Last month while visiting my daughter’s family we came across the most amazing botanical conservatory; The Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory & Botanic Gardens at Druid Hill Park in the northwest area of Baltimore. It was serendipity! A chance meeting that brought us to this beautiful historic site. Taking a different route home from one of our favorite breakfast/lunch stops in Baltimore, the Paper Moon Diner we turned a corner and this magnificent edifice came into view. We HAD to stop. And I am so glad we took the time.
Built during the 1880’s and officially opened in 1888, this 131 year old structure is breathtaking, amazing, and all around awe inspiring. A 5 story steel frame, wood and glass structure, it is one of the few existing Victorian conservatories still left in the world for the public to enjoy. In fact, it is the second oldest municipal glass conservatory in America and is on the National Register of Historic Properties as well as a Baltimore City Landmark. How did I never know about this place?
Opened in 1860, just a few months before the outbreak of the US Civil War, Druid Hill Park is a massive 745 acre public park dedicated to all the residents of the city of Baltimore. It is home to the famed Maryland Zoo formerly the Baltimore City Zoo as well as many hiking/biking trails, a beautiful reservoir, memorial statues, the botanic gardens and many naturally landscaped areas. Built around the same time as many other major city parks such as New York’s Central Park and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park Druid Hill Park is a major landmark loved and enjoyed by all that visit. To become of Friend of Druid Hill Park check out their website HERE.
“We are here today for a noble purpose. We are here to dedicate this park to the whole people — no matter from what remote land, no matter to what sect or religion they belong, no matter in what field of labor, however elevated or however humble. We are here to proclaim equality of rights to all, and to dedicate this park, now and forever, to the people of this great city.” — Thomas Swann, Druid Hill Park Dedication, October 19, 1860
Driving along the parkway that surrounds Druid Hill Park, we came across the sweeping lawn and this historic building. The architecture alone was a joy to behold and we eagerly anticipated an abundance of flowers. Upon entering the building we were greeted by a volunteer who told us about the building’s history and the current show; Gnome and Garden Show. What a delight! My two grandsons thoroughly enjoyed finding all the gnomes as well as checking out the fairy gardens sprinkled throughout the different greenhouses. For their list of future events check HERE.
Everywhere you turned they set something to delight the eye and bring a smile to your face. Our volunteer greeter told us about another volunteer that immediately got into the Gnome and Garden idea with her offer to provide fairy gardens for each of the five garden areas: the original Palm House, Orchid Room, Mediterranean house, Desert House, and Tropical House. Each area held an over abundance of flowering plants and many opportunities for photo ops.
I wish I could share all 200+ photos I took. Each is just as stunning as the last. How often does one get the opportunity to experience the wide range of floral displays offered in one place? They allow personal photos but prefer professional photographers make a reservation to hold a photo shoot in the conservatory.
The conservatory is available to rent for special events so check their website for more information. Their calendar of events includes classes on gardening as well as events sponsored in and near the conservatory.
The display of spring flowers and gnomes stole the show but it in no way diminished our realization that these volunteers truly loved these plantings and will continue to provide many more years of garden splendor to the citizens of Baltimore and anyone else lucky enough to stop in for a dose of botanic beauty. I can’t wait to go back at Christmas to see their holiday display. I know it will be amazing!
Just found this floor plan of the conservatory and thought I should add it to help clarify the lay out. The Palm house, Orchid room, North and South Pavilions are the original steel, wood and glass structure. The Mediterranean, Tropical and Desert Houses were all added much later.