September 20, 2023, marked the 20th anniversary of the reopening of the Conservatory of Flowers.
The Conservatory of Flowers has delighted guests for more than a century. As the oldest public wood-and-glass conservatory in North America and a national historic landmark, the Conservatory remains one of the most photographed and beloved attractions in San Francisco.
The Conservatory opened as Golden Gate Park’s first formal structure in 1879. Since then, it has endured several accidents and natural disasters, including the 1906 Earthquake, which somehow left the Conservatory relatively unharmed. But in 1995, a powerful wind storm with gusts of over 100 miles per hour shattered 40 percent of the glass in the Conservatory, damaging many rare plants inside and forcing the building to close.
A turbulent wind storm in 1995 shattered 40 percent of the glass in the Conservatory of Flowers.
Many feared that the Conservatory of Flowers was forced to close for good, but local fundraising efforts and being named to the World Monuments Fund’s list of 100 Most Endangered Sites in 1996 attracted much-needed attention to the Conservatory’s situation. In 1998, First Lady Hillary Clinton visited the Conservatory to induct it into the Save America’s Treasures program, a joint partnership between the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Park Service. Publicity from these efforts eventually led to a fundraising campaign that raised the $25 million dollars needed for rehabilitation, which included support from the Richard & Rhoda Goldman Fund, as well as significant fundraising support from the San Francisco Parks Trust, now called the San Francisco Parks Alliance and the San Francisco Garden Club. Restoration of the Conservatory of Flowers began in 2000 and a grand public reopening was celebrated on September 20, 2003.
In celebration of the Conservatory’s 20th anniversary of re-opening, the Gardens of Golden Gate Park invited visitors to experience the magic of the Conservatory’s galleries after hours with staff and volunteers leading tours and hosting interactive exhibits. After the tours concluded, guests gathered in the Orchid Pavilion where historian and author Christopher Pollock shared the storied history of the Conservatory from its concept as part of the Golden Gate Park master plan, initial construction, and tracing through the many pivotal, as well as interesting incidental, events during its 145-year history.