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A Blast from the Past

Below is an article I wrote back in October of 2017. Last week I was walking around what is left of Behnke Nurseries in Beltsville. One thing that is still standing is this old boiler that my grandfather, Albert Behnke, had installed back in 1963. I have always found it so interesting how people got things done. Watching the men in this film get that monster of a boiler in place shows just what went into Behnke’s buildings. The fact that it is still there because it shows just how big it is. I know the time will come, and it, along with the rest of the tumbling down greenhouses, will be taken away. I love that it still stands today. And while everything to allow it to work has been disconnected, I am pretty sure the old girl would crank right back up if it were still hooked up. “Built to last” is what Albert Behnke would have said. He had no time for equipment that did not last. I hope you enjoy this look into the past as much as I have. Plus, remember Winter is coming, and it might be time to have your furnaces and heat pumps checked like we did every October.


The other day as I was walking around the nursery, the sliding door to our boiler room was open and I peaked in. With the cold weather approaching, I know that attention will be paid to these old boilers to keep our greenhouses warm. I stepped in and was flooded with memories of playing in there as a child. There is an old stair case that leads up to a small storage area that now is empty. The hours I would hide up there and play went through my mind. I walked up and looked down at those two big monsters that roar and rumble when they are on. I used to think they were going to come alive.

I thought I would share a home movie on how my grandfather Albert Behnke actually got these babies inside this boiler room. It is about 8 minutes long. The first few minutes show the installation of the 1st boiler in 1956 and the end of the movie was shot in 1963 featuring the second boiler. Obviously, they were built to last!

My Uncle Albert put the two old movies together from a bunch of old clips.  Check out the tie that one of the workers was wearing while moving this beast. So many faces from the past. I see the Marcus brothers who worked for us for years and then there are Ira and Leo who helped make Behnke’s what it is today.  I know this short clip might not be for everyone but anyone out there who worked for us knows about these boilers, and by just looking at them, you know that moving them must have been hard. I just bet they did not know just how hard it actually was. Enjoy!

by Stephanie Fleming, Behnke’s Vice President

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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