Lord & Burnham Greenhouse

By Bari Helms, Director of Archives & Library

In 1912, construction at Reynolda was well underway. Katharine Reynolds was still consulting with Reynolda’s original landscape designer, Louis L. Miller, of the firm Buckenham & Miller, for the design of the grounds and formal gardens. Before the planning for the Formal Gardens was even completed, which would not be until 1913, construction began on Reynolda’s Greenhouse. Featuring a central domed space that serves as the public entrance to the four acres of formal gardens, the Greenhouse is one of the most iconic images of the Reynolda landscape.

To create this iconic structure, Katharine Reynolds sought out the premier greenhouse and conservatory designers Lord & Burnham. The company began in 1849 when Frederick Lord, a carpenter, began constructing glass and wood houses for his neighbors in Buffalo, New York. In 1883, Lord incorporated the company with his son-in-law William Burnham under the name Lord’s Horticulture Manufacturing Company. The name was changed to Lord & Burnham in 1890. By the time Katharine hired Lord & Burnham, they were known nationwide as premier glass house designers, with major works the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh and the New York Botanical Garden Conservatory already completed before work began at Reynolda.

Construction finally began, but Katharine Reynolds was ever the involved client, and continually checked that the building was going to her specifications. On January 29, 1913, Katharine sent her second payment check along with some suggestions for improvement:

The iron and frame work was not completed as soon as you seem to think it was.

Regarding the basin for the shower bath, you forgot to send this with the other fixtures. Of course a shower bath is in no way complete without something to hold the water and keep it from running all over the floors, and I feel sure that it is only a matter of calling your attention to this fact to insure its being made good, as the price certainly includes this.

Your lack of completing plans for my architect in the workroom has caused your men some trouble as well as myself; but I believe we are about to get this matter straightened out now.

The houses seem to be progressing nicely, and I think we shall be much pleased with them.

The Greenhouse was finally completed in February 1913, and, thanks to Katharine Reynolds’s vision and diligence, it remains a stately and beautiful focal point of the Gardens.