Is the Eden Project really a Conservatory?

Posted June 22nd, 2016 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Domes and Cupolas, Events, Insights, latest, Travels, Uncategorized
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Is the Eden Project really a conservatory?

It’s hard to be sure if the collection of biomes in Cornwell, England counts as a conservatory. Yet that is exactly what it’s designed to do, CONSERVE and EXPLORE plants collected from around the world.


The main structure is built largely of hexagonal and pentagonal 3-layer plastic cells joined together as GEODESIC DOMES. The insulated plastic that make up the domes work to create TWO SPECIFIC AND AUTHENTIC ENVIRONMENTS – one reproduces a TROPICAL RAINFOREST and the other duplicates the MEDITERRANEAN climate. Lovely glass inserts add more than a touch of beauty to the constructions and harken back to the glass history of conservatories.

Developed with the idea of providing multiple ways to explore those environments by building a community through sustainable living, the Eden Project is involved in RESEARCH AND TESTING around the world. Many of their efforts are aimed at CONSERVATION. They have, for example, projects to conserve redwoods, promote eco-friendly coffees and a deep geothermal energy project.  Every project involves both research and teaching the results.

In addition to investigating the sights, you can explore, learn water saving tips, get married, hear live music, discover new plants, and eat wonderful food you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. Built in a clay pit, the Eden project defines itself as:

 “…an educational charity (that) connects us with each other and the living world, exploring how we can work towards a better future.”

There are also many OPPORTUNITIES TO TAKE CLASSES for kids and adults. You can even, for example, study for a university-level degree in Horticulture, Event Management and/or Contemporary StoryTelling and Performance. According to The Guinness Book of Records, Eden Project is the world’s largest greenhouse containing easily over a million plants. It also has the largest rainforest outside of normal rainforest territory. Who would have guessed all this would be located in Cornwall, England?


Eden Project’s website reflects the hip and cutting edge of this unusual conservatory’s attitude while giving you information that runs the gambit from fascinating (in The Core building) to practical including monthly gardening tips.

Spend some time on the site before you visit or allow for the serendipitous once you’re there – either way, your visit is apt to be educational, and just plain fun. Be willing to be surprised and inspired as you recognize something at Eden Project that would be perfect for your own installation.

You can START YOUR OWN CONSERVATORY PROJECT with a call to us at: 410.479.4700 or fill out our contact form.

An Intriguing History & Sense of Style

Posted June 15th, 2016 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Conservatory Projects, Domes and Cupolas, General, Travels
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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.


  The Clients Dream Custom Greenhouse


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.

Finding Inspiration in Historic Steel Conservatories

Posted April 10th, 2015 by Bonnie Hall and filed in Conservatory Projects, Greenhouses, Pool Enclosures, Steel Structures, Travels, Uncategorized
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How can looking back at historic structures help us build conservatories today?  The answer is actually relatively simple – because they help us dream!

The earliest glass houses date from the 17th century, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that steel and glass hit its heyday.   The abolishment of the glass tax in 1845 and advancements in cast iron production made during the industrial revolution fueled the passion for exotic glass houses.   The romanticism of the design – the sensuous curves, the play of light from the many angles and multitude of glass – the simple elegance and serenity – the list could go on and on as to the attributes of the historic conservatories.  Let’s take a look at how one historic structure fueled a dream!

Schönbrunn Palace Palm House
The Palm House conservatory is one of four greenhouses that occupy Schönbrunn Palace Park.  The present Palm House was built by metalworker Ignaz Gridl between 1880 and 1882 and was designed by Franz von Segenschmid.  The last of its type to be built in Europe, the great Palm House was designed using the most modern technology of the time.  With a length of 111 meters, a width of 28 meters and a height of 25 meters, the great Palm House is the largest glass house – with over 45,000 glass sheets on the European continent.

