Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park


The re-opening of the Conservatory of Flowers on September, 2003 represented the culmination of the San Francisco Garden Club 's herculean efforts to restore and preserve this exquisite structure. The building had been seriously damaged over the years and was almost destroyed by a freak storm in December 1994.

Through the Club's efforts the Conservatory's plight was highlighted in local, regional, national, and international spotlights, drawing the then-administration from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco, and ultimately securing Federal funding for the Conservatory's restoration.

November 18, 1970: The San Francisco Garden Club was successful in having the Conservatory of Flowers designated California State Historical Landmark #841.

January, 1997: The San Francisco Garden Club wrote a grant application to have the Conservatory of Flowers listed as one of the world's 100 most endangered sites in the World Monuments Fund's first competition, and succeeded. $100,000 was awarded to the San Francisco Garden Club by American Express to underwrite Phase One of the restoration, the site assessment and planning work.

February 14, 1997: The Board of Directors of the Club approved a donation of $25,000, seed money, to build the greenhouse that would be used to store the Conservatory's rare plants during restoration and as a propagation facility after restoration. The Board approved a plan to raise funds very urgently needed to build the greenhouse.

May 29, 1998: The San Francisco Garden Club held the kick-off benefit "Arts and Flowers" for restoration of the Conservatory of Flowers. Artist Gary Bukovnik creates the art for the invitation. Cellist Emil Miland is the impresario. Performers include mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberman, composer Jake Heggie (with his latest composition), ballet dancer Lawrence Pech, SF Ballet Orchestra conductor Emil de Cou and conductor Patrick Summers. Shreve's creates a gold Conservatory facsimile pin for the "first family" donors of $500 and more.

In the Chronicle, Sandra J. Swanson, benefit chairman, stated, "The San Francisco Garden Club has raised the first $100,000 for restoration." (From American Express.) SFGC member Madeleine Haas Russell was the benefit's Honorary Chairman. Among the "first family" donors were Donna Miller Casey, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Crocker, Elinor and Eugene Friend, Mrs. A. Witter-Gillette, William Godward, Jessica McClintock, Marianne and Richard Peterson, Adrianna Pope, Louise and Paul Renne, Alice Russell-Shapiro, Dede and Al Wilsey, etc. TASTE catered, on the house. Domaine Charbay donated the libations. Steven Brown, City College, created the d├ęcor. The performance was broadcast live. The benefit netted $37,000 toward the greenhouse construction.

The Club secured a $50,000 matching grant from the Cowell Foundation and a $25,000 donation from the Zellerbach Family Fund (through SFGC member and past president, Jane Zellerbach Coney), and $10,000 from the Crocker Foundation (through the SFGC benefit) and monies from other resources including SFGC member Elinor Friend and her husband, Eugene. The funds totaled $128,500, the price of the greenhouse!

October, 1999: The greenhouse construction was complete: The San Francisco Garden Club dedicated the greenhouse.

Noting the endangered status, the National Trust for Historic Preservation/Save America's Treasures gave the Conservatory of Flowers historic landmark status. Key members of the San Francisco Garden Club's restoration committee were invited to breakfast by First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who made a major financial commitment on behalf of the National Trust. The San Francisco Garden Club presented her with a gold Conservatory pin, which she immediately put on.


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