Mission and History
The New York Botanical Garden is an advocate for the plant kingdom. The Garden pursues its mission through its role as a museum of living plant collections arranged in gardens and landscapes across its National Historic Landmark site; through its comprehensive education programs in horticulture and plant science; and through the wide-ranging research programs of the International Plant Science Center.
In the late 19th century an eminent Columbia University botanist named Nathaniel Lord Britton and his wife, Elizabeth, also a botanist, were so inspired by their visit to England's Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, that they and other members of the Torrey Botanical Club determined New York should possess a great botanical garden as well. A magnificent site was selected in the northern section of the Bronx, part of which had belonged to the vast estate of tobacco merchant Pierre Lorillard.
On April 18, 1891, the land was set aside by the New York State Legislature for the creation of “a public botanic garden of the highest class” for the City of New York. Prominent civic leaders and financiers, including Andrew Carnegie, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and J. Pierpont Morgan, agreed to match the City's commitment to finance the buildings and improvements, initiating a public-private partnership that continues today. In 1896 The New York Botanical Garden appointed Nathaniel Lord Britton its first director.
More information about the Garden and its history can be found in The New York Botanical Garden and Britton's Botanical Empire: The New York Botanical Garden and American Botany, 1888-1929