The History of Texas Discovery Gardens

Opened in 1936 as the Hall of Horticulture for the Texas Centennial Exposition, the 7.5-acre campus includes the first public conservatory built in the Southwestern United States.

Chartered in 1941 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Texas Discovery Gardens is the second oldest botanical institution in Texas, and the first in Dallas to offer botanical education programs for children. The Gardens now include the remodeled Rosine Smith Sammons Butterfly House and Insectarium, a year-round tropical butterfly immersion exhibit. In 2003, Texas Discovery Gardens was certified as the first 100% organic public garden in the state.

The Early Years

1936

The Hall of Horticulture is built for the Texas Centennial Exposition. The building includes the first public conservatory in the Southwest -- the "Garden Room" as it was called at the time, was half the conservatory’s present size. Four “Houses of the Future” are constructed on the grounds to illustrate home building and interior decoration trends. (Of the four houses, the one built by the Portland Cement Association remains on the property.)

1938

The Hall of Horticulture is designated for use as the Dallas Garden Center (chartered in 1941).

1942 - 1945

The Garden Center served as headquarters for the War Rationing Board.

1945 - 1949

The main building served as the Women's Building during the State Fair of Texas.

1952

The Scent Garden, one of the first permanent gardens on the site, was constructed on the northeast side of the main building.

1958

The Main Hall was added to the building to create a space for garden club flower shows.

1960s & 70s

Renowned landscape architect Joe Lambert created the Callier Garden, Leftwich Reflecting Pool and Circular Lawn.

1982

"Civic" was added to the name of the building -- Dallas Civic Garden Center.

1988

Grand Allee du Meadows was completed, including construction of the large fountain in the south corner of the property.

1990

The Conservatory was renovated and the terrazzo floor in the lobby was restored to resemble its original appearance in 1936. Faerie Banton Kilgore Rose Garden was dedicated on Wed. March 14, 1990 by her son, Mr. James A. Kilgore.

1994

The name was changed to Dallas Horticulture Center.

1995

The first live tropical butterfly immersion exhibit in North Texas is hosted in the Conservatory during the State Fair of Texas. The exhibit becomes an annual attraction.

1996

The Benny Simpson Texas Native Plant Collection is added to the gardens.

More Recent History

2000

New name & mission statement adopted: Texas Discovery Gardens -- "To have a positive impact on the future of Texas by teaching effective ways to restore, conserve and preserve nature in the urban environment through the use of native and adapted plants which illustrate the interrelationship of butterflies, bugs and botany."

2003

The Scent Garden was renovated with City of Dallas Bond Funds.

The Texas Organic Research Center designated Texas Discovery Gardens as the first “Certified Organic Public Garden” in the State.

2004

The Metamorphosis begins! Ground is broken for the Rosine Smith Sammons Butterfly House and Insectarium.

2006

Texas Discovery Gardens becomes an affiliate of the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center.

2007

Phoenix I Restoration and Construction created a new front entrance, designed by Oglesby Greene, complete with a new “Texas” landscape, irrigation and walkways. A recreation of the original 1936 Bas Relief panels was installed depicting native North Texas plants and insects.

2008

Texas Discovery Gardens Conservatory and Main Building undergoes a renovation process (Oglesby Greene, Architects) for a permanent, attraction: The Rosine Smith Sammons Butterfly House and Insectarium. On February 27, the City of Dallas approved $4,700,000 in Bond Funds for the construction. Phoenix I Construction and Restoration began the final phase of this project on March 17, 2008.

2009

The Rosine Smith Sammons Butterfly House and Insectarium houses thousands of unique butterflies and insects in a natural environment designed to educate and entertain young and old alike. It opened Sept. 12, 2009.

2012

The Dallas County Master Gardener Association breaks ground on the Master Gardeners' Garden, which features native and adapted drought tolerant plants, garden ornaments, and butterfly seats. The garden was expanded in 2013.  

2013

New displays were built to house exotic arthropods. We also began shipping butterflies and moths from Africa.