Baltimore: Rawlings Conservatory
The Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens of Baltimore sits at the southwestern edge of Druid Hill Park, not far from the Maryland Zoo. It's a true relic of the Victorian era, having been built in 1888. It's designer was George A. Frederick, who also designed Baltimore City Hall.
The Conservatory originally consisted of the Palm House, seen here in the photo, and an adjacent Orchid Room. A renovation in 2004 added three new greenhouses, featuring Mediterranean, tropical and desert environments.
Neither snow nor rain nor hurricane has much bothered the rather fragile-looking Palm House. The 2011 Virginia earthquake, which caused serious cracks in the Washington Monument just 36 miles away, did no structural damage to the Conservatory at all.
The Mother Of All Giant Glass Conservatories was the Crystal Palace, which Queen Victoria herself opened to much celebration in 1851 as part of the Great Exhibition. To the Englishman of that day, seeing such a large structure with transparent walls must have been caused quite a bit of high-tech excitement. In this case, the high-tech was the invention making cast plate glass, which allowed for inexpensive, large panels of glass that had enough strength to serve as part of a structure.
Within a few decades, there were large glass conservatories throughout the United States. The Rawlings is one of only a handful of survivors of those days; in fact, it's the second-oldest remaining glass conservatory in the country (only San Francisco's Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park is older, by about ten years.)