There is a secret garden in Fells Point that's so hidden it can take a few wrong turns down a small alley just to find it. You'll need an invitation and some landmarks, like the Baltimore Tattoo Museum. Once you spot the multi-cluster of brick row homes that sit on the dead-end alley, you've arrived. Welcome to the "Palace on Dallas."
This is not their front door... it's the neighbors (I liked the way the ivy wrapped around the frame)
Don't let the mundane exterior fool you, there is magic behind those old ivy covered walls. All you have to do is take a quick scurry down a thin, mossy tunnel and soon you'll be immersed into an enchanted garden brimming with exotic palms, antique statuary and a loggia that would make any Italian proud.
Entrance to garden
This is certainly not the stuff of neglected beauty, as this extreme home has appeared in everything from HGTV T.V. Bizarre Homes, to the former NEST magazine and even a coffee table book, Restoring a House in the City, by Ingrid Abramovitch. However, since this is a blog about finding beauty in places you might not expect, I can assure you there is much to discover in the palacial garden, like bountiful boxwood mazes and an over-sized birdcage from the set of "Female Trouble", starring that wonderful Divine. Sounds fun, doesn't it?
Loggia and volunteer rudebekia
The name Palace on Dallas came from Baltimore filmmaker, John Waters, one day when he commented on the extreme abundance that was all around a tiny little alley called Dallas St. The name fit and is used to promote events that are held here regularly. So who is responsible for this over-the-top psychedelic designed home? That would be legendary art director (for all of John Waters films), set-designer, and artist, Vincent Peranio, and his designer wife, Dolores Deluxe, who share the space with their five cats and beloved Pomeranian fuzz-ball, named Bella.
Fluffy ferns and palms greet you as you enter the garden
They have lived here since 1976 when Fells Point was considered fringy and a little dangerous. Today, the neighborhood has cleaned up its act and yuppies now live where half abandoned projects once stood and you can walk to Canton or the Inner Harbor, making it the perfect inner-city location. Vince and Dolores bought their first home on this little street and realized they needed more space, so they continued buying more homes as they became available. Each unit was gutted, re-built and re-designed to create their vision of a European style courtyard filled with eclectic statuary, antiques and unusual plants and flowers.
Boston ivy covers loggia ceiling
Forty years later, the gardens are so lush perennials burst out of the brick-lined walkways. Beautiful mosses cover several areas of the far back quadrant and succulents spill in onto broken pieces of columns. It's shabby chic with a twist when you bump into a circle of faded pink flamingo's surrounding the infamous human sized bird cage.
Pink Flamingo's graze next to Divine's vine-covered birdcage
The loggia is used all year round and the large table is perfect for entertaining, which Vince and Dolores love to do. As members of the Fells Point Historical and Preservation Society, they give tours of their home every spring and fall.
Moss and 'Aurea', or creeping Jenny, getting down with some bricks
If you get a chance to go, make sure you circle the gardens at least three or four times...there is so much to see and you won't want to miss a thing.
Man face hides in cherry tree
Pretty lady statues are abundant in the garden
The Palace on Dallas is available to rent for parties for 75 guests or less. (contact information is below), with seating for about 30-35 people. There is much to see inside (sorry, no interior shots this blog), including Vince's extensive artwork, a killer vintage insect collection and antiques, antiques, and you guessed it, more antiques. Scattered throughout are many props and items from the television and movie sets Vince and Dolores have worked on. The venue is elaborate, eclectic and explosive... the perfect place to bring a guests from out of town or downtown for an authentic artist's space feel. The "more is more" decor is not for the meek, however, so if your guests are boring, don't bring them here.
A happy rescue cat lounges in garden
Dolores is also a talented floral designer, (she has worked for me at A Garden of Earthly Delights for 10 years). She can provide and include flowers with the cost. Rental prices vary depending on the event, contact Dolores for more information. The web site is under construction.
The Palace on Dallas Contact Information:
Contact: Dolores Deluxe, 410.732.7195-home, 443.468.1627-cell
She doesn't do email, she proudly lives in a low-tech world.
ALL PHOTOS TAKEN AND ARE PROPERTY OF C. LANGRALL