Golden Gate Park Conservatory of Flowers
Covering over 12,500 square feet (1,160 square meters), Golden Gate Park’s Conservatory of Flowers is one of the largest conservatories in the United States, one of the few large Victorian greenhouses in the country, and the oldest surviving structure in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. In it is a rare botanical collection of more than 700 of the 1,000 known species of high-altitude orchids. Many of the other plants came from the rainforests of Central and South America and the Pacific Islands, where destruction of their native habitats for logging and farming had endangered their survival. William Hammond Hall, planner of Golden Gate Park, included the idea of a conservancy in his original concept for the design of the park. The structure was partially destroyed by fire in 1883 and rebuilt the following year. It underwent partial structural restoration in 1965, 1978, and 1982, yet these efforts only selectively renovated elements that were in very poor condition. In December 1995, a severe windstorm shattered over 40 percent of the glass-tiled skylights. While the conservancy was fortunate to survive, its aging wood frame was badly weakened and several of its supports splintered. Approximately 15 percent of the tropical plant collection housed inside was lost and the building was closed to the general public.
After eight years and three phases of restoration, the Conservatory of Flowers was reopened
The Conservatory of Flowers was placed on the World Monuments Watch in 1996. The immediate goal was to fund the architectural and engineering studies and planning necessary to restore the Conservatory. Awareness through the Watch proved catalytic, drawing attention and funding. The building was designated an official project of Save America’s Treasures in 1998. The honor was accompanied by a large grant and attracted many other benefactors, raising over $10 million for the conservatory. Working with the San Francisco Garden Club, we tried to expedite the restoration of the building in order to stave off irrecoverable damage, as well as reopen it to the public as quickly as possible. After eight years and three phases of restoration, the Conservatory of Flowers was rededicated in September 2003 and reopened to the public.