The McGovern Weir Greenhouse is one of the rarest buildings in New York, as one of the only Victorian-era greenhouse currently standing within the five boroughs.
A lacy framework of iron and glass, the building amazingly survived the 19th and 20th centuries only to become completely anachronistic in the 21st. While horticulture and the flower industry were once highly profitable commercial pursuits (theatrical bouquet-throwing alone brought in $250,000 annually in 1870), times have changed, and the profit raked in as a flower business, even one across the street from the biggest graveyard in Brooklyn, doesn’t bring in enough even to pay for the roof repairs.
Built by a Mr. Gillespie in 1880, McGovern Weir was a family run business of flora, owned and run by James Weir and then his son, James Weir Jr. For a time, the two story McGovern Weir sign atop the building was visible for miles. Today it is not even part of the skyline; obscured from view within a block.
Although the structure has fallen far into disrepair, Green-Wood Cemetery bought the building for 1.6 million in 2012. The days of flowers are over, but the site is on track to be turned into a memorial museum for the dead across the street.
The other remaining greenhouse is the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, which was completed in 1901 and is part of the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.
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Manhattan may have name-brand recognition and Brooklyn a certain cachet, but Queens is the city’s largest and most diverse borough. Join us, May 17–20, to dig into Queens’ rich neighborhood life.