Popular Science Monthly/Volume 80/April 1912/The Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Fig. 1. Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Preliminary plan of the grounds.




THE Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a department of The Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. The institute itself, an organization of some 7,500 members, is the outgrowth of a movement starting in 1823, for the establishment in Brooklyn of a free library for apprentices. From these small beginnings, the work has gradually expanded, until now it is carried on by means of twenty-eight departments, representing various branches of art and science, and including courses of lectures and general university-extension work. During 1893-94 the establishment of a museum of arts and sciences was undertaken, and this movement has steadily developed, until now there is a large Central Museum on Eastern Parkway, beautifully housed in a building only partly completed, and in Bedford Park a wholly unique branch, the Children's Museum, described in The Popular Science Monthly for April, 1908.

The Botanic Garden movement found its first public expression in 1897, when the Hon. George W. Brush, M.D., introduced into the state legislature of New York a bill providing for the establishment and maintenance of a botanic garden and arboretum on park lands in the city of Brooklyn. The bill, which became a law on May 18, 1897, names among other objects of the garden, the advancement of botanical science and knowledge, and the prosecution of original research therein

Fig. 2. Laboratory and Administration Building. Front (west) elevation, facing the Garden.

Fig. 3. Laboratory and Administration Building. Main floor plan.

and in kindred subjects, the giving of instruction in the same, and the maintenance of public exhibits of a botanical nature.

The assignment of the necessary lands by the city was made contingent on the institute providing a private fund of at least $50,000. Public-spirited citizens of Brooklyn, who wish to remain anonymous, offered, in June, 1905, to give $25,000 toward this fund, and in December, 1906, this offer was doubled, thus completing the $50,000 required.

The garden grounds, turned over to the institute by the city on February 1, 1911, comprise approximately forty-three acres, lying to the south and west of the Central Museum building, in the very heart of the borough of Brooklyn. The plan of the garden, as laid out by the landscape architects, is shown in Fig. 1. The main entrance, on Flatbush

Fig. 4. Laboratory and Administration Building. Plan of the basement. In the final plans the northeast "Instructors' Room" has been divided into three smaller rooms.

Avenue, opens northward through an esplanade to the museum building, and southward and eastward to the public conservatories and the laboratory and administration building. In the northeast corner of the garden is a lake of about three acres in area, and the adopted plans provide for a small stream leading southward through the grounds from the lake. The lake and stream together will afford excellent opportunity for aquatic planting.

Fig. 5. Conservatories of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Main floor plan. The northeast house (at the left) connects with the Physiological Laboratory. The division of the northeast wing into four houses is made with reference to their use for class work and for investigations.

The location of the garden is of considerable physiographic interest, for it is situated on the extreme southern margin of the terminal moraine deposited by the continental ice-sheet. As is well known, a portion of this moraine forms the so-called "backbone" of Long Island, and two or three morainal knolls give relief to the northwestern and the eastern edges of the grounds. The remainder of the garden is on the area of the overwash plain lying south of the moraine, but the surface soil is no longer of geological significance in this connection, as there have been considerable grading and top-soiling in connection with park operations. A few large glacial boulders remain in place and exposed at the surface.

The laboratory building, when completed, will be a one-story and basement structure of brick, faced with concrete, about 240 feet long, and 50 feet wide, with a maximum elevation of about 60 feet (Kg. 2). At suitable places on the exterior will be placed the names of noted botanists of the past. For this purpose there are twenty-two spaces on the frieze for names of greatest prominence, each space to contain only one name. Under each window is a panel to contain three names. The choice of names was determined by a vote of contemporary American botanists.

Fig. 6. Native Wild Flower Garden (Local Flora Section) of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, August 14, 1911. A small portion of the bog shows at the extreme left. The slope at the right is now thickly planted with local flora shrubs. In the background is shown the Prospect Heights reservoir, with water tower, and the laboratory of the municipal Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity.

The main entrance to the laboratory building from the west or garden side opens into a central rotunda (Fig. 3). East of the rotunda is the well-lighted main library room, with an area of 1,050 square feet. Opening from this at one side is a stack room with a capacity for 10,000 volumes; at the opposite side, a librarian's work room, part of which may also be used for stacks. There is additional shelving space in the main reading room.

