Franklin Park & Conservatory

Designers: MSI Design (now MKSK), J.M. Freese | City: Columbus, OH | Project Type: large parks, conservatory, botanical garden, community garden
Date Visited: 09.27.12, 09.29.12

Location: 1755 E Broad St
Size: 58.77 acres
Official Opening Date: late 1800s

Located just a few miles east of downtown Columbus lies Franklin Park, an expansive park that is popular not only for its scenic vistas and rolling green lawns, but also because of the onsite award-winning architecture and landscape architecture.

Franklin Park has a lot going on. It has a soft spot in many local hearts too, often because its the site of many marriage proposals and weddings, which hints at how beautifully manicured and maintained the grounds are.

I set out in this gigantic park to focus on three main features of Franklin Park: the 1895 Franklin Conservatory, the inspirational and educational Scotts Miracle Gro Community Garden, and the Franklin Conservatory’s exquisite bridal garden.

The Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens are considered a real diamond-in-the-rough; a gem amongst the midst of Columbus sprawl. Built in 1895 and modeled after the Victorian style of London’s Crystal Palace under the direction of architect J.M. Freese, the Franklin Conservatory is a glass-covered, greenhouse wonder that showcases a colorful and tropical collection, from exotic flora and fauna to a 3,000-piece signature collection of work by glass artist Dale Chihuly.

This is a favorite place for locals to bring their out-of-town guests but the Franklin Conservatory offers more than just a day’s worth of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs.’ Beyond regularly switching out plants and exhibits, the conservatory often holds educational workshops and seminars, annual events and celebrations, as well as a weekly event known as Cocktails @ the Conservatory that takes place every Thursday after 5:30 for a chance to explore the conservatory between sipping cocktails and snacking on appetizers.

I ended up going to Cocktails @ the Conservatory and it was fantastic. For $11, you get $10 worth of tokens for food and drink. Although special exhibits were closed off, we were able to walk through the conservatory’s various biomes, from the Himalayan Mountain Biome to the Desert Biome. Each biome showcases a wide variety of exotic plant species with carefully placed Chihuly pieces as well as pieces from the special exhibit Sacrifice + Bliss by artist and environmental activist Aurora Robson. Her series of work “uses discarded materials, primarily plastic bottles, excess packaging and junk mail, to create ethereal, vibrant art with a message.”

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