BNHA Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens


Authentic Baltimore

Interpretive Framework

Shaping a Monumental City: The City’s Growth in the 20th Century

Resource Type

Points of Interest

Parks/Green Spaces

3100 Swann Dr

Baltimore, Maryland 21217

Located in the city’s beautiful and historic Druid Hill Park, the conservatory was established in 1888 as the Druid Hill Conservatory. Today’s Howard P. Rawlings Conservatory has grown from the original palm house and orchid room to include three greenhouses, two display pavilions and outdoor gardens. The main conservatory structure is the second-oldest steel framed-and-glass building still in use in the United States.

In 1874, Baltimore City park commissioners designated sufficient ground and proposed to establish a botanical conservatory in Druid Hill Park. The committee also directed George A. Frederick, the park architect, to design and make plans for the new building. Abbott Kenny, a member of the committee for the conservatory, traveled to Europe to visit the famous Kew Gardens of London, a model for the new design.

The idea was abandoned but was revived in 1885. The plan called for a structure of iron and wood with a palm house at its center. The conservatory opened in August 1888 to an audience of about 300 visitors.

The conservatory was closed to the public in 2002 for a major renovation. The newly redesigned production houses include a Mediterranean House, a Tropical House and Desert House. The conservatory re-opened in September 2004, and its official name was changed honor former Maryland House of Delegates member Pete Rawlings.