Yew Dell Gardens Visitor Center


Yew Dell Gardens Visitor Center in Crestwood, Kentucky stands on a nationally recognized center of gardening and sustainable horticulture. Visitors enjoy display gardens, educational programs, community events, and private events. It has received national accolades for its matchless grouping of structures and gardens.


The managing board at Yew Dell Botanical Gardens desired the restoration and enhancement of an existing tobacco barn, and a new greenhouse. Plans from the national award winning architect firm de Leon & Primer included a reception area, a gift shop, plant sale area, group tour meeting zone, internet sales office, and storage. The design and construction project was on a firm 5 month schedule. It required that the celebrated look of the tobacco barn’s exterior be preserved. New greenhouse construction included specifications for year round use for horticulture, and as a learning center.


Kiel Thomson Company helped engineer the project to a small budget. The shell of the existing tobacco barn created an independent shade structure for the new interior space to be built as a “building-within-a-building”. Keeping the barn’s existing bay doors, the new interior was built on one side of the structure, while the other side was designed as a multi-use area. When weather permits, the glass doors of the conditioned space are left open to merge both sides of the structure creating one open flowing space.

An important element of the structure is the use of natural and artificial light. Tempered glass walls may reflect sunlight, exterior views, and outer barn walls, bringing the surrounding land within. At night, the exterior planks of the barn allows interior light to filter through gaps creating a glowing effect.


The use of light-colored interior wood plank surfaces and modern materials satisfies Kentucky’s historic preservation guideline of contrasting new construction from the existing structure. Aside from minor framing stabilization, the original tobacco barn structure was unchanged. The new greenhouse incorporates geothermal radiant heat powered by solar panels and a vegetated green roof. The project was finished on time and at budget.

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Photos courtesy of de Leon and Primmer Architecture Workshop.