What is most interesting about Schönbrunn is that the steel ‘framework’ is actually on the exterior – forming a very unique exoskeleton! Most buildings begin with the structural ‘skeleton’ fitting inside of the exterior ‘skin’.  The ‘skeleton’ provides the framework, holding the building up and the ‘skin’ keeps the building weather tight.  Schönbrunn is just the opposite!  By reversing the arrangement, the steel exoskeleton celebrates the steelworks juxtaposition from utility to an elevation of art.

schoenbrun detail

Even the rivets in the girders lend such ornate detail to the entire structure.  Over 45,000 panes of glass cling to the curved iron girders like skin.


Tanglewood Conservatories is currently constructing a pool enclosure inspired by Schönbrunn Palace Palm House.  The client had some very definite design ideas that we discussed during our design meeting – a pool enclosure that mimicked an Irish countryside greenhouse – rustic and pastoral.  However, upon viewing photos of historic structures from 19th century Europe, the client asked to return to the Schönbrunn photos and was completely mesmerized by the concept. Their design vision was quickly and completely changed and now boasted an exterior steel structure and a multitude of glass panes functioning as the skin.  Tanglewood was captivated by the challenge to recreate such an iconic piece of history.  The project should be complete by late fall – photos to follow!

Five Amazing East Coast Botanical Gardens & Conservatories

Posted February 20th, 2015 by Bonnie Hall and filed in Greenhouses, Travels
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While a glimmer of spring is yet to be found on the east coast; winter still has a firm grip with snow and freezing temperatures.  I cannot think of a more befitting way to start dreaming of spring and gathering inspiration for the upcoming planting season than to visit a botanical garden with greenhouse after greenhouse to explore!  Here are five of our top picks!

Longwood Gardens: Kennett Square, PA

longwood gardens

Longwood Gardens is one of the great gardens of the world. With historical information dating back to the 1700’s for this property, the land was purchased from William Penn by George Peirce and turned into an arboretum in 1798 by Pierce’s great-grandson.  The property was later purchased by the duPont family.  The property has been open to the public since the late 1700’s and just added a rather unusual award to its long list of awards and accolades –  Longwood was recently named winner of ‘best loos in the land.’  An award given by Cintas, recognizes public restrooms for their design, hygiene and usability.  Longwood Gardens’ private, skylit restroom pods are nestled into a 4,072 square foot green wall comprised of about 47,000 ferns and other plants.  Caretakers use computers to water and regulate the temperature of the plants, that were carefully placed in the 3,590 panels in the wall based on each type of plant’s light preference.  The wall produces as much oxygen as 90 trees that are 14 feet tall.  Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


Howard Peter Rawlings Conservatory:  Baltimore, MD

Rawlings Conservatory

Completed in 1888, Rawlings Conservatory is the second oldest surviving glass and steel framed conservatory in the United States that is still in-use today.   Located in Druid Hill Park in Baltimore MD, it was designed by architect George Aloysius Frederick. The Palm House, with its 175 windows soaring 50 feet into the air, is a spectacular example of Victorian architecture.  With five distinct greenhouse rooms,  the Mediterranean House, Tropical House, Desert House, Orchid Room and Palm House, Rawlings is a true gem to visit.  Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


United States Botanic Garden:  Washington, D.C.

United States Botanic Garden Washington DC

Established by the U.S. Congress in 1820, the U.S. Botanic Garden is one of the oldest botanic gardens in North America. In 1842, the idea of a national botanic garden was reestablished when the United States Exploring Expedition to the South Seas (the Wilkes Expedition) brought a collection of living plants from around the globe to Washington, D.C. The Conservatory was constructed by the Architect of the Capitol in 1933. The historic Lord & Burnham greenhouse contains two courtyard gardens and 10 garden rooms under glass, totaling nearly 29,000 square feet of growing space. The exterior remains largely unchanged from its 1933 appearance aside from the addition of at the rear of the building. The Conservatory underwent a renovation in 1997 to modernize the building systems while retaining the architectural character.  The building reopened in 2001.


