Happy 42nd Anniversary Bloedel Conservatory!

Bloedel Consevatory in the Fall

The Bloedel Conservatory opened December 6th, 1969 and was the first domed floral conservatory in Canada! It is at the geographic centre of Vancouver at its highest point in Queen Elizabeth Park.

Bloedel Conservatory under construction.

We thought you might like to read about the history of this fantastic green jewel at the top of our city on this special Anniversary day!

In 1966, while Canada prepared for its Centennial celebrations, two men in Vancouver had a grand vision. Stuart Lefeaux, Superintendent of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, and Deputy Superintendent Bill Livingstone wanted to something that would enhance the image of Vancouver and give people something to be really excited about! Their vision was to build a Conservatory for exotic plants that would not only be educational, but would also be a beautiful place to visit. Where better to build such a structure than the geographic centre of the city and at its highest point of land? Queen Elizabeth Park was the obvious answer. But now how to pay for it? Stuart and Bill knew there must be a philanthropist in the city who would like their name attached to such a project.

Prentice and Virginia Bloedel. Photo courtesy of Virginia Wright Bloedel

They approached Prentice Bloedel, retired Vice Chairman of the Macmillan Bloedel Lumber Company. Prentice, a visionary in his own right, teacher at heart and a pioneer in the areas of recycling and the human/ environmental connection agreed! The Bloedel Foundation put forward $1.4 million dollars (worth $8.6 million in 2012 dollars) in conjunction with contributions by the City of Vancouver and the Provincial Government to build the Bloedel Conservatory, the fountains and the surrounding plaza. This was the largest civic gift given to Vancouver to date.

Construction of the aluminum framing of the Bloedel Conservatory.

Construction of the aluminum framing of the Bloedel Conservatory.

The elements for the triodetic dome frame were manufactured in Ottawa and shipped 3,000 miles across the country to Queen Elizabeth Park. Once it arrived, the aluminum framework was erected in just 10 days although the entire Conservatory structure took over 1 year to complete. The Grand Opening of the Conservatory took place on December 6, 1969 and hosted over 500,000 people in its first year of operation.

Bringing in the palms at the Bloedel Conservatory, 1969.

The Bloedel Conservatory is significant for its historical, symbolic, cultural, and social values, and particularly for its use of technologies and building methods which were quite advanced for its time. The Conservatory, the fountain and the surrounding plaza were all designed to work together and with specific goals to show man’s connection to nature. The curving lines of the fountain harmonize with the Conservatory dome, while the leaping fountains add vertical movement to mirror distant trees. The dome structure with its absence of interior supporting columns was chosen to provide an unobstructed view of the exotic gardens within. The Bloedel Conservatory won the prestigious Vincent Massey Award for Excellence in Urban Environment in 1971 and is listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

Join us for the Jewel Box of Lights Opening Event, this Friday, December 9th between 6 and 9pm to help us celebrate this amazing tropical oasis!

“Bloedel is a Jewel Box as are the stars, and at Queen Elizabeth Park you can almost touch the heavens on a clear night!” ~ T. Clark

A great time is sure to be had by all!

Making Hearts Happy!

As much as I visit the Bloedel Conservatory, our green oasis at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park, I rarely take time to read the Visitor Comment Book. But today was different. Today, I was waiting for a friend and didn’t want to stray too far from the front door. To bide time, I began to look through the pages of the Visitor Book. There were many heartfelt raves like “Wonderful!”, “Beautiful!”,  and “Wow!” However, I was not prepared for the more creative comments and touching sentiments.

These comments ranged from “Mindblowing” to “You need monkeys!”, to “Splendifulous“, “Breathtaking” and “Bellisimo“. “This is our first date here and we loved it“, “Will brag to everyone that I was here!” and from Sairin and Mustafa of India You made our hearts so happy! Thank you!

I was thrilled to see visitors hailing from near and far – not only local visitors from all over BC and every Canadian province, but also from around the globe. Here is testament that our little Conservatory truly is a World destination! I read page upon page of comments from Holland, Australia, Japan, Brazil, Germany, Belgium, China, Slovenia, England, Finland, Romania, Ireland, South Korea, Philippines, Italy, India, Switzerland, New Zealand, Venezuela and the Czech Republic (to name a few).

At that moment, I was so proud to have played a part in saving the Bloedel Conservatory! I think Bill Livingstone and Stuart Lefeaux, the two men who had the grand vision to build this floral conservatory would be very proud. Not to mention, this is exactly what Prentice Bloedel desired when he put forward the funding to build the dome: to showcase the beauty of the tropics through amazing floral displays and to familiarize and inspire people of all ages with the world of plants. I do hope the gardeners and staff at the Conservatory take a moment from time to time to read the Visitor’s Book. It is an uplifting tribute to their ongoing dedication and hard work that keeps the magic of the dome alive. Absolute enjoyment!”, “Fantastic!“, “Magnifique!” 

Post by Vicky Earle, Vice President, Friends of the Bloedel