Is visiting this conservatory on your bucket list?
The Conservatory of Flowers is part of why San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is so famous. Not only is it the OLDEST WOOD CONSERVATORY in the U.S., its history is intriguing. We are not the only ones who think so! One family wanted a greenhouses designed to resemble this amazing conservatory! Click here to read more.
In the mid eighteen hundreds, wealthy BUSINESSMAN AND PHILANTHROPIST, JAMES LICK, ordered a greenhouse for his home in nearby Santa Clara. It was designed, and the necessary lumber cut to size. The pieces were packed and shipped to Lick’s home, arriving shortly before he died in 1876. Strangely enough, the designer is unknown.
Although most conservatories of that era were built with iron, the Conservatory of Flowers was designed and originally built with CALIFORNIA COAST REDWOOD (Sequoia sempervirens), an obvious choice since redwood was so plentiful in the area then.
The building is a classic and elaborate VICTORIAN DESIGN. It is some 240 feet long by almost 60 feet wide. Its central dome is 60 feet high! Set on a masonry foundation on a gentle hill, the building is E shaped with L’s, each of which are topped with their own cupola. You enter the conservatory through a glass vestibule on the south side. The central dome is an octagonal pavilion that is topped first by an arched roof. On top of that is the clear story and dome. The octagonal is supported by eight iron pillars. There are a total, it is reported, of 16,800 PANES OF GLASS. Small wonder so many consider it a CHARMING CONFECTION.
Lick’s estate offered it, still in crates, for sale and in 1877 some of his fellow businessmen bought the greenhouse as a gift for the City. When it opened in 1879 this Victorian-style conservatory soon became the park’s MOST VISITED ATTRACTION. It is the oldest building in the park.
Hardly problem-free, a boiler explosion in 1883 caused extensive damage to the conservatory dome which was restored by a donation of $10,000 from banker Charles Crocker. During the repairs, the dome was raised some six feet topped with a model of the planet Saturn, perhaps as a symbol of farming or growing things, which replaced the original eagle at the very top.
In 1918 the dome again burned and by 1933 the whole structure was closed for 13 years as repairs were slowly made. In 1995 windstorms did extensive damage and the conservatory was again closed. It was finally again reopened in 2003.
Not surprisingly, given its name, this gorgeous conservatory is also notable for its MARVELOUS COLLECTION OF PLANTS AND FLOWERS, both inside and out.
Check the website for details of events, special displays and other information to make your visit to the Conservatory of Flowers a real pleasure as well as food for thought about what you might add to your own conservatory. CALL US at 410.479.4700 to discuss your project.