32 Books in 32 Days – Day 21: Jewel of Como

Each day leading up to the April 17 announcement of the 22nd Annual Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today, we feature

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Minnesota Finalist,
Jewel of Como: The Marjorie McNeely Conservator
Leigh Roethke and Bonnie Blodgett
AFTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY PRESS

An excerpt from Jewel of Como: The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory:

Jewel of Como is a fascinating story—from the first purchase of land in 1873 by the City of St. Paul and its early development, to the completion of the conservatory in 1915, its close call with ruin, and its just-in-time rescues. A place for contemplation, relaxation, inspiration, and enjoyment of nature’s beauty, the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory is also a wonderful example of public and private partnership. Most recently, this collaboration culminated in a generous gift from the late Don McNeely that honored his wife, Marjorie, and provide for the glorious, present-day renovation of and additions to the conservatory.

Many kids today experience “nature deficit” as they spend much more time indoors with technology than they do outdoors. Here is a wonderful opportunity for young people to learn about and enjoy the world of plants! In the future, as society becomes more engrossed with technology, the conservatory and its counterparts worldwide will become ever more important to help us connect with the wonders of the natural world. – Leigh Roethke and Bonnie Blodgett

This beautiful and fascinating book commemorates the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park in St. Paul, Minnesota and the changes and additions it has undergone since its design in 1915. It also depicts the Conservatory’s major roles as both a sanctuary for plants and a show house for visitors to explore, and highlights the work of the donors and volunteers who have helped it endure.

Leigh Roethke is also the author of Minnesota’s Capitol: A Centennial Story and Latino Minnesota. She lives in Minneapolis and teaches art history at Saint Paul College.

Bonnie Blodgett lives in St. Paul and is a regular garden columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Midwest Home. She is also the editor and publisher of The Garden Letter: Green Thoughts for the Northern Gardener. She has written three books including a memoir on smell and Sunset Books’ Midwest Top Ten, a guide to gardening with perennials. She lives in St. Paul and has two children.

Reviews:

“This will be THE book on the Como Park conservatory.” – Minnesota Book Awards Judge

“It’s a lovely history, illustrated with contemporary color photographs as well as hand-tinted postcards and historical photos. It traces not just the beginning of the conservatory (opened in 1915) but of the park itself, which was established in 1873. As I read, I longed for a map that could show me the places no longer there—Willow Walk, Cozy Lake, Avenue of Palms, and, such fun!, Banana Walk. Still, even map-less, the book is informative and interesting, a reminder of the old days when Como Lake was named Sandy Lake and was surrounded not by bike paths and a golf course, but by a verdant field of potatoes.” – Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune

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Award winners will be announced at the 22nd Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 17, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, in downtown Saint Paul. The opening reception begins at 6:30 p.m.; followed by the awards ceremony at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40 and are available by clicking here or calling 651-222-3242.

Have you read Jewel of Como: The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory? What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!

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