New York Botanic Garden: New York, NY

Enid Haupt Conservatory

An oasis in the busy New York metropolis, this National Historic Landmark’s 250 acre site’s landscape supports over one million living plants in their extensive collections.  Founded in 1891, this classic botanic garden hosts vast research programs in the Garden’s state-of-the-art laboratories to discover and understand the properties of plants and their relationships to each other, to ecosystems, and to people.  The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory is a stunning example of a Victorian-style glasshouse.  Home to A World of Plants, the Conservatory showcases the wonders of the Garden’s collection in lush tropical rain forests, cactus-filled deserts, palms from around the world, and aquatic and carnivorous plants.  Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden: Richmond, VA

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Founded in 1981, a group of botanists, horticulturists and citizens worked together to form the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.  The property has a long, rich history, originally Powhatan Indian hunting ground and once owned by Patrick Henry, Ginter purchased the property in 1895.  A prosperous Richmond businessman, Ginter encouraged his colleagues to form and build the Lakeside Wheel Club – a destination for Richmond bicyclists on his property.  After Ginter’s death in 1897, his niece bought the property and converted the wheel club into a convalescent home.  Naming the property ‘Bloemendaal’ (valley of flowers) she began the gardens on the site.  In her will, she designated life-time rights to her companion, after which time the city of Richmond was to develop the property as a botanical garden honoring Lewis Ginter.  The Conservatory is crowned ‘Jewel of the Garden’ and this 11,000 square-foot structure houses exotic plants from around the world.  Crowned by a 63 foot tall dome, the Conservatory includes a central Palm house, a semi-tropical wing featuring an orchid collection and two other wings that change according to seasonal displays.  Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Tanglewood Lectures at Rawlings Conservatory

Posted November 10th, 2014 by Bonnie Hall and filed in Events, Greenhouses, Insights, Travels
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A lecture on historic conservatories in an historic conservatory – much like peanut butter and chocolate – the perfect combination and very soul-satisfying.  Alan Stein, founder of Tanglewood Conservatories presented an intriguing look back at the great conservatories of the 19th century and the enduring impact they have had on history, architecture and humanity.

Alan stated at the end of the lecture, ‘In looking back at the designers and builders of the great conservatories of the 19th century; at the amazing buildings they produced and the impact they had on culture, society and industry of the time, we can’t help but be inspired by their passion, ingenuity and creativity.  Few legacies from the past have so much relevance for today’.


Looking Back Shows Us the Future

From the first crude orangeries in the mid-to-late 1600’s that had to be assembled each winter and taken down for spring to the nearly transparent glass houses such as Rawlings, to the modern minimalist movement, conservatories have experienced a marvelous evolution while still inspiring current construction of classic Victorian structures.

Depiction of Orangery from 1600's
Depiction of Orangery from 1600’s

Transparent feel of Rawlings Conservatory

Transparent feel of Rawlings Conservatory

Modern minimalist designed by Philip Johnson

Modern minimalist designed by Philip Johnson


Abundant Benefits

Nature is sometimes difficult to access in large sprawling cities such as Baltimore with blocks and blocks of row houses and office buildings.   Rawlings provides a quiet sanctuary, an oasis in which to connect with the outdoors and discover nature not just of our local region but virtually anywhere.  Public conservatories provide a venue so that we can learn about the natural world – both familiar and strange – local and exotic – and even more exciting, they allow all of us to become explorers just as Bomplad, Poeppig and Schomburgh, who searched the banks of the Amazon in their quest to bring back the giant Amazonian water lily for Queen Victoria in the 1800’s.

Bananas, coffee beans and papayas all grow at Rawlings Conservatory


Kate Blom, Rawlings Conservatory Supervisor states, ‘Kids go through the rainforest house and see bananas on real trees! – and they get it… where bananas come from instead of the supermarket shelf.’  It is at this point that you can have conversations with them about being stewards of our planet and of the environment.

Many may wonder why the conservatories and their preservation so important?  Once again, Kate’s insight is spot on –  ‘You can’t tell the story without the tactile experience of touching the bananas, the papayas and the coffee beans growing right there on the bushes!… and you can’t do that without a conservatory!’

Botanic gardens host a variety of beneficial programs – from lecture series on great conservatories, cultivating unusual plant species to exposing inner city children to the basics of gardening along with an emphasis on the arts such as sketching and photography classes.  Even the most amateur photographers armed with only a camera phone can take some pretty spectacular photos of the lush environment.  The photos below were snapped by Tanglewood team members prior to setting up for the lecture.

