The Mitchell Park Conservatory has been part of the Milwaukee scene since the first conservatory was built in 1898. The original conservatory exhibited flowers in a "greenhouse" setting and served the public until 1955. Because it was determined to be unsafe and impractical to repair, the conservatory was demolished.
A design competition, won by a local architect, produced the plans for the new conservatory. Donald Grieb's winning entry called for three beehive-shaped (not geodesic) glass domes, 140 feet in diameter at the base and 85 feet high, offering 15,000 square feet of growing space for plant display. Each dome would have a distinct climate and exhibit plants in a naturalistic setting. These are the Desert, Tropical, and Floral Show domes.
Construction began in 1959 and proceded in stages. This allowed for the building to be paid in yearly appropriations, thus avoiding the cost of bonding. The total cost was $4.5 million when it was completed in 1967.
On November 5, 2008 The Domes welcomed visitors at the Grand Re-Opening, with special guest, Donald Grieb. The reopening revealed the new LED lighting system and light show.
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