This year the Gettysburg Garden Club will celebrate its 60th anniversary. The Club’s 60-year history is an interesting sequence of events and contributions to this community. This article is the first in a series about our history. In April of 1960, the Gettysburg Times published a notice that there was going to be a meeting for those interested in organizing a garden club. The meeting was held on May 2, at the YWCA in the former Annie Danner House. Membership was open to men as well as women.
An organizational meeting was held in the following June where By-Laws were developed and dues set at $1.00 per year. The first Club officers were Mr. J. Leslie Bowling, President; VP, Mrs. Peggy Reynolds; Recording Secretary, Mrs. Fred Tilburg; Corresponding Secretary, Mrs. J. C. Donley; and Treasurer, Captain Frank Bruner. It is interesting that two of the first officers were men.
By July 196, there were some 30 members. Projects chosen by the Club included providing garden books for the Library, planting dahlias at the County Home, landscaping the front of the old Library on High Street (the former County Jail, and conducting a Christmas Greens Sale and a Spring Plant Sale.
In 1962, the Gettysburg Garden Club joined the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania (GCFP) having been sponsored by the already Federated Biglerville Garden Club who recently celebrated their 65th anniversary. Also in 1962, the Club held its first flower show at the Gettysburg National Bank.
In 1965, the Chamber of Commerce requested that the Club plant and maintain the flowerbeds in the center of Lincoln Square. Each year since then, the Gettysburg Garden Club has provided these flowers, both spring bulbs and summer annuals. Funds for the flowers come from the Club’s annual Christmas Greens and spring plant sales.
Starting around 1968 the Gettysburg Times featured articles written by Club members about horticulture. By 1970, Club membership had grown to 45 members. A 10th anniversary luncheon was held at a cost of $2.25 per member! Around 1972 the Club produced a cookbook. Unfortunately no copies can be located so if any reader has a copy, please contact the Club via our website: GettysburgGardenClub.com. We would like to archive a copy of the cookbook.
In 1973, the Club developed plans for landscaping around the Meade School that included planting two sugar maples. The Lincoln Square flower beds were planted with cannas and petunias, quite different plants than today. By the Club’s 15th anniversary, the Club was still planting at the Meade School and Lincoln Square now had geraniums. For Christmas that year, the Club sponsored a decorated door contest open to Gettysburg residents within a 3-mile radius of Lincoln Square.
Projects in the mid-1970’s included providing advice to the National Park Service for refurbishing plantings around the Cyclorama building and preparing a self-guided tour brochure of the trees in the National Cemetery. Other projects included a new garden at the Green Acres nursing home and planting trees adjacent at the Annie M. Warner Hospital (now Gettysburg Hospital) where members volunteered to care for patients’ flowers. The Lincoln Square flowerbeds were extended and completely redesigned. See photo of an early Lincoln Square, date unknown.
Later in the 1970’s, the Club established its first scholarship of $150.00 for local students studying horticulture or related subjects. Today, the Gettysburg Garden Club provides three $1500.00 scholarships from funds raised via the Club’s Christmas and spring plant sales. The Christmas door decorating contest continued with the Gettysburg Retail Merchants providing a $50 gift certificate to the grand prizewinner and also paying for the contest’s advertising. Starting in 1979, the Club began a “Yard of the Month” award to recognize local homeowners with outstanding gardens. Mamie Eisenhower accepted an honorary Club membership. Following her death in 1979, the Club planted a pink garden in her honor at the Eisenhower Farm. The Christmas door decorating contest continued and expanded to a 5-mile radius with Gettysburg Retail Merchants and the Club awarding six prizes. Club membership reached 73 with a limit of 80.
This trip down memory lane takes us to 1980, the Club’s 20th year. We hope you enjoy reading about our Club and its various activities in this community. Subsequent articles will cover later years.