2014-11-05 16 23 51 (2)



The conservatory and its impact on us has withstood the test of time.  No matter the venue – private or public – historic or modern – the unique ability to allow us to connect with the outdoors while completely indoors, all while bestowing the magical luminescence of natural light throughout a glass-ensconced room.   The benefits are undeniable and their preservation for future generations must be a priority.  Alan’s remark in the lecture bears repeating lest we forget – ‘Few legacies from the past have provided as much value and relevance for today as have these eloquent glass houses.  The architects and builders from the 19th century have inspired us with their passion, ingenuity and creativity.’  It is up to all of us now to ensure we pass that same wonderment on to our children and their children.


Fresh from Europe: Tanglewood Tours Conservatories

Posted September 12th, 2014 by Bonnie Hall and filed in Travels
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Alan and Nancy, founders of Tanglewood have just returned from a trip to Europe where they focused on photographing great conservatories and greenhouses.   One of the grandest examples is the Schönbrunn in Vienna which was opened to the public in 1882.  The elegant beauty of this structure belies the massive amounts of iron needed for the exterior frame.  Over 45,000 panes of glass cling to the curved iron girders like skin.   This was quite an architectural feat in 1881 and at that time was the largest iron and glass structure in Europe.

schoenbrun detail

Heavy bomb attacks in 1945 destroyed much of the glazing and resulted in many of the plants freezing.  Rebuilding began in 1948 and the Schönbrunn was finally reopened to the public in 1953.  As you can see from the picture above, even the rivets in the girders lend such an ornate detail to the entire structure.

Capturing such exquisite details of historically significant conservatories is not just a hobby to Alan and Nancy, but a quest to preserve and document for future generations to admire and enjoy.   This quest is the driving force behind an upcoming book that Alan has written.   They are now in the photography phase,  touring and capturing many conservatories – not only in Europe, but throughout America.  The book is set to release in March 2016 and will be a very upscale, artful treatment of the history and development of the conservatory with strong emphasis on the lifestyle and modern relevance perspective. It will be chocked full of beautiful photographs and descriptions of key examples.

Below are pictures of a couple of more conservatories that Alan and Nancy recently toured.  How many can you name and list where they are?  Leave us a comment if you are game!


palmenhaus ext





A Beautiful Life…Revisited

Posted August 29th, 2014 by Bonnie Hall and filed in General, Insights, Travels, Uncategorized

Dedication:  to devote wholly and earnestly, as to some person or purpose.  That one simple word describes Tanglewood Conservatories and its ownership – Alan and Nancy, in one nicely wrapped package.  Dedicated to building creatively-inspired structures that enhance and amplify the client’s life; dedicated to documenting and recreating the architectural details of conservatories from bygone eras; dedicated to maintaining a high level of quality and customer service; dedicated to being good stewards in business, environmentally and our community.  And most of all, dedication to each other as partners in life and business.

wedding, conservatory
Brookside Garden Conservatory – Wedding Picture 1993

As the new marketing manager at Tanglewood I was thumbing through some old files and came across an intriguing article written many years ago as to how Tanglewood Conservatories began.  Scanning through the article, I quickly realized that a special story was hiding in a file and now was perfect timing for a ‘revisit’.   I hope you enjoy the Tanglewood journey as much as I.

The Prelude to a Labor of Love…

It’s what happens when two people meet; fall instantly in love and everything changes.  In the case of Alan Stein and Nancy Virts, falling in love didn’t just change their personal lives, but transformed the direction of their professional lives also.

We are where we are today and who we are today because of one another.  Alan & Nancy

Alan had spent years in the housing industry, first as a carpenter, then an architect and then later as a sales professional.  Nancy had recently found herself at a pivotal moment in life – a decision to forge ahead and devote the majority of her time and energy in continuing to build on her corporate management experience or regroup and focus on what fed her soul:  her artwork.  The artwork won and she soon took a job managing a home builder’s office, where most importantly, he provided a large loft for her art studio.  Her artwork began to gain attention and she found herself being selected for juried shows.

