Owner: Program of the Nelda C.
and H. J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, a non-profit organization
2111 West Park Avenue
Orange, Texas 77630
Phone Number: 409-670-9113
Days and Times of Operation:
March through October: Tuesday - Friday 9:00am - 5:00pm Saturday 9:00 am to 7:00pm Sunday Noon - 5:00pm
November through February: Tuesday - Friday 10:00 - 5:00pm Saturday 10:00 - 5:00pm Sunday Noon - 5:00pm
Since the publication of the book Lost Horizon in 1933, the term "Shangri La" has represented a place of beauty, peace and enlightenment. In Orange, Texas, a modern Shangri La has been recreated with the best of both nature and gardens. Nestled within 252 acres in the heart of Orange, Texas, Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center is a program of the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, a private foundation whose mission is to improve and enrich the quality of life in Southeast Texas and encourage and assist education. The unique ecosystem of Shangri La presents an ideal opportunity to further that mission as well as carry on the vision of H.J Lutcher Stark, the man who originally developed it more than 60 years ago.
The formal Botanical Gardens contain more than 300 plant species in five formal "rooms" as well as four sculpture "rooms." Adjacent to the Botanical Gardens is a bird blind which allows visitors to observe nesting birds in Shangri La's heronry.
The Nature Center includes a hands-on exhibit called the Nature Discovery Center, a laboratory, and three outdoor classrooms located deep in the cypress swamp.
The Orientation Center includes an Exhibit Hall, Discovery Theater, Children's Garden, Exhibition Greenhouses, Café, and Garden Store.
The history of Shangri La began with H.J. Lutcher Stark, a prominent philanthropist who resided in Orange, Texas. Inspired by the mystical retreat represented in the book Lost Horizon, Stark sought to create his own haven of indescribable beauty where time would stand still. His vision became a reality in 1937 when he began creating Shangri-La Botanical Gardens within significant acreage owned by him along Adams Bayou in his hometown of Orange, Texas. Nine years of planning and construction followed, with Stark overseeing every detail.
The gardens included a cypress/tupelo swamp and breathtaking azaleas, Stark's personal favorite. There was also no shortage of wildlife, with swans, ducks, egrets, otters, rabbits, and more. In 1946, H.J. Lutcher Stark opened his private oasis to the public. Word of its beauty spread throughout the country, and by 1950 thousands of visitors were traveling to Orange to experience Shangri-La's wonder. The secluded utopia quickly became a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.