A Brief History of BBG

Growing from its humble beginnings as an ash dump in the late 1800s, Brooklyn Botanic Garden has come to represent today the very best in urban gardening and horticultural display.

Below is a chronology of important dates and developments in the Garden's history. It is illustrated with photos from our archives taken by Louis Buhle between 1915 and 1968. These charming black-and-white photos capture the evolution of the Garden and the spirit of the times.

1897

New York State legislation reserves 39 acres for a botanic garden.

1910

Garden is founded; Dr. Charles Stuart Gager is first director.

Dr. Gager speaking at the laying of the cornerstone of the Laboratory Building, 1916. Photo by Louis Buhle.

1911

Local flora section (now the Native Flora Garden) is laid out.

1914

Children's Garden program begins.

Children's Garden, 1914

Harvesting the first crop of the Children's Garden, 1914. Photo by Louis Buhle.

1915

Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden is completed by landscape architect Takeo Shiota.

Japanese Garden, 1915

Japanese Garden, 1915. Photo by Louis Buhle.

1916

Rock Garden constructed.

Rock Garden, 1916

Rock Garden, 1916. Photo by Louis Buhle.

1917

Laboratory Building and Conservatory (now Administrative Building and Palm House) are dedicated. Auxiliary formed to support the Garden.

1921

Lily Pool Terrace dedicated. Cherry Walk planted.

1925

Thirty-two bonsai are donated, starting the Garden’s now famous collection. Shakespeare Garden opens, gift of Henry C. Folger.

Shakespeare Garden, 1926

Shakespeare Garden, 1926. Photo by Louis Buhle.

1928

Dedication of Cranford Rose Garden, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Walter V. Cranford.

Rose Garden, 1927

Rose Garden, 1927. Photo by Louis Buhle.

1933

Magnolias planted on Magnolia Plaza, gift of Auxiliary.

Magnolia Plaza, 1933

Magnolia Plaza, 1933. Photo by Louis Buhle.

1936

Rose Arc Pool completed, gift of Mrs. Walter V. Cranford.

1938

Herb Garden, featuring Elizabethan knot garden, established, gift of Auxiliary.

1939

The Osborne Garden opens, gift of Mrs. Sade Elisabeth Osborne.

Steps leading to the Osborne Garden with the Brooklyn Museum in the background, 1935

Steps leading to the Osborne Garden with the Brooklyn Museum in the background, 1935. Photo by Louis Buhle.

1941

'Kanzan' cherry trees planted on the Esplanade, gift of Auxiliary.

1945

First title in BBG's gardening book series, Lilies and Their Culture; Use in the Garden, is published.

1955

Fragrance Garden, designed by landscape architect Alice R. Ireys, opens.

Work begins on the Fragrance Garden in the spring of 1955

Work begins on the Fragrance Garden in the spring of 1955.

1956

Plant patent received for 'Red Jade' weeping crabapple, developed at BBG.

1974

Volunteer Garden Guide program established by Auxiliary.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden annual plant sale, 1974

Brooklyn Botanic Garden annual plant sale, 1974.

1977

Plant patent received for Magnolia × 'Elizabeth', the first yellow magnolia, developed at BBG.

<i>Magnolia</i> × 'Elizabeth', 2007

Magnolia × 'Elizabeth', 2007. Photo courtesy of wallyg.

1980

500-year-old Shogun lantern, gift of the city of Tokyo, placed in the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden.

Shogun stone lantern

Plaque next to the stone lantern reads: "This Japanese lantern was presented to the city of New York by Mr. Bunj Sakuma a controller of Taito Ward Tokyo, in October 1980, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the New York-Tokyo sister city affiliation. In 1652, feudal lord Naito Bunzen-no Kami Nobuteru dedicated this 10 foot high, 3 ton, komatsu stone lantern to the Tokugawa shogunate." Photo by Alison Dorfman.

1988

Steinhardt Conservatory, a $25 million capital project, completed.

1989

Education Building completed. Palm House renovated as special events center. Project Green Reach created.

The Palm House at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The Palm House at Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

1990

New York Metropolitan Flora Project launched.

1992

Rock Garden restored. Science Center opens at 109 Montgomery Street. Garden presents first Better Earth Award, recognizing environmental commitment.

1993

GreenBridge founded. Lily Pool Terrace renovated.

Lily Pool Terrace

Lily Pool Terrace. Photo by Niall Dunne.

1994

New mixed perennial border added to Lily Pool Terrace. Administration Building renovation completed.

1995

Dedication of refurbished Fragrance Garden. Greenest Block in Brooklyn contest established.

1996

Discovery Garden opens. Garden website, bbg.org, launched.

Discovery Garden. Photo by Dave Allen.

1997

Gardener’s Resource Center opens.

1999

Frances M. Miner Children's Garden House renovated

2000

Restored Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden reopens. The Center for Urban Restoration Ecology (CURE) founded with Rutgers University. BBG Florilegium is established. Master Site Plan approved by the Board of Trustees.

Restored Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden

Restored Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden. Photo by Romi Ige.

2001

Alice Recknagel Ireys Fragrance Garden is dedicated.

2002

BBG becomes U.S. office of Botanic Garden Conservation International (BGCI). Planting and dedication of Liberty Oaks.

2003

Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment (BASE) founded.

2004

Osborne Garden and Magnolia Plaza restored. Garden Apprentice Program created.

Magnolia Plaza

Magnolia Plaza. Photo by Medi Blum.

2005

New Eastern Parkway entrance opened, designed by Polshek Partnership Architects, LLP. Dedication of Judith D. Zuk Magnolia Plaza.

New Eastern Parkway entrance

2006

Restoration of Cranford Rose Garden pavilion and irrigation system completed. Planning for the Centennial Campaign begins.

2007

Redesign of C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum and Steinhardt Conservatory Gallery. Design of new Visitor Center and entrance completed.

C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum

C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum. Photo by Patrick Cullina.

2010

BBG celebrates its centennial. Ground broken for new Visitor Center. Herb Garden redesigned and expanded.

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