A Brief History of the Bar Harbor Garden Club
…From 1934 to 2009
During the year 2009 the one hundred and five members of the Bar Harbor Garden Club (The Club) proudly commemorated their Seventy Fifth Anniversary. A Garden Tour of nine Grand and Gracious Seaside Gardens was held on July 19th. On the tour were two gardens designed by Beatrix Farrand and a historic house which is on the National Register of Historic Places. On September 13th an Anniversary Tea was held at the home of Janet and Steen Meryweather. This event was organized by Betty Crawford, Lindy Stretch, and Michaeleen Ward. For this festive occasion, many members wore hats.
The Club makes contributions of time, expert gardening skills, and financial support to the Wild Gardens of Acadia, the Beatrix Farrand Garden at Garland Farm, the Charlotte Rhoades Butterfly Garden, the Mount Desert Land and Garden Preserve (the Asticou Azalea Garden and the Thuya Garden), and the Mount Desert Island Historical Society garden in Somesville. The Club also supports scholarships and school programs for young people on Mount Desert Island (MDI) and contributes to the Student Conservation Association. The Club is a member of the National Garden Clubs, Inc. and the Garden Club Federatlion of Maine and participate in their programs for youth including the Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl poetry contests. Birch Bay Village enjoys a tree The Club planted at their entrance in 2006 and our members provide plants for their Memory Garden. The Blue Star Marker in honor of Captain Ernest Joy was restored and rededicated in 2006. Books in memory of deceased members are donated to the Jesup Library and plantings are provided for the Library landscaping. The Club contributed to the Northeast Harbor Library’s Garden Room, which contains a collection of books and materials on the subject of horticulture. At the February meeting The Club makes and distributes tray favors for nursing homes. The Saint Croix District established a state wide scholarship for college students in memory of Nell Goff, a cherished president of The Club, and the scholarship is administered by a member of The Club. The Inge Webber Scholarship for high school students on MDI was established and is maintained by The Club in memory of another cherished president. A July 4th Pie Sale at The Ball Field in Bar Harbor has long been a fundraiser for the club. The pie sale was supplemented in 2009 by the garden tour.
The Club meets the second Thursday of the month from September through May. Meetings are open to everyone and details of each meeting are posted in The Bar Harbor Times and The Islander, and The Ellsworth American. One may also consult the website barharborgardenclub.org.
In 1934 the club was organized with a small group of men and women meeting for the first time at the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). They elected Mrs. Maurice Lymburner, President and Mr. Charles Miller, First Vice President. Mr. Miller succeeded Mrs. Lymburner in 1936 and Mr. Lyman Jacobson followed him in 1937. Mrs. Charles Little presided in 1938 when The Club was addressed by Mr. William Robinson who spoke about the plants on the National Conservation Committee list of endangered species. A vote was taken then to sponsor a campaign for the protection of wild flowers and shrubs on MDI and plans were made to save some of the rare and endangered flower species. After a few years the Club moved its meetings to the Bar Harbor Congregational Church where the meetings continue to be held. According to the history written for the 50th Anniversary, attendance at early meetings ranged from “so few we had to cancel the meeting to fifty or more”.
The Club joined the GCFM at the December meeting, 1940. Mrs. Beatrix Farrand gave an instructive talk about Reef Point, her Bar Harbor House, at a special meeting in 1941. She became an honorary member in 1945 to commemorate her effort in “doing so much to make Bar Harbor garden conscious.” In 1942, the United States had entered World War II and members’ attention turned to planting victory gardens. The Club planted a Victory Garden and distributed Christmas wreaths to Camp Lee Stephenson at Eastport and to the Bar Harbor Naval Base. At that time meetings were held in member’s houses and horticultural articles and plant slips were exchanged. The Club printed its first Year Book in 1945 and adopted Lupine as The Club flower. In September, 1945, the Club made plans for a flower and vegetable show to be held at the YWCA.
The Saint Croix District did not meet during the war, but held its first post war Conference in October, 1945 at the YWCA in Bar Harbor. The Bar Harbor Club hosted the meeting. Mr. Benjamen Hadley, Acadia National Park Superintendent, presented a talk on the history of MDI and the efforts of George Dorr in acquiring land for the Park. The June 1946 Annual Convention of the GCFM was held at the Belmont Hotel in Bar Harbor. The Club participated in the 1949 GCFM planting of the Lilac Memorial Hedge at the Veteran’s cemetery at Togus, the Vererans Hospital in Augusta. At the November 1949 meeting Beatrix Farrand recounted the planting of elms and Norway maples in Bar Harbor by her mother, Mrs. Jones, and Mrs. Charles Hazen Dorr.
At the December 1950 meeting it was noted that “during the roll call a fine of 22 cents was accepted from members who failed to reply with a Christmas verse or prose as provided on the printed programs.” A reference appears in the 1960 records to a club song to be followed by the Gardeners’ Collect and to a fine of sixty cents for failure to respond to the roll call. In that year The Club planted flower beds on the village green in Bar Harbor and on the islands at the corners of Eden and Mt. Desert and Eden and West Street. A wild flower growing competition began in 1960 and Harold Hubler, the superintendent of Acadia National Park, designated a space for the project and helped to landscape it. The Park Service helped with paths, labels, and hauling rock so the mountain habitat might be more authentic in an otherwise rock-less site. The Club realized their dream begun in 1938 when in the fall of 1961 the Wild Gardens of Acadia were established. The Kellogg Medal for Civic Achievement was awarded to the Club in 1977 by the National Council of State Garden Clubs, and the Homer Lucas Landscape Award was given to the Club in 1998 for its dedication to the Wild Gardens of Acadia.
The Club’s first standard flower show, “Acadia Vacation”, took place in 1983 to celebrate the Fiftieth Anniversary with Jane Haraden and Janet Meryweather as co-chairmen, and a commemorative tea was held that year on September 13th. In collaboration with the MDI Historical Society The Club planted an heirloom garden at the museum in Somesville in 2004 and continues to help maintain the garden. The Club hosted the GCFM Annual Meeting held in June, 2006. At that time the GCFM celebrated its Seventy Fifth Anniversary. The meeting, organized by Betty Crawford, was attended by over four hundred people and was the largest meeting ever held by the GCFM. The featured speakers were Martha Stewart, Television celebrity, and Patrick Chasse, noted Landscape Architect.
With the help of the Club archives and friends this history has been compiled by Betty Crawford, Richard Crawford, and Janet Meryweather. —December 2009
A list of the charter members of the Bar Harbor Garden Club, dated January 1934 follows for your information:
Mrs. Gerard Alley, Mrs. John Ash, Miss Maude Blanchfield, Miss Eileen Burnett, Mrs. Prescott Cleaves, Mr. Fred Copp, Mrs. Fred Copp, Mrs. Guy Farrar, Mrs. Maude Furness, Mrs. Percy Kelly, Miss Louise Leland, Mrs. Morrice F. Lymburner, Mr. Morrice F. Lymburner, Miss Beatrice McAvoy, Mrs. Arthur MacQuinn, Mr. Charles Miller, Miss Jane Miller, Miss Phyllis Miller, Mrs. J. Alden Morse, Mr. John Nichels, Mrs. Charles Parker, Mrs. Lena Potter, Mrs. David Rodick, Mrs. Serenus Rodick, Mrs. Thomas Searles, Mr. Thomas Searles, Miss Helen Sherman, Mrs. Erick Soderholtz, Mr. Erick Soderholtz, Miss Alberta T. Thomas.