A Victorian confection of wood and glass, the Conservatory of Flowers, which opened in 1879, is the oldest building in Golden Gate Park and one of San Francisco’s most beloved landmarks. It houses some 1,700 species of aquatic and tropical plants, many of them rare, including a 100-year-old giant Imperial philodendron, a world-renowned collection of orchids, giant water lilies, and carnivorous plants. Special exhibits have included such popular favorites as the Butterfly Zone and the miniature garden railroad.
The building is situated in Conservatory Valley, where intricately designed flowerbeds bloom from January through September. Palm trees along the stairs leading to the Conservatory provide an elegant frame for the central dome. To the east of the Conservatory are the Arizona Garden, with drought-tolerant species, and the Dahlia Garden, which is in radiant bloom through the summer months and into early fall.
The Conservatory’s story begins with eccentric millionaire James Lick, who ordered the prefabricated building but never had it erected; when he died in 1876, the greenhouse was still in crates. In 1878, several prominent San Francisco businessmen bought the kit and donated it to the city for construction in Golden Gate Park. The Conservatory was an immediate success, becoming one of the park’s most popular attractions. In 1883 the building’s dome was replaced with a slightly taller one after a fire destroyed the original. The Conservatory suffered no serious damage from the 1906 earthquake, and homeless survivors of the disaster camped in Conservatory Valley and throughout Golden Gate Park.
In 1995, a winter storm with high winds severely damaged the aging Conservatory and destroyed some of the collection. A campaign to save the beloved landmark resulted in a five-year, $25 million reconstruction with many needed upgrades. The building reopened in 2003.
In keeping with San Francisco’s policy of reduced pesticide use in all city parks and facilities, the Conservatory uses beneficial insects to control harmful pests, and is home to a population of geckos that keeps infestations by cockroaches and other insects in check.
The Conservatory of Flowers is at 100 John F. Kennedy Drive, in the eastern end of Golden Gate Park.
Missed 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love and the lighting of the Conservatory of Flowers for the Summer Solstice? We have you covered! The lighting at the Conservatory of Flowers (100 John F Kennedy Drive) will continue to be on view through October 21, from 9 to 11:30 p.m., … Continue reading
Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love on the first evening of summer, Wednesday, June 21, from 6-10 p.m., with a light art installation that will transform the Conservatory of … Continue reading
With 16,800 panes of glass, the Roof Improvements project is an important component of the ongoing maintenance this unique building requires. Currently, we are replacing deteriorating roof putty with new silicone caps and sealant while preserving the historic integrity of the building. Additionally, we are replacing or securing panes of glass as necessary. … Continue reading
EventsOct 11, 2017
Get to know your neighbors at this monthly Panhandle Volunteer Project. The North of the Panhandle Neighborhood Association needs your help to beautify and maintain the basketball court and landscape around the … Continue reading
If you love your parks, and are looking for a meaningful and substantive way to make a positive difference, come on out and volunteer with the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department! … Continue reading
This exhibit presents many of his iconic photographs taken on and off stage over the last 40 years. The exhibit features photographs of The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits, … Continue reading
Christmas or Christmas Day (Old English: Crīstesmæsse, meaning “Christ‘s Mass“) is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed most commonly on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration … Continue reading