The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is a botanical garden in Richmond's Lakeside neighborhood. It features a conservatory, library, cafe and tea house restaurant. Special events, tours, and seminars are also offered.
Once the "Oughnum" hunting ground of Powhatan Indians, the land was once owned by Virginia Governor Patrick Henry. in 1786. 10 acres of land was purchased in 1884 by Richmond businessman Lewis Ginter where he established the Lakeside Wheel Club.
The clubhouse and land went unused after Ginter's death in 1897. His niece, Grace Arents, purchased the property from the estate, remodeling and expanding the abandoned cottage used by the club into the Lakeside Sanatorium for Babies in 1912.
The children's convalescent home operated for two years before Arents made it her home, with her companion Mary Garland Smith, calling it Bloemendaal House ("valley of flowers") in honor of the family's Dutch heritage. Adjacent properties were purchased bringing the total size to 73 acres as they returned from trips to botanical gardens worldwide with specimens.
Smith continued to live there after her companion's death in 1926 until her death at age 100 in 1968. Arent willed the property to the city of Richmond with the stipulation that it be developed into a botanical garden honoring her uncle. The city used the property as a tree nursery and greenhouse supplying bedding plants for city parks for 13 years while plans to establish a botanical garden were investigated.
In 1981, the non-profit Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden corporation. was chartered to finally construct the botanical garden. Additional adjacent land was purchased and The Pittsburgh landscape architecture firm of Environmental Planning and Design was hired in 1987 and announced a master plan for the gardens later that year.
A $41 million capital campaign completed in 2004 provided the financing to build the Garden's major facilities for horticulture, education and community events: Significant structures include The Robins Visitors Center (1999), Massey Greenhouses (1999), Education and Library Complex (2002), classical glass-domed Conservatory (2003), and Children's Garden (2005).
The addition of the Education and Library Complex in October 2002 greatly expanded educational offerings to new, diverse constituencies. A year-long series of educational programs in 2003 introduced the new complex and featured nationally prominent speakers. The series attracted almost 4,000 people from all areas of Richmond and most regions of Virginia, as well as other nearby states. The increased capacity and effectiveness of our educational facilities have generated a 61% increase in registration for the Garden's regular adult education programs in the three years since the complex opened.
Each year during the winter holidays, Lewis Ginter hosts the GardenFest of Lights drawing more than 76,000 visitors. An exhibit featuring hundreds of live tropical butterflies is hosted during spring, summer and early fall months in the conservatory. Concerts and Easter-themed children's activities are offered in the spring.
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