On June 23, 1962, a severe hail storm caused major destruction at Como park Conservatory. Golf-ball sized hailstones crashed through and shattered the glass. Thankfully, there were no human injuries, but half of the glass in the show houses and two-thirds of the glass in the growing houses was broken.
On November 17, 1974, Como Park Conservatory was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1984, the Como Conservatory’s Master Plan was published which helped the City of Saint Paul begin to solicit funds for a major restoration of these facilities. Major renovation of the Conservatory began in 1987 and was completed in 1992. All the glass was replaced, the heat system was updated, hydronic heat was added in the Sunken Garden, structural elements were sand blasted and repainted, new electrical lighting was added, and all new growing ranges were built. In September 2000, the growing house roof of the Conservatory was replaced impact resistant acrylic, improving the light intensity by 30%. Renovation of the upper planting beds in the Sunken Garden was completed in 2001.
The Como Park Conservatory received the Hortlandmark Award from the American Society for Horticultural Science on July 31, 1999 as a “beautiful Victorian glasshouse that has been carefully maintained and restored as it continues to be a fine example of horticultural education, beauty, and delight.”
In 2002, the Donald McNeely family provided a generous gift and the Conservatory was renamed the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park as a memorial for a remarkable woman who made many contributions to arts and culture during her lifetime. The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory hosts a wide variety of events each year including Holiday Teas, Music Under Glass, and Valentine’s Day Dinners.
In 2005 the Fern Room and Orchid House was added to the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory. The new fern room houses tropical ferns from around the worldtogether with eleven species of tree ferns. The room also features a cascasing waterfall, three pools, and photovoltaic cells on the glass roof. Visitors can look the glass door to view a variety of Como’s genetically diverse and award-winning orchids.
In 2011, the first Edible Garden was established opening from June – September. The fruits and vegetables produced in the Garden are given to the zoo animals as enrichment or shared with community centers.
Opened in April 2013, the Ordway Gardens is a $2.5 million addition to the historic Marjorie McNeely Conservatory that created year-round viewing of its nationally acclaimed Bonsai collection and Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden. The new wing features a Bonsai gallery, outdoor Bonsai Garden and terrace, and realigned Pine Grove walk leading to the Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden.
In 2015, the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory will celebrate it’s 100th Birthday. In honor of this monumental feet, the Conservatory will opened a new Centennial Garden.
A Tradition of Japanese Gardens
In 1978, the City of Nagasaki Japan (St. Paul’s sister city) presented a garden design as a gift to the city of St. Paul. It was designed by Matsumi Matsuda , a well-known landscape architect. Funds were donated by the Ordway family, and the Como Ordway Memorial Japanese Garden was dedicated. In 1991, the Como Ordway Memorial Japanese Garden was completely renovated and rededicated.
In mid-August 1998, the first annual Japanese Lantern Lighting Festival was celebrated in the Como Ordway Memorial Japanese Garden. Reminiscent of Obon, when lanterns are lit in Japan to guide ancestral spirits, the Lantern Lighting Festival celebrates Japanese arts and traditions.