I love Como Park. That’s why I tried to write a novel about it. One of it’s most captivating qualities is its sense of history. One of the park’s earliest features, the floral sculpture Gates Ajar, goes back to 1894 and is still around today.
At the time it was a new form of display heavy on flowers and bordering on kitsch. The gated stairway was sculpted from wood and wire frames, covered in carpet bedding and then packed with moss and mud. Flowers were then planted, resulting in eye-popping blooms of intricate designs. The actual iron gates were added during the 1930s. Como Park’s Gardener Blog has details and pictures showing how the Gates Ajar are planted today.
Originally located 150 feet east of the Schiller Monument, today the Gates Ajar can be found off Lexington Avenue to the west of the Lakeside Pavilion. The gates were also temporarily located near the Conservatory for a brief period. In 1951 the gates were rebuilt to four times their original size and moved to the current location.
Gates Ajar was the first floral sculpture experiment from park superintendent Frederick Nussbaumer. Those floral sculptures continued in 1895 with a life-size elephant perched on an island in the former Cozy Lake (drained in the 1920s and site of the current golf course), a floral fort complete with cannons and an eagle in 1896 and a standard globe sometime later.
But the Gates Ajar outlasted them all and is one of the earliest features of Como Park that still exists today. The Minnesota Historical Society has a few pictures of Gates Ajar from over the years. Refurbished in 2007, the Gates Ajar continue to be a popular location for pictures.