The two destined pathways converged and collided in 1991 when Alan walked into the builder’s office that Nancy was managing.

It was love at first sight for me…for Nancy it took longer!  The minute I met her, I knew this woman would change my life. – Alan Stein

After waiting to call Alan back, they finally met for dinner – the meal lasted for over three hours and they never ate!  That night, everything clicked.

Looking back to 1985, Alan and his then-business partner ventured into their own contracting business that sold prefab sunrooms in the Washington, DC area.  The partnership eventually proved disastrous.  Alan and the partner decided to dissolve the partnership, but each taking an arm of the business – Alan the struggling sun-room portion while the partner took the more profitable contracting division.  That decision would prove to work better for Alan in the long run even though the initial outlook was shaky at best.

Tanglewood Conceived

Although it seemed the sun was setting on Alan’s pre-fab sunroom business, Alan, ever the entrepreneurial sales guy, kept in contact with several builders in the industry.  One approached Alan about creating a custom conservatory for a high-end home.

He handed me a picture of an English conservatory and asked if I could do that, an entrepreneur never says no, so I said sure and took the project on.” – Alan Stein

At this point, Alan and Nancy were dating and evenings were spent discussing the project late into the night.  Nancy, still working for the contractor, arranged a visit to England so they could tour manufacturers so that they could better understand the process of making quality conservatoires in the classic tradition.

It just captured my imagination, Nancy said.  I became engrossed in the project he was working on.

Home from the U.K., Alan designed and built the conservatory and the client and Alan fell in love with the design.  Soon thereafter, the second commission for a conservatory was harkening and Nancy realized this was not a side business, but the business.

A year and a half later, Nancy joined Alan at Tanglewood.

conservatory creation
Working together designing a new project at Tanglewood

Beautiful Life Amplified

Tanglewood’s story began with a commitment to the history and tradition of the 19th century conservatories.  From their first trip together to the U.K., Alan and Nancy have become students and stewards of the tradition and they work hard to capture the intricacy and elegance in all of Tanglewood’s designs.

Fast forward many years from that fateful day in 1991, to a life that has been amplified many times as a result of their business venture together.  Building a successful business has enabled Alan and Nancy to experience awesome opportunities such as extensive travel, awards and honors  and acquiring many new friends and family.  Many great friendships have been forged – close relationships are typically formed with clients over the course of a project.  With no preconceived or pre-designed models, a deep relationship is a natural outcome since Tanglewood works closely with each client.   Discovering the client’s vision, likes and dislikes, the rhythm of their lifestyle, is paramount so that the conservatory will best meld with how they live and work.  It’s hard not to become as close as family!

Tanglewood has won numerous design and ‘best in business’ awards over the years.

Alan and Nancy have many memorable clients – but there are some very special ones that leave a deep impression:

  •  One client, now a great friend, has worked with Tanglewood on three projects, with yet another very large project in the discovery phase.  He is world-renowned within the medical field and Nancy and Alan have been deeply touched by his nurturing persona.  As Nancy remarks, ‘He truly was meant to be a doctor – I have rarely witnessed that level of compassion and caring he has, not only for his patients, but for everything around him – his family, employees, pets and even the plants in his conservatory.  His conservatory is essentially his living room and it quickly becomes the favorite room of all visitors!’  He frequently entertains, holding classical music recitals and everyone comments as to how remarkable the acoustics are within the conservatory.
  •  Another beloved client has worked with Tanglewood seven times!  He is a veterinarian and she a nurse.  Both had demanding schedules and came to Alan and Nancy to help them turn their home in a tranquil haven.  She would work very closely with the Tanglewood team; designing many of the interior touches herself, such as a beautiful tile floor in a small conservatory off the master bedroom.  Their resulting home and gardens are now flush with beautiful light pouring in through custom-designed stained glass, sumptuous saeple wood  and an overwhelming aura of peaceful calm.
  • A favorite story that is told at Tanglewood involves a husband and wife who were building a new home.  They had agreed that each would be able to create ‘their’ own room as part of the construction process.  The wife chose to design and build a conservatory with Tanglewood while the husband created a very masculine billiards room complete with a copper ceiling.  During the many discussions and design meetings, the husband remarked he was excited to show them ‘his’ room with the pool table and all the other ‘mancave’ accessories.  After the conservatory was designed and built, Alan and Nancy went for a visit and they were met at the door by the husband inviting them in to visit his room – the conservatory!  Alan and Nancy have yet to see the billiards room!


