The historic Lord and Burnham greenhouse that once provided the seedlings for the Harkness gardens, and later provided flowers for the State Capitol building as well as other state and Parks’ facilities, fell into disrepair many years ago.
Working with park staff in the early 1990’s, Friends volunteers were able to work throughout the winter in a section of the compromised Greenhouse to propagate the historic strain of Harkness heliotrope for the East Garden. Heliotrope, Harkness’s signature plant and Mary Harkness’ s favorite flower, was grown as bedding plants and trained as topiaries.
For over 20 years, the Friends have raised funds to underwrite 50% of the cost of restoring the Greenhouse in equal partnership with the CT State Parks Division of DEEP. Park staff have accrued their matching 50% contribution with revenues earned by them through the Mansion Wedding Rental Program. The restoration is to be completed in four phases. Phase 1, the restoration of the Potting Shed or Head-house and the Greenhouse mechanical systems was completed in 2009. Phase 2, the restoration of the complex’s three central glass houses was completed in November 2013. The overall cost of these two phases was approximately $1.4 million.
Phases 3 and 4 will involve restoration of the East and West wings of the complex respectively. The East Wing houses the historic grapery whose vines have been sustained on the estate since 1930. Also in this wing, are an orchid room and a tiled fishpond in which carp were wintered each year. When restored, the three- room West Wing will become the primary production center for propagation of heirloom perennials and annuals for the gardens. If sufficient funds were raised quickly, the Friend’s preference would be to complete Phases 3 and 4 concurrently.
- Work cooperatively with the State DEEP employees to improve on-site visitor experience
- Update and improve the Friends of Harkness website
- Add a Fall Friends event utilizing historical resources at the Park-Perhaps an Apple Festival
- Increase Membership/ Volunteers through increased public relations initiatives
- Bring a Friend” program and media campaign
- Continue Fundraising for Greenhouse restoration
- Explore the potential for a Park Visitor Center