A brief history of the Vanderbilt Garden Club for Campus Beautification comes from a welcome and introduction by then president Ida Long Rogers on the occasion of a meeting hosted by Mrs. Constance Gee at the Chancellor’s residence Braeburn on May 6, 2002:
Back in 1927 Mary Henderson Kirkland, wife of the then Chancellor called together a small group of faculty wives and wives of members of the Board of Trust and asked their help with the beautification of the campus. What developed was a loosely knit group who literally did do the ground work. It was not until 1935 that a formal charter was drawn up and the Vanderbilt Garden Club became a reality. The charter limited the membership to 25, by invitation only, with annual dues set at $1.00.
Times have changed and over the years there was discussion of the importance of not losing sight of the history of those early days.
A history became a reality in The Real Dirt: A History of the Vanderbilt Garden Club for Campus Beautification, compiled and edited by Sharon Hogge and members of the Vanderbilt Garden Club and published in 1998.
The VGC has traditionally communicated with the Chancellors about the ongoing work of the club, and the Chancellors in turn have supported in different ways the club’s work.
The Vanderbilt Garden Club has taken on a number of important projects to beautify
the campus over the years. The Iris Project of the late 1990's was one
of them, identifying, purchasing, and planting old varieties of irises
The Iris Project was of especial interest because of the number of people associated with Vanderbilt and Peabody who achieved important recognition and distinction for their growing and hybridization of irises. This list includes Clarence Connell (Dauntless, 1929); T. Alibone Washington and Mary Geddes Stahlman (Mary Geddes, 1931); Chancellor James Kirkland ( Copper Lustre and Junaluska, 1934); Jesse Wills, (Chivalry, 1944; Natchez Trace, 1964; Starshine, Rose Garland, Russet Wings, Glacier Gold ). Roy Appleton, L. C. Glenn, Ruth Hall, Bruce Payne, Mrs. James Reed, and Hilda Willems, also iris growers of note, made important contributions to the plantings for the Vanderbilt and Peabody campuses.
Many of the magnolia trees that encircle the campus were grown from seed propagated and planted under the direction of Jack Lynn who worked for 27 years for the Building and Grounds Department . It was Margaret Branscomb (1896-1992 ), a long time VGC member and wife of Chancellor Harvie Branscomb, who put forward this idea of the circle of magnolias during her time as President of the VGC in 1954. Other trees were grown in nurseries and were gifts from individuals. These magnolias, which were planted in the late 1950’s, have reached maturity and stand as one of the most significant accomplishments of the Vanderbilt Garden Club and certainly as Margaret Branscomb’s and Jack Lynn’s enduring gift to Vanderbilt University.
The records of this organization reflect the planning and work of the club’s members over the nearly eight decades of the existence of the Vanderbilt Garden Club. Founded in 1927, the VGC was an active organization for the beautification of the Vanderbilt Campus until the fall of 2006, when the decision was made to disband, as the work of the club is now being done by professional landscaping crews.
Scope and Content Note
This collection of 2.5 linear feet comprising six boxes contains all materials and records that have been generated and kept by the Vanderbilt Garden Club and includes history essays, minutes, photographs, audio tapes of meetings, programs, a scrapbook, and other items.
Overview | Box Listing | Complete Finding Aid (pdf)
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Last modified: April 10, 2008
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