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Olbrich Botanical Gardens' History Timeline

Detailed History of Olbrich Botanical Gardens arrow

Olbrich Botanical Gardens Fact Sheet arrow (PDF)

1881   Michael B. Olbrich is born in Illinois.
1905   Michael Olbrich graduates from U.W.-Madison Law School.
1916   Michael Olbrich envisions a sweeping park and flower garden on land adjacent to Lake Monona.
1920   At Michael Olbrich's invitation, Prairie School designer and landscape architect O.C. Simonds creates a plan for the development of the park.
1921   Michael Olbrich purchases 3,500 feet of Lake Monona shoreline. The City of Madison takes title of the land destined to become Olbrich Park.
1922   The Madison Parks Foundation is formed to raise money for the park.
1929   Michael Olbrich dies. The City votes to name the park in his honor.
1931   The City of Madison takes over the park system designed by John Olin.
1933   The first flower plantings in Olbrich Park appear, planted by volunteers of the Madison
Garden Club.
1935   The first Master Plan for Olbrich Park outlines a botanical gardens within its boundaries and includes the design of the Sunken Garden.
1952   Olbrich Botanical Gardens is born! The Madison Park Commission allocates $22,000 to begin construction of the "Olbrich Park Gardens." The Sunken Garden shelters are the first structures built on the property.
1955   Stan Hill becomes Olbrich Gardens' first horticulturist.
1962   The Olbrich Garden Center Club (now the Olbrich Garden Club) is formed.
1965   The Olin Fountain is constructed.
1971   Madison architect Stu Gallaher designs the Olbrich Garden Center building, now called the Atrium.
1975   A second Master Plan is adopted for Olbrich Gardens. The Great Lawn is created.
1978   The Garden Center building, now called the Atrium, is built with help from the Olbrich Garden Center Club for $380,000.
1979   The Olbrich Botanical Society is founded to support the Gardens.
1982   The Herb and Rock Gardens are developed.
1986   Stu Gallaher designs the new Botanical Center building and conservatory.
1987   Parks Department Landscape Architect Nancy Ragland becomes Olbrich's first director.
1991   The Botanical Center and Bolz Conservatory are completed with three-fourths of the $4,600,000 raised from private donations.
1992   The Wildflower Garden is developed.
1993   A third Master Plan by Ken Saiki Design, Inc. of Madison and Sasaki and Associates of Massachusetts includes the Sunken Garden, Perennial Garden, and Donor's Arbor.
1997   The Sunken Garden is completed. The five-acre Garver property and 17 adjoining acres behind the Gardens are acquired by Olbrich Gardens for future garden expansion.
1999   The Perennial Garden is completed.
2000   Fourth Master Plan by Ken Saiki Design, Inc. includes the Garver property and new Rose Garden. The Thai Garden and Pavilion are developed.
2001   Construction of Olbrich's Thai Pavilion and Garden.
2002   Olbrich Botanical Gardens celebrates its 50th Anniversary.
2005   New Rose Garden is developed.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens is operated as a public-private partnership between the City of Madison Parks Division and the Olbrich Botanical Society.
Olbrich Botanical Gardens | 3330 Atwood Avenue, Madison, WI 53704. | Phone: (608)246-4550 | Fax: (608)246-4719