Druid Hill Park's comeback Restoration: Repair of neglected 745-acre urban oasis should prompt Reservoir Hill residential renewal.

May 26, 1998

THE CENTERPIECE fountain of Druid Lake is functioning again, after years in disrepair. Its jets are a particularly impressive sight at night.

The fountain's $165,000 overhaul symbolizes the gradual and long-overdue comeback of Druid Hill Park. The glass-bedecked Victorian arches of the 1888 Palm House and Conservatory on the western edge of the 745-acre park also have been repaired. Next to be refurbished in a multimillion-dollar program are the long greenhouses. Other crumbling landmarks are being fixed, including a 46-foot-high limestone tower that guards the park's eastern boundary near the Jones Falls Expressway.

Druid Hill Park, dedicated in 1860, was an expression of the landscape design movement that produced New York's Central Park three years earlier. Its rolling meadows and mature trees were surrounded by fields and farmland. After residential development encroached, a flock of some 300 sheep was kept in the park. By the time the flock disappeared in 1945, upscale residential streets around the park had lost their luster.

The restoration of Druid Hill Park ought to turn the attention of the city and the private sector to the surrounding residential neighborhoods. Reservoir Hill, in particular, is a candidate for a turnaround.

The decrepit Whitelock Street shopping area was demolished a few years ago. Lakeside Apartments, a 160-unit complex overlooking the park, will soon fall to the wrecker's ball. Many of the rowhouses on side streets are vacant and vandalized, offering a stark contrast to the grand residences of Eutaw Place, which have been restored by homeowners in recent decades.

Reservoir Hill calls for a combination of further restoration, selective demolition and construction. It has been neglected far too long. Like Druid Hill Park, it is ready for a comeback.

Pub Date: 5/26/98

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