Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens receives $10M endowment

Staff Report2015 0827 Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens Beneficiary of $10 Million Endowment

Albert and Nancy Nicholas have established a $10 million endowment, thanks to the Nicholas Family Foundation. The endowment will allow Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, 1354 N. 2nd St., to expand exhibit offerings and aid in the continued transformation of the Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens grounds, which act as a continued catalyst for riverfront development. “The Rockford Park District is very appreciative and honored to receive this endowment; funding will support expanded programming, bring new and world-renowned exhibits to Rockford, and make sure the facility, inside and out, is being maintained at the highest level possible, so generation after generation has a special place to enjoy,” said Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens Facility Manager Kelly Moore.

In addition to the endowment, Albert and Nancy gifted $250,000 in 2015 that allowed Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens to complete necessary projects before the endowment funds become available. In 2016, Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens will begin to receive the annual earnings from the established endowment. The distribution of funds will provide support for enhanced programming, maintenance and horticulture projects, both inside Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, and on the campus that is maintained by the Rockford Park District. The endowment is in addition to the Conservatory’s operational budget, which funds daily operational costs including general maintenance, programming, staff and operations of the Conservatory. “The District is committed to being good stewards of public funds, which support not only daily operations at the Conservatory, but every area of operation at the Rockford Park District. We are very grateful for the community’s continued confidence in this tropical treasure, and are thankful for the generosity of Ab and Nancy Nicholas, along with the many donors and partners over the years,” says Executive Director Tim Dimke.

William and Ruby Nicholas met, married, and raised their family in Rockford. Like many families growing up in Rockford in the 1940s and 1950s, the three Nicholas brothers, Bill, Dan and Ab, spent much of their time outdoors enjoying Sinnissippi Park and the Rock River. The Nicholas brothers envisioned Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens as a gathering place for our community and a catalyst for future river development. Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens is named after the Nicholas family, who in March 2006, announced their donation of $2,150,000 toward the Conservatory project in honor of their parents, William and Ruby Nicholas. “Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens is a dream come true for our entire family, and should remind us all of our proud past as well as a bright future,” says Ab Nicholas, son of William and Ruby Nicholas.

Situated along the banks of the beautiful Rock River in Sinnissippi Gardens, Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens brings the tropics to the Midwest. The entire facility is the third largest conservatory in Illinois, with a total of 22,000 square feet, and at the highest point stands 52 feet. A tropical setting includes an 11,000-square-foot plant exhibition area complete with water features, seating areas and sculptures. Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certified, meaning the facility highlights a variety of green design features including a green roof, a “living retaining wall,” bioswales and rain garden features.

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