Mile 257 – Franklin Park Conservatory, Columbus, Ohio

The “Palm House,” the original building of the conservatory.

I happened to be at a wedding in Columbus at the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, which just so happens to be right along Broad Street – the National Road’s route through Ohio’s capital.

The conservatory is a large, public botanical garden with indoor and outdoor sections. The indoor sections are separate greenhouses, each with a different environmental zone in the world, from the Himalayas to the tropical South Pacific. Some zones are interactive and allow you to hear information about the plants by calling a specified number from a cell phone. The South Conservatory houses a large seasonal butterfly exhibition in a tropical Pacific biosphere – although the presence of animals is absent from all other parts of the facility.

The outside part of the conservatory is a combination of horticulture and sculpture. Paths snake through the gardens, with benches set throughout the park.

The Pacific Islands zone. A Chihuly glass sculpture is on the left.

In addition, Franklin Park also has its own in-house glass furnace, staffed by rotating glassblowers. The glassblowers give demonstrations throughout the day, and also offer glassblowing classes to the public. The conservatory also promotes the work of glass artist Dale Chihuly, the works of whom are found throughout the conservatory, intermingled with the flora. Some of Chihuly’s glass art is also for sale at the conservatory’s gift shop, though it’s a bit pricey (think around $5,000 to $10,000).

Franklin Park Conservatory is nothing new to Columbus, and is on public land (Franklin Park). The first structure of the modern conservatory was built in 1895, which is the back part of the building today and called the “Palm House.” Before that date, Franklin Park had served as the location for the Ohio State Fair.

Since the first greenhouse was constructed, several additions have been made onto the building including the glassblowing furnace, a gift shop and a cafe. The conservatory has also hosted numerous weddings and events and possibly the most significant event in its history – AmeriFlora ’92, which attracted over 5 million visitors during its six months. However, despite the importance of the event (some of the outdoor park was constructed for AmeriFlora), the event apparently caused the Franklin Park Conservatory to have financial and management issues. Those issues resulted in the conservatory’s management to be somewhat restructured.

A bonsai in the conservatory’s Bonsai Garden.

Regardless, the conservatory has continued to grow and become stronger financially and has been implementing a master plan for the present and future. The entire facility is kept up to date, informative and clean. For those with a deep interest in horticulture, at least an entire day could be spent touring the gardens and greenhouses. But even for those without a huge plant interest, the conservatory is worth a visit of a few hours.

There is a fee to enter the greenhouses – $11 for adults, $9 for seniors and students and $6 for children 3 to 17. It’s open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Ample parking is available in front of the main entrance. General information can be received by calling 614-645-5926 or visitorservices@fpconservatory.org.

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2 responses to “Mile 257 – Franklin Park Conservatory, Columbus, Ohio

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