It's the street with a name that nobody can pronounce and fewer dare to spell: Auchentoroly Terrace.
This grand and stately thoroughfare overlooks the western edge of Druid Hill Park, the park's 1888 Conservatory and a batch of blossoming cherry trees. Its homes sport fancy brick work, rooftop turrets and windows of iridescent stained glass.
People with a taste for viewing and visiting some of the more unusual spots in Baltimore's residential neighborhoods will want to take note of a house tour here May 3, 1 to 4 p.m.
This pilgrimage features the homes that proud and prosperous Baltimoreans built along the edges of Druid Hill Park. The dozen houses on the tour are along Eutaw Place, Madison Avenue and Auchentoroly Terrace.
The event is sponsored by the Friends of Druid Hill Park.
"I have the finest view of Baltimore," said Michal Makarovich as he looked out the second-floor parlor window of his Auchentoroly Terrace home toward the park's glass-walled Conservatory.
"It's an under-appreciated jewel. I think I live on the edge of paradise," he said.
His version of Elysian Fields is intimidating to spell. On one of his walls, he has assembled a humorous collection of envelopes with errant spellings of his address. The postal carrier has had to decipher "Auchentopody," "Avccentandy," "Archetorolt," "Avchentoroly" and "Auchenterolly."
Baltimoreans pronounce it Ahhh-ken-trolley. The word derives from an old estate, Auchentorlie, that once stood nearby. The name has a Scottish origin and refers to a flower similar to heather.
Makarovich's neighbors are Patti Tronolone and Howard Ehrenfeld, who reclaimed another roomy old home after it had been gutted for use as a day-care center. It's now an ingenious assemblage on various levels, with a second-floor kitchen that also overlooks the neighborhood's precious greensward.
The neighborhood has a fascinating history.
Once the city acquired the park in 1860, it was financed through a curious tax on users of mass transit. Anyone who rode the horse-drawn public conveyances (these horsecars were the forerunner of electric streetcars) paid a tax that went into a treasury to buy and maintain parkland. This park tax, as it was called, lasted into the 20th century.
Druid Hill Park became an immediate success and was as popular as the Inner Harbor today.
The city's rapid transit rails (horsecars and later streetcars) ran to the park's edge. Many of the old brick carhouses, where the transit vehicles were serviced and stored, remain scattered throughout the neighborhood. The old Park Terminal, at Fulton and Druid Hill avenues, was recently renovated and serves as a depot for the municipal truck fleet.
Just across the street, an old open pavilion (known as the Chinese Pavilion because of its elaborate design) once sheltered visitors as they waited for a miniature steam-powered locomotive and coaches that once traveled through the park. In later years, it became a waiting station for streetcars and is now in poor shape. Plans call for it to be renovated and moved into the park.
The neighborhood tour begins at the Druid Hill Park Conservatory, which is just south of Gwynns Falls Parkway on the far western edge of the park. There will be a motorized trolley that will loop through the area at various intervals to take visitors to the homes on the tour.
Tickets are $6 and may be purchased the day of the tour.