Green Bay Botanical Garden stimulates an appreciation for and an understanding of the world of horticulture and the enduring relationships between plants and people. Through our volunteers and staff, we serve people of all ages by providing year-round educational and recreational experiences within an environment that enriches, inspires and refreshes.
Research into the history of the property Green Bay Botanical Garden (GBBG) is developed on reveals a rich horticultural past. The Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) property, or as it is commonly known, "the old Larsen orchard", was originally part of a vast acreage owned by the William Larsen family of Green Bay. This acreage lay within the Town of Hobart, on what was once Oneida Indian Reservation Land. According to a 1951 edition of “The Wisconsin Magazine”, William Larsen founded a wholesale fruit and vegetable business in 1882 and marketed the produce in the surrounding Green Bay area. In 1880, Larsen expanded his business into a canning operation and founded what we know today as Agrilink Foods. Vegetables processed by the company were grown on its own farms, which by that time comprised almost 3,000 acres. The Brown County register of deed office reveals that the 65-acre GBBG site was acquired by Larsen, parcel by parcel, in the early part of the 20th century (the earliest plots were bought in 1909, the latest in 1915).
According to James Wagner, former treasurer of the Larsen Co. (now Agrilink Foods), apples from this orchard were canned into applesauce by the company during WWII. Apples were also sold at the company apple store, located near Larsen Co. on North Broadway. Later, the orchard became a pick-your-own operation, which was in business until the property began to be sold off.
After years of horticultural use, the property entered a transitional stage. In 1969, NWTC bought a 198-acre property, including the Larsen orchard on which the school was built. The orchard property was upgraded in the late 1970’s to encourage passive recreational use by the general public. Under the direction of NWTC, the US Army Corps of Engineers built a wetlands walkway and a lookout tower, established cross-country ski trails and constructed the drainage system that resulted in the creation of the pond. The orchard site became a place for the general public to ski, hike, walk, startle a browsing deer, photograph a wildflower and to enjoy seasonal changes.