The Belle Isle Conservatory is undergoing $10 million in renovations, which required the closure of the conservatory and grounds in mid-November 2022. The work completes the final phase of a comprehensive plan to revitalize the upper 60 feet of the 80-foot-tall conservatory dome in one of the nation’s oldest turn-of-the-century glass houses still in existence.
The project starts with inspection of the original steel trusses to see which need repair or replacement, the removal of lead-based paint in the upper 60 feet of the conservatory dome (also known as the Palm House), reglazing the upper dome, and updating the conservatory’s ventilation system. In addition to unique horticultural collections, the building itself is a draw for architecture and history buffs; it was designed by Albert Kahn, one of Detroit’s most celebrated architects.
The first phase of this comprehensive renovation project, completed in 2019, included the replacement of all 20 original steel trusses. “Major renovations are needed to stabilize the building to keep the conservatory open for the next century,” said Amanda Treadwell, urban field planner for the DNR Parks and Recreation Division. “The scope of work is critical to the structural integrity of the dome, public safety and improved conditions for the plant collection.” Treadwell said such capital improvements have been long overdue. “Besides the recent renovations in 2019, there has not been a major capital investment to the conservatory since the 1950s,” she said.
The outdoor gardens will reopen in May 2023, while the conservatory is scheduled to reopen in May 2024. Throughout November and December, scaffolding and a second floor will be erected to contain the abatement work and ensure minimal temperatures are maintained for the plant collection. Similarly, an envelope wrap will surround the exterior of the dome for the duration of the work.
For more information, visit Michigan.gov/StateParksProgress.