In late 1992, as the main house was being completed, conversations began to revolve around the building of a glass conservatory to house Dr. Robert Ayerst's (a life long family friend) bromeliad collection during the winter months and to act as a holding area to revitalize and grow the indoor plants for the city and country houses. For the next 18 months Dr. Ayerst and Dr. Briggs visited some of the great glass conservatories built along the eastern seaboard which included Longwood gardens, the Chrysler Conservatory, and the Long Vue Conservatory in New Orleans.
Slowly the size and character of what would later be called the "Ayerst Conservatory" evolved. After much research, Texas Greenhouse in Dallas, TX was commissioned to build the conservatory. In early July of 1994 the conservatory was shipped, via individual pieces, by rail to Hammond, LA. From Hammond, the pieces were shipped by an 18-wheeler truck to Hilltop. When the glass and steel pieces arrived at Hilltop, the cement and old brick base of the conservatory had been completed. For the next two months, an engineer (Jim Scoggin) from NASA, whose hobby was constructing conservatories, slowly pieced together the glass and steel puzzle.
he conservatory and its two surrounding gardens, the main garden and the prayer garden, were dedicated in October of 1994. To this day, a large brass plaque reading "Ayerst Conservatory" can be found hanging in the conservatory.
Planning for a marvelous and large addition to the Ayerst Conservatory was begun in late 2000. Work began in 2001 with the new conservatory once again being constructed by Texas Greenhouse and being shipped to Hilltop. Slowly the new conservatory was erected like a giant glass, aluminum, and steel puzzle. This marvelous addition (Phase II) of the Ayerst Conservatory was designed to fit into and completely occupy the original prayer garden.
After months of construction, the original and new Ayerst Conservatory were seamlessly married together by a domed breezeway. The expanded conservatory now contains over 1000 square feet under glass. While the original conservatory will be temperature controlled and have tropical plant exhibits, the larger addition will contain tropical and semitropical vegetation, accompanied by seasonal blooming foliage. Construction was completed in the fall of 2001.