Established in 1888 as the Druid Hill Conservatory, the Howard P. Rawlings Conservatory has grown from the original Palm House and Orchid Room to include three greenhouses, two display pavilions and outdoor gardens.
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. Mr. 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 building would be built using Baltimore workmen. The Conservatory opened Aug. 26, 1888, to a well-received audience of about 300 visitors.
Holding steady through the years, the affectionately named Baltimore Conservatory was closed to the public in 2002 for a major renovation. The newly redesigned production houses were to include a Mediterranean House, a Tropical House and Desert House. The conservatory re-opened Sept. 24, 2004, and shortly thereafter its official name was changed by law to The Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory & Botanic Gardens, in honor of the former Maryland House of Appropriations chairperson Pete Rawlings.
The Conservatory is the second-oldest steel framed-and-glass building still in use in the United States.