The portion of the building north of the central pavilion contains the public and private offices and the private laboratory of the director; a morphological laboratory 20 X 40 ft.; a herbarium room 23 X 28 ft.; a class room 20 X 40 ft.; six private research rooms 9 X 12 and 11 X 12 ft., and an experimental dark room 12 X 15 ft.

The southern wing contains two class rooms, each 20 X 40 ft.; an instructors' room 10 X 20 ft.; an elementary laboratory 23 X 34 ft.; a physiological laboratory 28 X 34 ft.; a constant-temperature room; a photographic operating room with overhead light, connecting with a photographic dark room, and two private offices for members of staff. The physiological laboratory connects with one of the wings of the conservatories, reserved for experimental work. Passage from one to the other may be had without going out of doors.

In the basement (Fig. 4) is a lecture hall with a seating capacity of about 500. At the south end are three private rooms for members of staff, and a well-lighted laboratory 18 X 37 ft. The remainder of the basement is occupied by service rooms, as shown in Fig. 4. Under the south end of the building is also a sub-basement, containing four rooms.

The conservatories (Fig. 5) consist of a central palm house 104 feet long and 45 feet wide, with two south wings and two north ones. The greatest height of the palm house is 36 feet. The south wings are each divided into two houses, each 50 X 22.5 ft., and from one of these, stairs lead down to a "mushroom" cellar. The northwest wing is like the south ones, but the northeast wing is divided into four rooms, each 25 X 32. 5 ft. These rooms are reserved primarily for class use and for investigators. In the basement under the south wings are stables, a potting room, gardener's office and other service rooms.

During the spring and summer of 1911, the installation of the plantations was begun. The Local Flora Section or "native wild flower garden" (Fig. 6) was laid out and partly planted. In this section is an artificial bog (Fig. 7). The Morphological Section was also started, subdivided into a Division of External Anatomy, and a Division of Comparative Morphology. The third section planted was the Economic Garden (Fig. 8), which is of especial interest in a large city.

Fig. 7. Brooklyn Botanic Garden. A corner of the Local Flora Section, showing the artificial bog. The large label near the center of the picture locates and describes the insectivorous plants. The labels under the edge of the shrubs designate shade-loving sorts. August 14, 1911.

where many of the visitors, especially among the children, have never seen the common food-plants outside of a grocery store, and have never seen any of the fiber and medicinal plants at all.

Aside from the labeled plantations, which in reality constitute an out-of-doors museum, and the conservatory collection, no museum will be developed in connection with the garden. The close proximity of the Central Museum building of The Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences makes a separate static exhibit by the garden unnecessary, for the plans of the museum include an extensive botanical section.

On account of the ample facilities already offered in Greater New

Fig. 8. Economic Section of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The first two rows of beds contain food and fodder plants; the third row, medicinal plants; the fourth row, condiments and relishes; the fifth row, fiber plants. August 14, 1911.

York for work in systematic botany, no attempt will be made to develop a systematic center at the Brooklyn Garden. Only such a herbarium will be assembled as represents the local flora, as the needs of other departments indicate, and as the proper naming and labeling of the collections makes necessary. Investigations will be confined to other subdivisions of the science than taxonomy, such as physiology, pathology, morphology, experimental evolution and phases of economic botany. Annual city appropriations for the maintenance of such an institution as a botanic garden are, of course, justified only by the service which the garden can render to the city. In this connection it may be stated that it was the wish of those instrumental in securing the establishment of the garden that the formal teaching of botany to classes be emphasized here to a greater extent than has hitherto been customary in botanic gardens; and especially that the garden articulate in every feasible way with the botanical work of the elementary and advanced schools of the city, both public and private. Lectures and courses of lectures and laboratory courses will be offered to pupils in the city schools; to a limited extent material for class study will be provided, a system of docentry will be developed, and courses for teachers will be offered. Thus, and by means of its library, laboratories and labeled collections, indoors and out, and by its encouragement and ample provision for research, will the garden endeavor to realize its ideal of "the advancement of botany and the service of the city."