a group of children and adults, seen from behind as they walk across Black Pond's bridge

The Leslie Legacy

Our Mission

Leslie Science & Nature Center is a nonprofit organization that provides environmental education and experiences for children, families, and other individuals to honor and perpetuate the legacy of Dr. and Mrs. Eugene Leslie by fostering understanding, appreciation, stewardship, and respect for the natural world. Download our brochure to learn more.

Our History: The Leslie Legacy

The Leslie Family
From 1923 through 1976, Dr. Eugene and Emily Leslie lived in a home surrounded by fields, prairie, and woods that had views of the City of Ann Arbor. Dr. Leslie was active in the field of chemical engineering and was a professor at the University of Michigan. The Leslie property was the headquarters for much of his pioneering work that developed new technologies, such as no-knock gasoline. Additionally, he and his wife Emily planted fruit trees and sold apples, peaches, cherries and raspberries. They raised Hereford cattle, hogs, and the feed to supply the animals. They built additional buildings on the site - the honey house (now the Critter House), the spray house, and the farm cottage (now the caretaker's cottage).

Emily Leslie was enthusiastically involved in community projects. She was active in the Ann Arbor Garden Club and the National Farm and Garden Association.

Click here to read the illustrated history of the Leslies and the evolution of LSNC.

The Enduring Gift
The Leslies enjoyed having neighborhood children play on their land. The Leslies wanted to preserve their land for children and decided to deed their property to the City of Ann Arbor with a request that it be used for children. Emily and Eugene Leslie died within a few months of each other in 1976. Upon their death, the land and buildings were passed on to all of the citizens — especially the children — of Ann Arbor. With this gift, the City established Leslie Science Center in order to provide children with an opportunity to explore the rich natural resources around them. Today, the Leslie legacy is extended through the generous gifts of caring individuals who share this vision. Your donation will help sustain Leslie Science & Nature Center for generations to come. 

A Vision Takes Shape
In 1986, the City of Ann Arbor developed a Master Plan to reinforce the educational value of the property and honor the legacy of Dr. and Mrs. Leslie. This plan developed into educational programs that became very popular. These programs took place in Dr. and Mrs. Leslie's house (the Leslie House) and in their garage (now our office and our first Critter House), but the space quickly became inadequate. The Center needed a new building. A team of visionary architects, dedicated City staff, and committed citizens worked together to design a building that would meet this need. They worked to create a building that honors the past, the present, and the future of the Center. The DTE Energy Nature House was built in 2000 on the footprint of Dr. Leslie's original laboratory building, and serves as a guide and a reminder to live lightly on the land. The DTE Energy Nature House features photovoltaic arrays, composting toilets, a grey water planting bed, and recycled materials. At this time, the Honey House was renovated for our new and improved Critter House. These three indoor spaces serve as launching pads for our school groups and camps. With the Critter House now in its permanent home, we renovated the first critter house to provide space for public reception, office staff, and our store.

Sustaining the Vision as an Independent Nonprofit
In July 2007, Leslie Science Center separated from the City and became Leslie Science & Nature Center — an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. This allows you to receive a tax benefit for your contribution to LSNC. This transition provided the Center with the best governance structure for a sustainable future. The City continues to own and maintain the buildings and grounds.

As we look to the future, we're immensely grateful for the vision of the Leslies and the gift it has been to the thousands of children, families, and individuals who have come to play, learn, and explore the wild and wonderful landscape!