The purpose: provide a hands-on University and community laboratory for conserving, restoring, and celebrating the environment
The business: develop citizens and leaders dedicated to appreciating, understanding and restoring our environment; promote environmental education, research and public outreach
The values: inspire and enrich people's lives through contact with plants and nature; recognize the restorative value of nature and beautiful gardens; engage scientists and artists in research, teaching, and outreach activities; apply ecological principles in our horticulture and land stewardship; advance sustainable practices and the conservation of biodiversity, particularly that of the Great Lakes Region.
In 1907, the University created a Botanical Garden and Arboretum on the land between Geddes Road and the Huron River, just a few blocks from Central Campus on the site now known as Nichols Arboretum. At the time, the property consisted of approximately 80 acres. Today, some 100 years later, the University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum manages over 700 acres of gardens, research areas, and natural preserves around the Ann Arbor area with a complex of conservatory, greenhouses, laboratory, teaching and meeting spaces at Matthaei Botanical Gardens and the James D. Reader, Jr. Center for Urban Environmental Education at Nichols Arboretum. Listed below is a short timeline of our history and attached is a more detailed record of our past 100 years.
- Timeline of important dates:
Founders of the University of Michigan note the desirability of a botanical gardens and other museums in the University's charter.
Professors Julius Schlotterbeck and Volney M. Spaulding plant gardens on campus in conjunction with the School of Pharmacy and the Department of Botany.
Professor Schlotterbeck and Professor Frederick C. Newcombe begin search for alternate botanical garden site. Among the most highly considered sites was the Felch Park property (where the Power Center now sits) and the "Cat-Hole" (where the Life Sciences complex and Power Plant now reside). Landscape Architect Ossian Cole Simonds is hired to evaluate possible sites.
Proposal is made to create botanical garden and arboretum as joint project between University and City of Ann Arbor, combining a gift of land from the Walter and Esther Nichols family together with the Woodmansee and Mummery tracts for approximately 80 acres. O. C. Simonds prepares plan for the new botanical garden and arboretum.
University establishes the University of Michigan Botanical Garden and Arboretum in the Department of Botany with George P. Burns as first Director.
Botanical Garden relocates to new site on Iroquois Street with Henry A. Gleason as Director. Geddes site transferred to the Department of Landscape Design with Professor Aubrey Tealdi named as Director.
1921 Proposal by Civil Engineering Professor F. N. Menefee would abandon arboretum and redevelop property as winter sports complex for students.
Geddes site is renamed as "Nichols Arboretum" by Regents.
Task force re-affirms Nichols Arboretum noting that it would "become a haven of quiet one hundred years from now when our rich native flora will have become a thing of the past in most places." University recommits resources to help police and manage the Arboretum.
Detroit Edison donates 36 acres, including Alex Dow Field, to be added to Nichols Arboretum.
Mr. and Mrs. James Inglis donate Inglis House and the nine-acre property to the University. Land is managed by Nichols Arboretum.
Professor Frederick K. Sparrow heads up faculty committee to examine the future of the Botanical Garden on the retirement of Harley H. Bartlett in 1955. Committee advises relocation of the Botanical Gardens to a new site within reasonable distance of campus.
With the leadership of Director A. Geoffrey Norman, the University decides to relocate the Botanical Garden to 200 acres donated by Frederick C. and Mildred H. Matthaei and additional lands purchased by the University. Architect Alden B. Dow designs the complex of buildings.
Dedication of the Botanical Gardens at the Dixboro site.
Conservatory and Auditorium completed at the Botanical Gardens site. Horner Woods added to the Botanical Gardens properties.
Regents rename the Botanical Gardens to "Matthaei Botanical Gardens."
Formation of the Friends of Matthaei Botanical Gardens to support programs and activities at Botanical Gardens.
Friends of Nichols Arboretum established to provide support for the Arboretum.
Burnham House is moved from Wall Street to the Washington Heights entrance to Nichols Arboretum and refurbished as the James D. Reader, Jr. Urban Environmental Education Center (dedicated in 1999).
Associate Provost Janet Weiss heads committee to explore the possible alliance of Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. Committee proposes a combining of the two units.
Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum combined as one administrative unit within the University.
100th Anniversary celebration for Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum.
Click here to download a detailed history of Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum (PDF).