Cylburn Arboretum Friends and city officials break ground on the new Nature Education Center. Photo by Bryan Vana.

Cylburn Arboretum Friends and city leaders yesterday broke ground on a $6 million plan to renovate and expand the arboretum’s carriage house into a new Nature Education Center.

The nonprofit plans to add 3,600 square feet of newly renovated space to the carriage house, located behind the Cylburn mansion. The new space will include staff offices, indoor and outdoor classroom space, a garden, and 1,760-square-foot barn that will serve as an exhibit hall.

“There are so many hidden gems in Baltimore, and Cylburn is one of them,” Mayor Brandon Scott said to an audience of over 60 community members and volunteers.

“This city is so much more than so many people know and believe,” he said, “But there is
no place that really showcases all of Baltimore like Park Heights and Cylburn.”

At 207 acres, the arboretum on Greenspring Avenue is Baltimore’s largest public garden and the city’s only accredited arboretum. It offers dozens of gardens, open space, and 3.5 miles of woodland trails with native plants and wildflowers.

With the creation of a new nature center, CAF hopes to build a facility that will expand educational and training opportunities, increase community initiatives, and enhance the visitor experience.

“This project has been the dream of many people for a very long time and I am fortunate and honored to be right here, right now to watch and help this dream become reality,” said Patricia Foster, the group’s executive director, at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Rendering of the Nature Education Center by Ziger/Snead Architects.

The nature center’s exhibit space will be devoted to the “hidden world of trees,” the nonprofit said. A giant root ball will be suspended overhead so visitors can see the network of roots that is normally hidden in soil. The space will have permanent exhibits as well as a series of interactive spaces for rotating seasonal exhibits.

The Nature Education Center will also create a home for CAF’s horticulture program. The space will include a garden work room, model yard space, and a new garden shed complex for storage.

Rendering of the garden outside of the Nature Education Center by Intreegue Design.

In 2019, Cylburn Arboretum Friends signed a lease with the city to restore the carriage house. The nonprofit has been partnering with the city to maintain the grounds and gardens at Cylburn since 1954.

The arboretum was originally the private estate of businessman Jesse Tyson, who built the Cylburn mansion between 1863 and 1888. The mansion was designed by George A. Frederick, who also designed Baltimore City Hall.

The Cylburn mansion in the 1800s. Photo courtesy of Jacques Kelly/Cylburn Arboretum Friends.

In the midst of World War II, the city purchased the estate at auction. From 1943 to 1957, the Cylburn mansion served as a home for neglected and abandoned children. The property then transitioned into the Cylburn Wildflower Preserve and Garden center until 1982, when it was renamed Cylburn Arboretum.

The new center, designed by Ziger/Snead Architects, is expected to be completed by early 2023, CAF said.