She's a regal 70-something these days, and among her other accomplishments, she was named the first African-American director in the history of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.
But ask Anna Curry to name the most wonderful experience of her life, and she doesn't hesitate. It came when she was 6 and had her birthday party at Druid Hill Park.
She wore patent-leather shoes and a dress hand-sewn by her mother. Her father somehow got hold of a car and took all her best friends. She recalls rolling through the magnificent front gate as though she were a princess and the afternoon of somersaults down Mansion House hill.
"I will never forget that experience," said Curry. "I've been in love with Druid Hill Park for many, many years."
On Saturday, she was one of about 100 people who gathered on a bright, windswept morning to mark the 150th anniversary of the park, the third-oldest of its kind in the United States. As part of a five-day celebration that began on Tuesday, the Friends of Druid Hill Park, a nonprofit group, offered walking and biking tours of the 745-acre facility's most important historic sites, a lecture on the streetcar system that brought visitors generations ago, and sports events on a tennis court that only whites were allowed to use until 1956, the year the park was desegregated.
"This packet should show you what the park was, what it is now and what it could become again," the organization's treasurer, Rob Brennan, said as he distributed historic photographic reprints to the 50 or so guests who were about to follow him on a two-hour walking tour.
Few in that early group probably knew the timeline as Brennan did: how the city bought Druid Hill, the private estate of Scots-born Nicholas Rogers, in 1860, turning it into Druid Hill Park; how Union encampments occupied the place during the Civil War; how engineer Howard Daniels, a landscape gardener, designed the basic layout in the early 1860s, architects added the park's minaret-topped bandstand later in that decade, and the conservatory (now the Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory & Botanic Gardens of Baltimore) rose in 1888, only to be overhauled and redesigned five years ago.
That didn't matter to guests like Baruti Kopano, a communications professor at Morgan State who was there with his wife, Monifa; nephew Symeon Turner, 13, and sons Bomani, 10, and Olu, 6. He glanced at a man playing with a dog and got positively nostalgic.
"I did the same thing when I was a kid," said Kopano, a resident of Reservoir Hill who says he comes to the park to run, bike and get away from the bustle of life.
"We're interested in learning more of the history," he said.
Curry, who was being interviewed for an oral-history video, and her sister, Clara Anthony, said they regularly came to the park as kids during the 1940s, and both know well the history of segregation that clouds Druid Hill's past. But it never affected them much. They always felt welcome here.
Curry still visits a couple times a week, and, in spite of a crime rate that makes her wary, has yet to change her mind about the place she loved as a child. Recently, she drove to Druid Hill on a late afternoon and fell asleep in her car, only to wake up after dark to an engine that wouldn't start.
A stranger asked what was wrong, got it running again and sent her safely on her way. "This park is still a wonderful, wonderful place," she said.