At least once a day, said Howard P. Rawlings Conservatory supervisor Kate Bloom, someone tells her they’ve seen the outside of the conservatory, (originally named the Druid Hill Conservatory) but not the inside.
Bloom and other friends of the historic site are hoping to draw visitors into the conservatory — the second-oldest surviving one in the country — for the year-long celebration of the institution’s 125th anniversary. On Saturday, Oct. 5, the conservatory will hold the Palm House Gala, an evening of dining and dancing, which will include a silent auction to raise money for the landmark.
“The last few years have been hard for the conservatory,” admitted Bloom, who noted the Baltimore City-owned and operated institution was dealing with severe budget cuts. “We were not at the top of the list. I get that. I know we need police and fire fighters; those are priorities for the city.”
And yet, said Bloom, the conservatory is important in terms of Baltimore’s history, as well as the role it plays in city life.
In 2002, the conservatory, which was in a dilapidated state, was almost torn down. Instead, it was closed for a two-year renovation and expansion. When it reopened, it was renamed the Howard P. Rawlings Conservatory in honor of state delegate Pete Rawlings, who worked to secure funding for its expansion and renovation.
Now, the conservatory includes the original 1888 Palm House and Orchid Room, as well as the Mediterranean, Tropical and Desert houses, two display pavilions and outdoor gardens.
“It’s a magical place,” Bloom said, and a great venue for weddings.
“I’m biased, of course, but I believe Druid Hill Park is one of the most spectacular urban parks in the world. Our hope is to propel this great treasure into the future and to try to ensure its next 125 years,” said Bloom.