This department currently is composed of a bureau of parks, bureau of recreation, and bureau of music. The work of these three bureaus was carried on separately until 1946 when they were merged into the present department.
The creation and maintenance of public parks is the oldest of the department's functions. The first board of park commissioners was appointed in 1860 and empowered to select and purchase land for parks, although there had been some publicly maintained areas before 1860 such as the city springs and Patterson Park donated to the city by William Patterson in 1827. The newly appointed board's first major act was the purchase of Druid Hill Park. In 1898 a department of public parks and squares was created and it continued until it became the bureau of parks in 1946.
The beginning of the playground movement in the 1890s introduced another dimension to the work of the park board. The leaders of this movement believed urban children needed areas set aside for play; by 1915 the need for organized recreation had been proven, through the efforts of local groups 3uch as the Childrens Playground Association and the Public Athletic League, and the municipal government added to its charter "the powor to establish or maintain directly or by contract reasonable facilities for public recreation." The city worked in conjunction with the Childrens Playground Association and the Public Athletic League which merged in 1922 to form the Playground Athletic League. In 1940 the city formalized the programs in a department of public recreation, and six years later it became the bureau of recreation.
Baltimore's music program began with concerts in the parks as early as 1865. The park board sponsored a band beginning in 1900 and in 1914 increased neighborhood concerts. The following year the city appropriated funds for a municipal symphony orchestra which gave its first concert in February 1916. Two years later the city appointed a director of music to coordinate the city's various musical activities, a position that evolved into the bureau of music and later in the department of recreation and parks.
See Allen Kerr Bond, "The Parks of Baltimore," Baltimore: Its History and Its People, ed. Clayton Coleman Flail, 3 vols. (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1912), I: 430-46; F.C. Latrobe, History of the Public Parks in Baltimore (Baltimore, 1896); Kenneth Clark, Baltimore "Cradle of Municipal Music" (Baltimore: City of Baltimore, 1938); res. 227 (1860); Baltimore City Charter of 1915, sect. 6B; Baltimore City Code, 1976 ed., art. 21.