Litchfield Garden Club records
Scope and Contents
The Litchfield Garden Club records document an association that has been actively involved in education and civic improvement efforts as well as local, regional and national conservation and environmental initiatives since the club was founded in Litchfield, Conn., in 1913. The collection consists of minutes, reports, correspondence, membership information, financial records, scrapbooks, photographs, newsletters, publicity materials, clippings, programs, yearbooks, awards, and other items. Of particular note are hand colored glass lantern slides created in 1915 as part of a Garden Clubs of America project to document member gardens for the Smithsonian Archives of American Gardens. Litchfield's club presented the Smithsonian with a copy, keeping the master slides in town.
The Litchfield Garden Club records are arranged in eight series.
Series 1. Administrative records (1913-2013) include documentation of the constitution and bylaws, policy handbooks, history of the Club, minutes and annual reports, membership, account books, committees, officers, yearbooks, correspondence and memoranda, records of individual members, and other members.
The single best general source for information about the Club and its activities are the reports that were prepared for the annual meeting. Sometimes, these reports were filed within the minutes for the annual meeting and in other cases the reports were filed individually. Even if the reports are filed separately, a researcher should always check the minutes for the meeting to see if there are additional reports.
Series 2. Projects and activities (1923-2013) includes records related to the Club's projects and activities, except for flower shows, will be found in this series arranged chronologically. These records relate to the Club's extensive educational, environmental, and civic improvement efforts detailed in the Club's history found in this finding aid. Documents and reports, such as the Action Plan for Litchfield and the Treescape project are found here, along with documentation related to the many speakers and symposia offered. The Club's newsletter, The Compost File, is also found in this series.
Series 3. Flower shows (1932-2009) include records related to the Club's many shows and include programs and posters, invitations, awards, entry categories, and logistical details.
Series 4. Awards and honors (1932-2017) includes awards and honors received by the Club and individuals, Club submissions for awards, and Club awards and citations to members and others. Documentation also includes files maintained by the Awards Committee, 1995-2012.
Series 5. Scrapbooks (1965-2007) are an excellent source of documentation about the club and its activities and cover the mid-1960s-2000s. A variety of materials are found in the scrapbooks, including newspaper and publicity clippings, photographs, awards, and event posters.
Series 6. Photographs (1915-2013) includes glass lantern slides, photographs and negatives, slides, and digital files. They are arranged chronolocially and document flower shows, members' homes and gardens, annual meetings, special events, and other topics.
Series 7. Audiovisual and digital media (1998-2013) includes video, audio, and computer files.
Series 8. Publicity (1932-2021) includes primarily loose newspaper clippings and magazine articles.
- Litchfield Garden Club (Organization)
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.
Biographical / Historical
On September 9, 1913, the initial meeting of the Litchfield Garden Club was held at the Lindens on North Street, home of the Misses Edith and Alice Kingsbury. Nine Litchfield women were present. Three others were interested, but were unable to attend.Mrs. Samuel Gage led the meeting. Her sister spoke about how to form a garden club and also reported on a new national organization, The Garden Club of America. The ladies decided that day to form the Litchfield Garden Club.The first officers were Mrs. Gage, president; Mrs. Charles Curtis, vice president; Mrs. Henry Monroe, treasurer; and Miss Alice Kingsbury, secretary. The Executive Committee consisted of the four officers and meetings were held on Tuesdays every other week from May to October. Each member was to select a plant or plants for study and outside speakers would be invited to speak at meetings.
In June 1914, the Club voted to increase the membership of the club to 15 members. In the following months, membership rose to 25; honorary members were appointed; and the Club held its first fundraiser, collecting $250 at a Red Cross sale. The members learned about horticulture and gardening and accomplished their first civic project in 1915 in conjunction with the Village Improvement Society: $10 was spent for plantings at the Litchfield train station. In June 1915, Mrs. Gage affiliated the Litchfield Garden Club with The Garden Club of America, paying the first year’s club dues herself. During a meeting held on July 9, 1916, the members were asked to state whether they wished to accept luncheon invitations and become a social club or remain an active working organization. A vote was in favor of remaining an active working club. A constitution and bylaws were written and distributed. In 1937, the Club joined the Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut, a state organization under the aegis of what is now called National Garden Clubs, Inc. In 1966, the Club adopted a year-round schedule.
