Before Baltimore's public school system opened in 1829, education was the concern of charitable and religious organizations. An early leader in the education movement was the McKim Free School, established through a bequest of Quaker merchant John McKim. In his will, he specified that $600 be appropriated annualy from his estate for the support of a free school, administered by the Society of Friends. The school was open to indigent youth of both sexes regardless of religion.
Classes were held in rented or private quarters for twelve years until the building was completed in 1833. Designed by William F. Small and William Howard, the McKim building is the most architecturally accurate classic Greek Revival building in Baltimore. The facade is a three-fifths scale mode of the Theseum, and the flanks are modeled on the Propylaea, both Athenian temples.
During the Civil War the school was converted to a childcare facility. In 1924 the Friends offered the building as a place of worship to a Presbyterian congregation. Since then, the building has served a variety of educational and recreational purposes supported by the United Presbyterian Church, the Society of Friends and others.