Baltimost: Druid Hill Park

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Latrobe Pavilion Druid Hill
Latrobe Pavilion at Druid Hill Park. Credit: Eli Pousson/Baltimore Heritage, via Flickr.

Druid Hill Park

For some, it's the history. For others, it's nature. For still others, the draw is the zoo. Or the conservatory. Or recreation. Or the wildlife.

On any given day, hundreds of people find a reason to visit Druid Hill Park, the crown jewel in the necklace of public parks owned and maintained by the city of Baltimore. 

And even as part of it is undergoing reconstruction as the city installs underground tanks to hold Baltimore's drinking water, people find plenty of reasons to spend time there and want to protect it. 

The 745-acre park opened in 1860, and survives today as the city's largest and oldest municipal green space. Along with Central Park in New York (1858), Fairmount Park in Philadelphia (1812) and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco (1871), it was one of the first landscaped public parks in the U.S.

Recreational amenities include a public pool, disc golf courses, tennis courts, a 1.5-mile walking and biking loop, ballfields, basketball courts and picnic groves. The Friends of Druid Hill Park, an advocacy group, and the city's Department of Recreation and Parks organize events that help draw people, such as a farmers' market from June to September, walking and night hikes and fitness classes.

Like all parks, Druid Hill Park technically closes after dark, but it's never really dormant. Around the clock, people tend to the plants in the conservatory, care for the animals at the zoo, clean up after visitors. And when day breaks, they're ready do it all over again. 

When Mayor Thomas Swann dedicated Druid Hill Park in 1860, he said it was meant to be a resource for "the whole people--no matter from what remote land, no matter what sect or religion they belong, no matter what field of labor, however elevated or however humble." Nearly 160 years later, it has lived up to that promise.

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