The Palm House at Longwood Gardens

The Palm House at Longwood

LOCATION: Kennett Square | PA

CLIENT: Longwood Gardens

STATUS: Completed 1966

PROGRAM: Horticultural Display House Original New Construction

Longwood Gardens is one of the premier horticultural display gardens of the US with over 1000 acres of gardens, woodlands, and meadows. Homsey Architects has completed many projects over the years at Longwood, the most famous being the Palm House and Lily Pont Courtyard.

In the 1960’s, Longwood Gardens commissioned Victorine & Samuel Homsey to design a new glass structure for the display of palm trees, orchids, and other tropical species. A contemporary design, stripped of excess decoration but echoing the arched windows of the main conservatory, was chosen. In order to provide cooler temperatures at the base and accommodate the height of the trees, the foundation was set well below grade. Entering at the intermediate level and through the use of ramps, visitors are able to view the trees at various levels.

Included in the project was the glass house which connects the Palm House to the Main Conservatory. Later, Homsey Architects reconfigured the courtyard lily ponds from small rounded ponds to the larger rectangular ponds with the round pond in the center that is present today.

The area remains a popular attraction today.

The Palms

The sunken structure allows for the dramatic height of the palms.

Palm House elevation drawing
Elevation Drawing

vintage photo of Palm House under construction
Cortesty of Longwood Gardens

This vintage photo gives a glimpse of the earlier lily pond layout.

The Palm House as viewed from the main conservatory
View from Main Conservatory

The courtyard and palm house provide an interesting destination outside the main conservatory.

Palm House at Longwood Gardens
View from Connecting Greenhouse

The lily ponds were reconfigured in the 1960's by Homsey Architects to the simplified scheme with larger rectangular ponds that you see today.