Restoration of the Conservatory Garden

Our restoration of the Conservatory Garden will focus on its hardscapes, architectural features, and utilities—almost all original to the Garden’s 1937 construction.

Originally conceived by Central Park designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux as an arboretum, the site of the Conservatory Garden was initially a nursery for growing plants for the Park. By the late 1880s, greenhouses were built on site, followed shortly by an ornate glass conservatory (the origin of the Conservatory Garden’s name). After falling into disrepair, the conservatory was demolished in the early 1930s and the six-acre formal outdoor garden that we now know was conceived and built.

Located off Fifth Avenue between East 104th and 106th Streets, the Garden is made up of three spaces: a French-style North Garden, an Italianate Center Garden, and an English-style South Garden. Known for its horticultural excellence, the Garden’s ornamental plantings are expertly maintained year-round. Conservancy staff curates annual displays throughout the Garden, which opens and closes daily to the public.

The last significant restoration of the Conservatory Garden was in 1983. It focused primarily on restoring its tour-de-force horticultural elements. The Conservancy's current restoration of the Conservatory Garden is focused on its hardscapes, architectural features, and utilities, which have not been addressed since their original construction in 1937.

This includes restoring the distinctive bluestone pavements, repairing stairs and walls throughout the Garden, replacing all utility infrastructure systems, modernizing the fountains, and restoring architectural features. The restoration work will also require the removal and in-kind replacement of overgrown garden hedges in the English and Italian Gardens that will be impacted by the construction of new garden curbing.

Old bluestone pavers in English Garden

The English Garden, before the restoration of the bluestone pavers

Construction has begun and will be completed in phases to allow for as much public access to the Garden as possible during this period.

Our work includes:

  • Creating universal accessibility into the sunken French Garden by converting stairs to ramps.
  • Restoring the Garden’s distinctive bluestone pavers.
  • Extensively upgrading infrastructure and modernizing fountain systems.
  • Refurbishing the Garden’s unique architectural and decorative features, including a full restoration of the wisteria pergola.
  • Improving drainage to minimize runoff from adjacent landscapes into the Garden.
  • Restoring benches, replacing and realigning retaining walls and stairs, and reconstructing other design elements.
  • Ensuring all aspects of the Garden meet current code requirements.

Phase I (South, English-style Garden) was completed in early 2023. The current phase is the restoration of the North (French-style) Garden, which will be closed to the public for construction beginning March 2023.

In this phase of reconstruction work, the steel pergola which has severely deteriorated will be repaired, stabilized, and refinished. The scope of work includes:

  • Pruning of the wisteria and removal of the vines intertwined in the pergola structure. Healthy plants will remain after the pruning.
  • Removal and replacement of the pergola’s upper support structure.
  • Cleaning and repair of the pergola column bases.
  • Replacement of the cast stone coping at the retaining walls.
  • Repointing of the brick and stone veneer walls.
  • Cleaning, removing rust, refinishing, and repainting of the entire steel pergola structure.

This work is critical to ensure the long-term preservation of the Garden and provide the best quality experience for visitors.

The pergola and upper terrace are expected to reopen in spring 2024. The entire project is expected to be completed by early 2025. Public engagement is an important element in all aspects of the Conservancy's work, and we would like to thank the community boards and the Landmarks Preservation Commission and Public Design Commission for their thoughtful review, discussion, and approval of this project.

New bluestone pavers in English Garden

New bluestone pavers in the English Garden. Work also included addressing drainage and irrigation systems.

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