Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory
Location Name: Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory (Detroit, Michigan)
Location Type: Museum (Nature)
Year Completed: 1904
Architect(s): Albert Kahn
The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory in Detroit’s Belle Isle Park is the oldest continually operating conservatory in the United States. Work on the Aquarium and Horticultural Buildings began in 1902. The Albert Kahn designed buildings opened on 18 August 1904. The Horticultural Building, as the conservatory was then known, was dominated by an 85-foot dome containing over 100,000 cubic feet of space for large palms and other tropical trees. The building and its outdoor botanical gardens are situated on thirteen acres of land near the Detroit River. The centerpiece of the gardens is the Levi L. Barbour Memorial Fountain designed by noted local sculptor Marshall M. Fredericks.
The conservatory was renamed in honor or Anna Scripps Whitcomb on 06 April 1955. Whitcomb was the daughter of Detroit News founder James E. Scripps and had generously supported the conservatory after her death in 1953. With funds donated by Whitcomb, the rotting wooden beams holding up the dome were replaced with aluminum in 1954. Perhaps most notable of her donations was that of her rare orchid collection which included 600 plants. The conservatory has since been known for having one of the largest municipally owned orchid collections in the nation.
Today the conservatory is open to the public at no cost. Visitors can enjoy the massive palm room as well as a cactus room, a fernery, a tropical room and a show house. Six annual flower shows are held in the conservatory’s show room attracting flower lovers during every season. Unfortunately as of late, budget cuts have left the conservatory with little money to operate. In recent years much of the famous orchid collection has been lost. It is yet to be known what the future has in store for Belle Isle and its many treasures.Sources