Do You Know How the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory Got its Name?

by | Jun 30, 2021 | 0 comments

The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory is also known as the Belle Isle Conservatory. Do you know how it got its name? It is interesting.

I have volunteered in the past at the Ann Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory. I’m hoping to start volunteering again as the conservatory is finally opening back up after Covid restrictions.

Belle Isle is a place I have visited a lot since moving to the metro Detroit area over 36 years ago. It amazes me that people who have lived here all their lives have never been there. I love the aquarium, too, but as you know, plants are my passion.

I’m going to share some orchid photos today and tell you about the woman who generously gave them to the conservatory.

Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory post card

Who is Mrs. Whitcomb?

 Anna Virginia Scripps was born in 1866 to James and Harriet Scripps. Mr. Scripps was the founder of the Detroit News and was also involved in the founding of the Detroit Museum of Art, later to become the Detroit Institute of Arts. 

Anna Scripps married Edgar Bancroft Whitcomb in 1891 and had two children, Harriet and James. Mrs. Whitcomb had a large collection of orchids which after her death were bequeathed to the Belle Isle Conservatory in 1955. Many of the orchids were saved from Britain during World War II. 

orchid at Anna Scripps Whitcomb conservatory

Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory

Anna Scripps Whitcomb conservatory orchid

The Belle Isle Conservatory was opened on August 18, 1904, and was designed by the famous architect Albert Kahn.  Before the name change to the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, it was known as the Horticultural Building which you can see in the picture above of the antique postcard.

The wooden structure was rebuilt from 1952-1954, replacing the wood with aluminum. In 1955, when the conservatory reopened it was renamed the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory in honor of her orchid donations. 

Since the orchids have been there since the early 1950s, many have lost their name tags. I like to know the names of plants, but in this case, it isn’t possible. I’m just glad they are still in the conservatory. 

Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory
Photo courtesy of Jeremy Kemp

The four pictures below courtesy of Jeremy Kemp

The Temperance Fountain

The little girl with the bowl fountain below was gifted to the conservatory by the Temperance League and the orchids are displayed around it as they come into bloom. When they aren’t blooming, they are cared for in greenhouses behind the conservatory. 

If any of her descendants are still in the Detroit area, I hope they still go there knowing their relative made the conservatory a much more colorful place. We appreciate it and enjoy the flowers immensely! Thank you, Mrs. Whitcomb!

Anna Scripps Whitcomb conservatory
The Temperance Fountain with the orchids from Anna Scripps Whitcomb
Anna Scripps Whitcomb conservatory
The Temperance Fountain with orchids

Are the conservatories near you opening back up now that the Covid restrictions have lifted? Have you visited?

Have a great week, plant friends!


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