Throughout its history, the Litchfield Garden Club has been active in a range of projects. In 1915, the Club sponsored its first flower show in conjunction with the Litchfield Grange. In 1917, the Club became involved in war relief efforts. An official committee formed, The Garden Club Auxiliary to the Farm Bureau, cooperating in efforts to raise vegetables. Flower shows became yearly events and in 1919, the Club purchased the Lawn Club, renaming it The Playhouse, to be used by Litchfield as a permanent place of amusement in the village. By 1920, the Club was offering scholarship aid to students attending an agricultural school. In the 1920s and 1930s, activities included school gardens, plantings at the railroad station and library, the wild flower garden at the White Memorial Foundation, tree plantings, and the placement of wild flower posters in Litchfield and Torrington movie houses. In 1947, a flower show was held at the Tapping Reeve House where garden flowers and wildflowers were arranged in the 18th century manner. In 1955, plantings were done at the Oliver Wolcott Library, the Historical Society, and on traffic islands and books were donated to the Library, a practice that continues today. In 1957, the Club started its Civic Fund and raised $800 with a Kitchen Tour and Christmas Sale, the proceeds going for planting at the new Litchfield High School. By 1958, members were doing weekly flower arranging at the library and planting town window boxes. Priscilla Liggett and Eileen Greene FitzHugh studied trees for planting on North and South Streets and began the effort to get Litchfield designated as a Historic District, which was accomplished in 1959. Over the years, maples, birch, shadblow had been planted, and in 1960 the original 13 sycamores were replaced on North and South Streets. As elm trees succumbed to Dutch elm disease, the Club planted new elms.
In the 1970s, the Club hired Visions, Inc. to develop a plan to restore the Litchfield town green. In 1975, the Club held its first house tour. In the 1980s, a club sweepstakes was established in horticulture and design and projects included landscaping at the Court House, planting daffodils with Connecticut Junior Republic boys and Brownies, a Middle School Outreach Program, installing benches and lighting for the green, planting trees at Center School and the Bantam Borough Hall, and planting trees and installing fencing at Community Field. In the 1990s, the Club began implementation of the Visions, Inc. plan. A tree inventory was taken and the Treescape Plan was born. A butterfly garden was designed and planted at the White Memorial Foundation. The America the Beautiful Foundation awarded the club a grant in recognition of the its community work. The Club continues to sponsor White Memorial Foundation classes and The Garden Club of America and Federated Scholarships.
Timeline of Projects and Programs of the Litchfield Garden Club, 1913-2011
- The Litchfield Garden Club is founded
- The LGC joins the Village Improvement Society in planting trees and shrubs at the railroad station at the foot of West Street
- The LGC provided books and periodicals for the local public library on gardening, botany, environmental and conservation topics
- The LGC established a Committee on the Preservation of Wildflowers, its first conservation effort
- The LGC led the efforts to produce and can local foods during WWI, providing scholarships to train women to teach canning and volunteering at the local canning center
- The LGC helped raise public awareness of the need for local tree preservation with a public meeting
- The LGC helped Litchfield school children plant gardens
- Alain C. White and his sister May White leased 150 acres of Land to be developed by the LGC as a “Wild Garden” for the LGC to use in the preservation of native trees, shrubs and flowers
- LGC established an annual Arbor Day planting of tree with school children
- The LGC conducted a successful campaign against local roadside billboard advertising
- The LGC provided Litchfield schools with nature films, books on conservation and prizes for students’ essays on nature topics
- The LGC established a “Civic Fund”
- The LGC gave local public school teachers scholarships to the Summer Conservation Workshops at Storrs to train to teach conservation in the schools
- The LGC began annual project to plant the watering troughs on the West Green and at the head of North Street
- The LGC landscaped and planted the 4 traffic islands in the Town
- The LGC joined with the White Memorial Foundation to have Gordon Loery, their new full-time conservation director, give a course of classes on conservation to Litchfield 6th Graders
- The LGC increased the funding to add a day’s “Outdoor Class” to the 6th Grade Conservation Course
- The LGC replaced 12 of the 13 sycamore trees originally planted on North and South Streets by Oliver Wolcott, Jr.
