19th century the school flourished, primarily educating the children of the neighborhood’s diverse immigrant population.
The McKim "Free School" is established through a charter from the Maryland General Assembly.
McKim’s iconic school building on Baltimore Street is completed.
McKim serves a primarily immigrant population. A free night school for young men is established in 1880 and the McKim free kindergarten is established in 1891.
McKim begins to transition from a school to an educational community center with the help of the local Quaker Community and the Second Presbyterian Church, which established a mission at McKim. In 1924, McKim’s name is changed to The McKim Community Center.
The McKim buildings are refurbished and several new projects are established with an emphasis on youth programs, including the McKim wrestling program. The McKim buildings are donated to Baltimore City by the Quakers and Presbyterians and a board of trustees is maintained to advise the staff of the McKim Community Association.
McKim alumnus, Dwight Warren, becomes McKim’s executive director in 1975. Under his tenure, the number of educational initiatives, youth programs, and community partnerships expand, turning McKim into a hub of Jonestown in East Baltimore and the anchor for like-minded organizations moving into the area. Today, McKim continues to serve the residents and children of Jonestown and the greater Baltimore area with programs grounded in structure, discipline, love, and respect.
John McKim (1742-1819)
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