Set just off the main road through Memorial Park, the greenhouse complex is easy to miss, but plays a key role in keeping the city looking good. When Hurricane Ike blew through a few years ago, the old greenhouse didn't hold up too well. Dee Howell
has been a city horticulturist for the past 25 years.
"The old house that was damaged was built in 1946. It was a Lord and Burnham house, which was a Cadillac in 1946. Even before the storm we didn't go in there when it rained, because you get just as wet in there as you did outside and then after the storm you were really like you were outside. We had to put plastic on it and that sort of thing. So this is an enormous step up."
Howell says her staff plants between 70 and 100, 000 plants throughout the city every year, and many are nurtured and cultivated in the greenhouse complex. She says some of the city's most familiar places get an aesthetic boost from the work that's done there.
"We do a lot of color work in the downtown area, the city hall plaza, the Memorial golf course, Hermann Park, the garden center and all these areas and then other little special beds here and there around in the parks and I think it adds so much to the presentation that the public and visitors have of our city."
The new 8600-square foot greenhouse more than doubles the size of the old one. City Parks Director Joe Turner says the new facility is first class.
"We have remote controlled screens that screen the sun in it. The watering system, we've got a cistern that we're catching all the water coming off the building that we can actually use for watering purposes. It has all moveable bins in it. We can move it and arrange it any way we want to. The biggest thing we did to the greenhouse, unlike it came, we actually cut glass into the front of it, built a courtyard in the front where we can do demonstrations and do classes out in the front of it."
The city used about $300,000 from the federal Ike Aid and Recovery Program and then paid for the rest of the facility with $1.5 million in capital bond money.