Travel has also been a very integral component of the growing business.  Alan and Nancy have taken numerous trips researching the history and architectural details of the great conservatories of the world – many times documenting them in photographs.  As a result of their passion for the great conservatories, Alan has written a book and is currently touring Europe to capture the best photos to tell the story.  The book will be published by mid-2015.

Businesses are typically conceived and built to generate cash and fill a gap in the marketplace.  While Tanglewood certainly fills what was a large gap – there were no builders that were maintaining the historical accuracy of 19th century conservatories, and Tanglewood has certainly generated cash – what transcends this company above many others is the personal dedication that they exude.  They are architects and artists; mentors to new engineers and architects – Alan sits on the board for a local architectural college, and active contributors within the community.

‘I love the uniqueness and the magic of conservatories, we can build anything we can think of and that is what I love about this business.  That and being able to do what we love with the person we love – getting up each day and working together to make something beautiful.’  Alan Stein

It is indeed a beautiful life.

Tanglewood Travels: Longwood Gardens – A Look Back

Posted August 20th, 2014 by Bonnie Hall and filed in Greenhouses, Travels
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Tanglewood’s inspiration is ignited and fueled by our research and visits to many of the historic conservatories throughout the world.   We are very fortunate to have the luxury of living very close to many of these historic sites.  We are certainly blessed to have several literally right in our backyard – Wye Orangery, Druid Hill and Longwood Gardens to name just a few.  Many of Tanglewood clients have also been inspired by various historic conservatories and often ask if we can incorporate some of the distinct architectural details into their design.  Alan recently visited Longwood Gardens to shoot pictures of the beautiful greenhouses, conservatory and gardens for his upcoming book on great public conservatories.  We thought you would enjoy the history of this amazing property as much as we did.

Originally purchased from William Penn in 1700 by fellow Quaker George Peirce, Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA is one of the premiere botanical gardens in the United States.  With over 1,077 acres of gardens, woodlands and meadows, visitors can experience exotic plants and native flora, indoor and outdoor displays and a full schedule of events, performances, seasonal attractions as well as educational lectures, courses and workshops.

Longwood’s ‘roots’ can be traced to the native Lenni Lenape tribe that fished local streams, hunted and planted fields.  In fact, many quartz spear points have been discovered around the property.  In 1730, George Peirce’s son, Joshua built a brick farmhouse on the property that still stands today.  In 1798, the great-grandsons of George began planting an arboretum that soon covered 15 acres.  Originally called ‘Peirce’s Park’, it has been open off and on to the public since the late 1700’s and by 1850 had amassed one of the finest collections of trees in the nation.  The park became a grand venue to hold family reunions and picnics through the mid to late 19th century.

Peirce Park 1884 now Longwood Gardens
Peirce’s Park, 1884 Photo:

Early in the 20th century, the park fell out of favor and the arboretum deteriorated due to lack of attention.   Passing through several owners, a lumber mill operator was contracted to clear cut trees from a 41 acre parcel in 1906.  This threat prompted one resident of the Delaware Valley to take action to prevent the decimation of such an historical landmark.

July 1906 Pierre duPont purchased the farm to save the trees – but his vision extended far beyond just saving the 41 acre tract.  The expansive enhancements and improvements that visitors enjoy today can be traced back to the vision and actions of Mr. duPont.  Certainly influenced by his family’s long-standing tradition of gardening and funded through his success within corporate America, Pierre DuPont would become one of the country’s most premiere and influential gardeners.

duPont laid out the first garden in 1907 – a 600’ long Flower Garden Walk, which is still in existence today and continues to be one of Longwood Gardens most popular gardens.

