Restoration of the Conservatory Garden

Our restoration of the Conservatory Garden will focus on its hardscape—pavements, retaining walls, and stairs—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 comprises three spaces: a French-style North Garden, Italianate Center Garden, and English-style South Garden. Known for its horticultural excellence, the Garden’s ornamental plantings are well maintained year-round. Conservancy staff curates annual displays throughout the Garden, which opens and closes daily to the public.

A view of the North Garden, showing the fountain seen through a pergola.

The North Garden

The last significant restoration of the Conservatory Garden was in 1983. It focused primarily on restoring its tour-de-force horticultural elements. Today, diminished by decades of wear and tear, the Garden requires additional upgrades and repairs.

Our current restoration largely focuses on improving the Garden’s hardscapes, which are almost all original to the 1937 construction. This includes the extensive network of paths and plazas that gracefully traverse the Garden, as well as other much-needed infrastructure upgrades. This restoration work will require the removal and replacement of the existing euonymus hedges. Over the course of many decades, the root systems have overgrown the garden beds and cannot be extracted for replanting. The Conservancy will plant replacements when the hardscape work is completed.

The curve at the end of the pergola festooned with deep greenery.

The Wisteria Pergola in the Center Garden

Our work will include:

  • Creating universal accessibility into the sunken North Garden by converting stairs to ramps
  • Restoring the Garden’s distinctive bluestone pavements
  • 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

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.

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

We anticipate Phase I (South, English-style garden) to be completed by early 2023. The next phase will be the restoration of the French Garden. The entire project is expected to be completed by late 2024.

An autumn shot looking down the allee, showing a canopy of colored leaves.

The crabapple allée in the Center Garden

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