Scenic USA - California

Golden Gate Conservatory of Flowers

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Conservatory of Flowers - Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

Photo by Bob Goldman
Inset photos courtesy of the Conservatory of Flowers

     North America's oldest existing public conservatory, Sundew - Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA erected in 1879, is located in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Listed on national, state and city registers, the Conservatory of Flowers was designed as an elegant Victorian greenhouse. It's most prominent feature is a central dome which rises nearly 60 feet. Surviving the 1906 earthquake virtually unscathed, conservatory history followed with many major setbacks over the years. First raised in 1878, the wood and glass structure was decimated by a string of incidents, including a boiler explosion, structural decay and wind damage. In the mid 1990s, the huge glass house suffered extensive damage during a severe windstorm, requiring 25 million dollars for its refurbishment. The conservatory continues as one of the popular Water Lily - Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA attractions in Golden Gate Park, and since the reopening in 2003 it has entertained over two million visitors.
     John McLaren, promoted to commissioner in 1887, spent the majority of his life gathering plants and trees for the California conservatory. Plant displays, totaling over 1700, include tropical palms, a huge orchid collection, bromeliads and a wide variety of rare plants from all over the world. One of the most popular questions about the conservatory is its number of window panes. There are 16,800 window panes total and just the upper dome weighs 14 tons.
     The Conservatory of Flowers, one of the largest in the United States, is open Tuesday through Sunday and is either accessed on foot or visitors may take the free Golden Gate Park Shuttle Bus. Public tours are available most days and the conservatory is wheelchair accessible.

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