Garden Walk Longwood Gardens
Flower Garden Walk with cornfield beyond 1909. Photo:
















Buoyed by the recent successes of the Flower Garden Walk and the subsequent open Air Theatre, duPont was searching for a way to combat the oftentimes dreary winter.  A project to extend the original Peirce house, which connected the new and old wings with a conservatory, was devised – Longwood’s first winter garden.  Presented to his new bride, Alice as a wedding gift in 1915, the conservatory featured a courtyard with exotic plants and a small marble fountain.

Peirce House Conservatory Longwood Gardens
Architect’s rendering of addition to the Peirce-duPont House. Photo:




















A much larger, grand conservatory was under construction by 1916.  The stunning conservatory was opened in 1921 and filled not with the usual choice of exotic species that was all the rage, instead fruits and flowers were used in a decorative manner that emphasized their horticultural importance.

Construction of the Grand Conservatory at Longwood Gardens
Construction of the Conservatory, 1919 Photo:





















Grand Conservatory Exhibition Hall at Longwood Gardens
Eastern Guernsey Breeder’s Association luncheon in Exhibition Hall, 1925


















The technology utilized was state-of-the-art for that time period and all systems (heating, water, power) were hidden in tunnels so as not to distract from the views of the glass-covered conservatory.  The conservatory is a 4 ½ acre greenhouse housing 20 indoor gardens and over 5,500 types of plants.  The conservatory’s Exhibition Hall, with its original sunken marble floors, has been used over the years for special exhibits and events.  The floors are typically filled with water to reflect the foliage, but when used for events, the floors are drained.

Photo by Tanglewood Conservatories
Photo by Tanglewood Conservatories
Current Picture of Exhibition Hall at Longwood Gardens
Photo by Tanglewood Conservatories

Over many succeeding years, duPont’s vision and execution of gardens, fountains and musical venues flourished.  By the mid 1930’s Longwood had grown from the original 202 acres to 926.  After duPont’s death in 1954, the trustees of the Foundation assumed the helm and focused on transforming the private estate into one for the public.  New gardens, along with a plant nursery, an experimental greenhouse and a newly created Department of Education were created.

In addition to the public-display cultivation, Longwood Gardens has had a prolific history of propagation and experimental gardening.  None of these histories are more interesting than that of the V. amazonica, a freakishly large water lily that inspired and forever changed architecture!



Tanglewood’s next blog will take an in-depth look at how this lily forever changed the course of history and the impact on conservatory architecture.  Email us to receive a first sneak peek at this article!

More photos of Longwood Gardens








Tanglewood Travels Chihuly Garden & Glass – Seattle, Washington

Posted July 26th, 2014 by Alan Stein and filed in Travels
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Art inspires Art

A Conservatory is the quintessential backdrop to showcase Dale Chihuly’s art. For many, a conservatory, at least in modern times, is a ‘green place’ where one finds the ambiance conducive to a slower pace – a place to ponder and reflect and also admire the collections – albeit plants – on display. His art elevates the plant collections from merely representative of scientific names, genus, species to a transformative energy that transcends organic and inorganic, real and imagined, native and fabricated.

“I want my work to look like it just happened, as if it was made by nature.” Dale Chihuly

Chihuly Garden & Glass opened May 2012 and provides a look at the inspiration and influences – a coupling of culture and horticulture – solidifying that his art is born to live in nature.

An ardent admirer of conservatories & glass houses, Chihuly has visited many notable sites throughout North America and Europe and maintains an impressive collection of books, photographs and vintage post cards on conservatories. Permanent exhibitions of his work can also be found at Garfield Park Conservatory, Franklin Park Conservatory, Morean Arts Center, Oklahoma City Museum of Art and Tacoma Art Museum.

Tanglewood has long held onto the notion that art begets art, the blurring of lines where architecture becomes the art – and the art is the architecture. Tanglewood was honored to design and build a conservatory in Michigan that features a display of Chihuly artwork. Certainly a defining ‘art inspires art’ moment.

