Ed Lycan Conservatory
Parks & Recreation

City’s Historic Lycan Conservatory re-opens after renovation

The Ed Lycan Conservatory, a historic plant conservatory and greenhouse on the grounds of the Will Rogers Gardens, reopened during to the public on Wednesday, November 20, 2013.

The conservatory was closed in 2011 for an extensive renovation project funded by the 2009 General Obligation Bond. The total project cost was $1.9 million.

Improvements include a complete refurbishment of the structural frame, new heating and electric systems and new conservatory glass. Architects also redesigned some of the planting beds in order to make the space more flexible for multiple uses.

“We had to be very careful not to diminish the historical integrity of the structure,” said Parks and Recreation Department Director Wendel Whisenhunt. “While we needed to bring the project up to modern day standards, the original 1920s design and floor plan remain intact.”

The conservatory has a long and storied history with the city, dating back to the early 1920s when it was purchased from world-renown greenhouse architects Lord & Burnham. For several years, it was housed at the site of the original State Fairgrounds near NE 10th and Martin Luther King, what is now called Douglass Park. In 1936, the conservatory was moved to its current home at the Will Rogers Gardens, which was then known as Northwest Park. Along with other greenhouses, the conservatory was erected as part of a municipal greenhouse complex funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

In 1970, the conservatory was named after Edward Lycan, the first horticulturalist for the Oklahoma City Parks Department, who began his service with the city in 1912 and was responsible for the city’s gardens and botanical exhibits.

“The Lycan Conservatory is an important part of the City’s history, as well as that of the Parks Department,” Whisenhunt said. “It is not only architecturally significant, but serves as a beacon for the entire horticulture community.”

Prior to renovation, the conservatory housed the state’s largest collection of cacti and succulents, which was a gift from the Charles and Mary Polanski family in 1987. When re-opened, it will continue house a permanent collection of cacti, but will also enjoy a new role as a space for rotating botanical exhibits, as well as rental space for weddings and special events.

For more information about the conservatory, or the Will Rogers Gardens call 297-1392.