Franklin Park Conservatory
||This article relies entirely upon a single source, the National Register Information System (NRIS) database or one of its mirrors. Articles based solely on the NRIS may contain errors. (November 2013)|
Franklin Park Conservatory
Original western entrance and building (now the palm house)
|Architectural style||No Style Listed|
|NRHP Reference #||
|Added to NRHP||January 18, 1974|
The Franklin Park Conservatory is a botanical garden and conservatory located in Columbus, Ohio. It is open daily and an admission fee is charged. Originally built in 1895, the Conservatory is on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, it is a horticultural and educational institution showcasing exotic plant collections, special exhibitions, and Dale Chihuly artworks.
The conservatory contains more than 400 plant species. Collections include: Himalayan Mountains, Tropical Rainforest, Desert, Succulent Patio, Bonsai Courtyard, Pacific Island Water Garden & Cloud Forest, Showhouse with orchid and tropical bonsai collections, and Palm House with more than 40 species of palms. The conservatory is set within Franklin Park, and surrounded by 90 acres (36 hectares) of outdoor botanical gardens and green space.
On January 18, 1974, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places
Franklin County Agriculture Society purchased 88 acres (360,000 m2) of land two miles (3 km) east of downtown Columbus to host the first Franklin County Fair in 1852. By 1874, the Franklin County Agricultural Society agreed on the importance of this piece of land, increased the size to 93 acres (380,000 m2), and made it the official site of the Ohio State Fair.
The state fair occupied the site until 1884, when it moved to a new location north of Columbus. With the change, the lot was abandoned. But on May 17, 1886, the site was officially revived when the Ohio State Legislature passed a resolution declaring it open for use as a public park.
In 1893, the Chicago’s World Fair and Columbian Exposition was an immensely influential social and cultural event. It inspired the city of Columbus to create a horticulture building modeled after the Exposition’s Glass Palace. This glass structure, built in the grand Victorian style, was erected in Franklin Park and opened to the public in 1895 as the Franklin Park Conservatory.
From 1895 to 1989, Columbus Recreation and Parks Department owned and operated the Conservatory. Unfortunately, little is known about the Conservatory’s earliest days, as a fire in Columbus City Hall destroyed its records in 1921. Much of the Conservatory’s history has been documented from newspapers and personal written accounts.
For a short period starting in 1927, animals were kept in the lower rooms of the Conservatory. In 1929, these animals left the Conservatory and became part of the first Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
Over time, the facility developed a reputation for horticultural excellence and the display of rare and unusual plants. The Conservatory also became a popular location for family gatherings, weddings, and other events.
In 1974, in recognition of the Conservatory’s historic and architectural merit, the original glass structure, today known as the Palm House, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1992 the park hosted AmeriFlora '92 an international horticultural exhibition.
In the wake of AmeriFlora, Franklin Park Conservatory’s future lay in question. However, the decision was made in December 1992 to hire an executive director. With a handful of dedicated staff, volunteers, and an operating budget of $500,000, the institution began to regain its identity and momentum.
In 1994, Franklin Park Conservatory debuted Blooms & Butterflies, becoming the first conservatory in the nation to showcase a seasonal butterfly exhibition. It was an instant success. Since then, the annual exhibition features thousands of tropical butterflies flying through the Pacific Island Water Garden. It attracts thousands of visitors each year, and other conservatories throughout the nation have followed suit.
The years 2003 and 2004 brought new milestones when Franklin Park Conservatory presented Chihuly at the Conservatory, a blockbuster exhibition that increased attendance by 182 percent. On October 29, 2004, the Friends of the Conservatory, a private, nonprofit group that supports the Conservatory’s programming, made a stunning move. They purchased nearly the entire exhibition of Dale Chihuly’s artworks valued at close to $7 million. To this day, Franklin Park Conservatory is the only public botanical garden in the world to own a signature collection of Chihuly’s magnificent glass artworks, which represents over 3,000 pieces of glass.
In 2002, the Conservatory undertook the first phase of a comprehensive Master Plan and raised $23M to support new construction projects. New gardens, event venues and additions to the Palm House were dedicated in 2008 and contemporary light artist James Turrell was commissioned to illuminate the Palm House with a permanent installation. In September 2009, the Conservatory converted four acres of Franklin Park into the four-acre ScottsMiracle-Gro Community Garden Campus. The first phase of the Master Plan closed in 2011 with the completion of a 9,200 sq. ft. support greenhouse.
The facility offers a wide range of educational classes for school groups, families, and individuals of all ages. Its extensive plant collections and special exhibitions provide hands-on learning opportunities about the natural world, gardening, and the arts.