Franklin Park Conservatory1777 E Broad St
Columbus, OH 43203-2040
614-715-8000 | https://www.fpconservatory.org/
Franklin Park Conservatory
Serving the Columbus community for over 100 years, the Franklin Park Conservatory blends horticultural excellence with the history of Central Ohio. The conservatory displays rare plants from around the world, late nineteenth century architecture, and community gardens.
The Franklin Park Conservatory has its humble beginnings in the mid-19th century with the creation of the Franklin County Agricultural Society. The society, headed by Samuel Brush, elected to purchase fairgrounds to host annual fairs paid for by the citizens of Franklin County. Despite the societies’ efforts throughout the summer and fall of 1852, initial interest in funding the project throughout the county proved low. The initiative would have failed if not for members of the society borrowing the funds to undertake the project from their personal credit and support from the city of Columbus. For $750 dollars, the society purchased the rolling land two miles east of the newly constructed State House. The grounds did not officially become Franklin Park until 1884 when the Ohio Legislature passed a resolution making the park free and open to the public.
The conservatory was constructed a little over a decade later in 1895. Inspired by the City Beautiful Movement and the 1893 Chicago World Fair, the Victorian-style glass greenhouse became the centerpiece of the park grounds, housing over 40 different species of palm. Renovations and expansions to the existing Conservatory began in 1989 in preparation for the 1992 AmeriFlora, a horticulture-based expo that brought visitors from around the world to the Columbus area. Totaling nearly 60,000 square feet, the additions include new conservatories for extra plant collections, classrooms, a library, and a gift shop and café.
Today, visitors can enjoy plant collections and artwork from various environments and artists from around the world. The North Conservatory houses desert plants, rainforest plants, and species from the Himalayan mountains. The South Conservatory features the Pacific Island Water Garden. Between March and September, hundreds of butterflies grace the Water Garden in full bloom. Flanked by rooftop gardens and a Bonsai courtyard, the Palm House, and its dozens of palm species, is still open to the public. These spaces are often filled with artwork that liven the Conservatory and create a deeper educational experience.
Since the 1992 AmeriFlora, the grounds surrounding the conservatory have also been developed to entertain and educate the public. Just outside of the North Conservatory is the newly opened Children’s Garden, a greenspace complete with a learning pavilion. “My Ohio Woods” introduces children to local plant life, and the “Wetland Explorer” provides a water park like space where young children can enjoy the water and learn about wetland spaces. West of the Palm House is the Botanical Garden and a short walk south of the Conservatory building is Wells Barn and the community gardens. All of these spaces are fully contained within the stunning Franklin Park, which has its own walking loops, landscape architecture, and playground.
Notes for Travelers
Conservatory parking is located north and east of the main conservatory building. The Conservatory is fully handicap accessible. Wheelchairs and electric scooters can be acquired by guests if needed upon arrival. The children’s garden has also been designed to accommodate children with extra needs. The Children’s Garden and Wells Barn both promote education on “pollinators” including honeybees. There is an apiary for public viewing at the Wells Barn, so visitors to the park facilities should expect to share the outdoor space with at least some busy bees. The Conservatory has two food options available to guests, the café next to the grand atrium and a food truck often parked outside near the Children’s Garden. The Conservatory also host farmers markets each Wednesday from early June until early September.