Summertime Staycation

A walk through the building, part of which was built in 1888, offers a sampling of equatorial flora. In addition to the infamous Palm House, which features 14 different varieties of palms, and the Orchid Room, the conservatory also includes rooms devoted to tropical, desert and Mediterranean environments — just be prepared to sweat a bit. For those who want to bring a little nature home, the welcome lobby offers small plants for sale.  For more information, visit rawlingsconservatory.org.

Cultural Offerings

Staying cool can be a priority during a Baltimore summer, but it’s still possible to make it a cultural event. Baltimore boasts world-class museums such as the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters Art Museum and the uniquely imaginative American Visionary Art Museum. Baltimore is home to some of the most famous history museums in the country as well, such as the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, where the permanent exhibit tells the story of Baltimore’s Mary Pickersgill, including details of her family’s life and how she created the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem.

The museum’s main building illustrates the time period when Pickersgill and others sewed the flag and includes a fragment of the original. From there, visitors can head into the original house, on the museum grounds, where Pickersgill lived. Rooms in the home feature a mix of family heirlooms, artifacts uncovered from the property and period memorabilia to re-create what it would have looked like in the early 19th century, when she lived there and was working on the flag. For more information, visit flaghouse.org.

For historical visits that can lead even deeper into Baltimore’s history, Bruce Goldfarb, who runs the website WelcomeToBaltimoreHon.com, suggested the Westminster Hall and Burying Ground at 500 W. Baltimore St., where Edgar Allen Poe and many other famous locals are buried. For more information, visit law.umaryland.edu/westminster/welcome.html.

Goldfarb also suggested the Green Mount Cemetery at 1501 Greenmount Ave., where Betsy Patterson Bonaparte, Johns Hopkins, Theodore McKeldin, Enoch Pratt, William T. Walters and droves of other famous Baltimore politicians, military officers and leaders are buried. Visit green mountcemetery.com for general information; or for a tour with someone who can point out where all of the glitterati are buried, contact tour guide wayne.schaumburg@gmail.com.

If it’s not Baltimore’s below-ground history that interests you, simply look up at the city skyline.

The Shot Tower, originally called the Phoenix Shot Tower, is open for public tours once again. Built in 1828, it was the tallest building in the United States at 215 feet until 1846. Inside the tower, made from 1.1 million bricks, “drop shot” was made, which was used to hunt small game such as ducks, geese, doves, rabbits and squirrels. The tower produced 2.5 million pounds of shot a year until 1892.

To create shot, molten lead was combined with arsenic and antimony, which hardened the lead, and then was dropped through a colander down the open shaft of the tower, landing in a water barrel at the bottom. The sizes of the shot ranged from dust-like particles of metal to two times the size of BB ammunition.

Day Trips From Baltimore

“This is very much Baltimore’s monument,” said Matt Hood from Carroll Museums Inc., which administers the shot tower. “When it comes to buildings that hold the city’s collective psyche, nothing beats the shot tower.”

Hood added that Baltimore Colts’ player Art Donovan was once described as being as strong as the shot tower, and in the 1920s, The Baltimore Sun said a collapse of the Democratic Party was as likely as a collapse of the shot tower. To visit, call Carroll Museum at 410-605-2964.

Carroll Museums is in the middle of a campaign to restore and reopen more of the Shot Tower by raising $1.1 million. It would allow preservation and modernization of the tower, more public access and new programs.

Just west of the Shot Tower, there is another unique Baltimore tower.

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