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Manito greenhouse celebrates 100 years Saturday

The Gaiser Conservatory is shown in this 1956 photo. (FILE)
The Gaiser Conservatory is shown in this 1956 photo. (FILE)

The Gaiser Conservatory – or the Manito greenhouse as it’s affectionately known – is turning 100 years old.

On Saturday the Friends of Manito are putting on a grand birthday party for the stately building.

Manito Park was deeded to the city in 1904 and at that time a couple of greenhouses were moved there from Liberty Park. Those greenhouses were already old and in 1912 they were replaced by a greenhouse structure in the current location.

“In 1974 the complex was once again restored, this time by the help of private donations,” said Stephanie O’Byrne, a Manito gardener. She added that the conservatory was almost closed during the Great Depression, but a narrow decision was made to close the park’s zoo instead.

“Apparently we won by one vote,” O’Byrne said.

Spokane residents again rallied behind the conservatory in 1999 when a parks bond made it possible to install automatic curtains and make other improvements for energy efficiency.

O’Byrne said everyone is hoping for nice weather on Saturday so lots of families will make it to Manito Park.

Visitors will receive a small houseplant as a gift – as long as supplies last – and there will be cake and ice cream for everyone.

“Something special will be a tour of the back growing houses that are usually not open to the public,” O’Byrne said.

Historians Tony and Suzanne Bamonte, who published “Manito Park: A Reflection of Spokane’s Past” to coincide with the park’s centennial in 2004, present a slideshow based on the book on Saturday.

The Park Bench – a small outdoor café near the south end of the park – will have a lunch special all day, and there will be free horse and carriage rides as well as children’s activities.

Having a conservatory means the park can grow and showcase plants that otherwise wouldn’t make it through Spokane winters.

“We can grow desert plants and orchids,” O’Byrne said. “I’d say any city that has a conservatory is pretty lucky.”