Destination Vacation

Not only do we spend our days at Tanglewood designing and building exquisite conservatories, when it comes time for vacations, not surprisingly many of the TWC team choose to tour famous, public conservatories for inspiration, relaxation and creativity infusions.

Andy, TWC’s technical sales rep, was set to leave for Seattle to attend a family reunion but elected to leave for the west coast a few days early to allow enough time to linger among the fantastic art gardens and sculptures at the Chihuly Garden & Glass in Seattle, Washington.

After meandering through the evocative gardens, soaking up the unique experience unveiled by the coupling of both art & plants and glass art displayed within a glass house, Andy remarked “As you contemplate the literal representation of Chihuly’s work you are inspired to discover the whimsical attributes of the actual physical plant which in turn indulges a deeper insight into the union of the organic and inorganic juxtaposition…it was truly magical.”

Chihuly Art

Chihuly Art

Plants themselves are transformed by their new neighbors so that we now see nature in an entirely new manner. Certainly reminiscent of centuries ago when the first conservatories afforded the gentry with experiencing horticulture anomalies that was completely new and unknown to them.

Mastering Glass

Born in 1941 in Tacoma Washington, Dale Chihuly’s road to mastery began as an interior design student at the University of Washington in Seattle. After being awarded a full scholarship to the University of Wisconsin graduate school where the first glass program had been started by Harvey Littleton, he received his master’s degree in sculpture in 1967. Chihuly then enrolled in the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence and there began his experiments using
neon, argon and blown glass in outdoor pieces. 1968 was a pivotal year for Chihuly – he was awarded a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation grant for work in glass and studied at Italy’s prestigious Venini glass factory on a Fulbright Fellowship. A magnificent opportunity to learn and create with the true masters of glass.

While Andy’s trip was ultimately about attending a family reunion, he highly recommends a long afternoon stroll through the Seattle’s Garden of Glass.

Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory

Posted July 12th, 2014 by Alan Stein and filed in General, Greenhouses, Travels
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Detroit made some beautiful things besides cars.

Image from the Official Website of Detroit
Image from the Official Website of Detroit

If you are in Detroit, MI and are looking for something free to do on the weekend, you might want to consider the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, which is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Originally known as the Belle Isle Conservatory, this oldest, continually running conservatory in the United States was built in 1904. The conservatory, designed by Albert Kahn, a German immigrant who learned his craft while working as an unpaid intern for Mason & Rice, houses palms, tropical plants, cacti, ferns and one of the country’s largest collections of orchids.

Belle Isle Conservatory Lily Pond (8/4/09) on Flickriver

These orchids were saved and imported from World War II Great Britain and donated to the conservatory by Anna Scripps Whitcomb, who was honored after her death with the renaming of the building in 1954.

Belle Isle Conservatory Fern Garden, Detroit MI by :D~ =raupp, on Flickr

Kahn modeled his conservatory design after Thomas Jefferson’s residence, Monticello, just outside Charlottesville, VA. Reinforced concrete was used instead of wood to better guard against fire, let in more light, and to create more interior space. Kahn, while studying in Europe on a scholarship, learned this architectural style (European Modernist).


Belle Isle is a 982-acre, 2.5 mile long island located between Detroit and the Canadian border, on the Detroit River. It is home to many species of birds and small animals. Visitors to the island must use the 2,193-foot MacArthur Bridge, containing 19 arches, to reach the Island’s attractions, which include a casino, aquarium and of course, the conservatory.


Today, many events, including weddings, picnics, reunions, you name it, are held at the conservatory.

Of the five separate sections of the conservatory, the Show house contains a continuous display of blooming plants, including Mrs. Whitcomb’s 600 orchids. Housing varieties of flowering plants from all over the world, the greenhouse has annual flower shows that mark six different flowering seasons of the year. Visitors can experience horticulture from all over the world by visiting this unique island.

To learn more about the Conservatory, please visit the Anna Scripps Whitcomb page, recently added to the Our Heritage section of the Tanglewood Conservatories’ web site.