Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On a Summer Day I Chanced to Stray

Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus is a conservatory like most other conservatories.  Glass walls gleam in the sunlight, and while the outside is stark white, on the inside, there's nothing but green.

Each room is set up to resemble a different region of the world.  Theoretically, I suspect the rooms are meant to mimic the climate of the region as well as the landscape, but on this bright summer day, every region of the world it set to "hot."  The Himalayas are mildly uncomfortable.  The Deserts are absolutely stifling.  Even the trees stretch up to tap the ceiling glass, reaching for a bit of fresh air.

Good for the cactus, though.   

Every room features at least one piece of Chihuly glasswork, but that's a story for another day.

This is exciting; in the courtyard, they're preparing to instal their yearly summer exhibit, Savage Gardens, a tribute to the meat-eating plants of the world.  I might have to come back for that.  It might finally help me come to terms with the tragic and dramatic end met by my venus fly-trap (R.I.P Audry III March '02 - March '02).

There are two sets of doors leading in to the Pacific Room, and a sign politely asking that you only open one set of doors at a time.  Past the first set of doors is a mirror, and a notice saying that you should check yourself for visitors before you leave.  Here be Butterflies.  Interestingly, this exhibit, first debuted in 1994, was the first of its kind in America.  Now it seems like everyone's doing it.

There's a different energy in this butterfly room, compared with the last butterfly exhibit I visited.  The room at Krohn was more open, but smaller, and overflowing with visitors.  There was barely enough room to breath, let alone enjoy the butterflies.  Here at Franklin, the air in Pacific Room is heavy and humid, the handful of visitors stroll easily through the exhibit, admiring the colorful plants just as much as the colorful wings.  Where the Krohn butterflies seemed to feed off the frenetic nature of their packed little room, darting here and there almost faster than your eyes can see them, Franklin's butterflies float lazily through the trees, giving you ample time to coo over their brilliant shine.

We can't go into the Palm House, which breaks my heart a little, because we all know how much I love a palm tree, but it's closed for a special event.  A young woman hovers in the doorway, holding the skirts of her wedding dress up off the ground.  It'd be a lovely place to get married.  A destination wedding without the destination.

I can't get inside the Palm House, but I do sneak around the back of the conservatory, where the chairs a neatly aligned on the patio and the rest of the wedding party awaits direction, in order to get a picture.  It's worth it - the Palm House is the oldest part of Franklin, built in 1893 after the Chicago's World Fair.  It's a beautiful building, freshly white in that grand Victorian style this era favored so much.  They used to keep animals in the lower levels in the years before the Columbus Zoo.  Small animals, surely - monkeys, birds.  Nothing that might damage the glass.  Not that I would know; in all of my reading, nothing's ever said what kind of animals they were, just generally animals.  

(Like most things I love, the Palm House, in recognition of it's historic and architectural merit, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.  I don't know if they have a plaque.)    

Come back tomorrow, and learn the amazing story behind Franklin Park's Chihuly collection!

1 comment:

Ro Magnolia said...

With all that heat going on in the inside of the conservatory, I think you might have been better off outside the Palm House anyway! And you certainly managed to get a lovely shot of it. Imagine the hours of labour that went into setting each one of those tiny panes of glass in place. Really a beautiful building!