- LGC members Graham and Deborah Thompson spearheaded the founding of the Litchfield Land Trust, which was incorporated in 1968
- The LGC joined in the fight in Hartford to get the Connecticut highway department to remove some of the 68 road signs within a radius of 250 feet in the center of Town
- Member Hildegard Plehn, working with the LGC, convinced the town to establish the Litchfield Conservation Commission and served as its Chairman
- Hildegard Plehn renewed the LGC’s focus on local conservation and environmental efforts
- The LGC replanted numerous trees to replace the dying elm trees in the Borough
- The LGC funded the White Memorial Foundation’s Bird Sanctuary at the new Nature Museum
- LGC member Doris Hamlin headed the first local celebration of Earth Day with an “Eco Action Parade” and school programs
- The LGC planted 10 sycamore trees on North and South Streets
- Under the leadership of Doris Hamlin, the LGC opened the 1st Litchfield recycling facility on Goshen Road and members served as volunteer recyclers
- LGC members Hildegard Plehn and Doris Hamlin convinced the town to establish an Inland Wetlands Commission on which they both served
- LGC provided plantings at Wells Run, Litchfield’s elderly housing project
- The LGC led Litchfield officials to establish the Litchfield Civic Beautification Commission
- The LGC funded an “Action Plan for the Litchfield Green”
- The LGC Conservation Committee produced the map of “Litchfield’s Ring of Green,” showing conserved land in the town
- A LGC study found 89 elm trees in the borough in need of removal because of disease
- The LGC held a public panel discussion on “Conserving CT,” with members of the Connecticut Conservation Committee
- The LGC provided the permanent foundation and brick terrace for the new “Visitors’ Center” on the green
- The LGC initiated an annual program to help Litchfield 4th grade students plant paperwhite bulbs for forcing
- The LGC held a public meeting on “An Overview: The Citizens’ Advisory Committee on the Town Plan for the Litchfield Green”
- The LGC joined with the Nature Conservancy of Connecticut to do the “Bantam River Watershed Project,” producing an exhibition and “water map”
- The LGC donated benches to the green
- The LGC led Litchfield in an examination of solid waste management at a public meeting
- The LGC held an open meeting titled “Easements: A Conservation Tool”
- The LGC sponsored Litchfield’s first hazardous waste collection day, holding a panel discussion for the public
- The LGC held an open meeting titled “Conservation in the 1990s"
- The LGC provided plantings in front of the Litchfield County Court House
- The WMF contributed trees that the LGC helped students at Center School plant on Arbor Day
- The LGC provided a beach tree for the new Bantam Borough Hall
- The LGC paid to bury electric wires on the green and erect new, reproduction period lamp posts
- The tenth year of the LGC program to plant bulbs for forcing with Litchfield 4th graders
- The Town of Litchfield opens the permanent recycling center on Little Pitch Road
- The LGC funded a comprehensive master plan and launched “Treescape for Litchfield,” a project to plant trees on the traffic corridors leading into town
- The LGC held the 25th anniversary of Earth Week, with programs in the schools and a presentation on the green
- The LGC updated and remapped “Litchfield’s Ring of Green,” which showed progress in land preservation since 1978
- The LGC awarded an America the Beautiful grant to plant trees on state property as part of the Treescape project
- The LGC initiated a town tree inventory project
- The LGC held a tree identification and measurement workshop on the green
- The LGC funded and planted the butterfly garden at the White Memorial Center and mounted an award winning exhibition titled “CT Butterflies”
- The LGC helped Habitat for Humanity with plantings at the new affordable housing on Gallows Lane
- The LGC held an all day symposium “Give Them an Inch and They’ll Pave a Mile” on highway planning
- The LGC presented a Greenways symposium “Byways to Roadways = Highways” with an update on the work of the Garden Club of America’s National Affairs and Legislation Committee
- “Project 2000” to plant trees along the Route 202 entry to Litchfield announced by the LGC
- The LGC Conservation Committee produced an exhibit on invasive plants
- Jan Ohms gave 300 tulip bulbs to be planted by the LGC with Litchfield High School and Forman School students
- Members of the LGC helped Litchfield High School Environthon Team members to prepare for ninth national competition
- The LGC voted to take part in the town project for a new municipal parking lot behind the stores on West Street
- The LGC hosted a public meeting “Are You Ticked Off?” with Susan Perlotto, Connecticut Lyme disease coordinator, and produced an award-winning exhibit on Lyme disease prevention
- The LGC project to landscape and plant the new Municipal Parking Lot was completed
- The LGC won a national award for its exhibit, “Treescape for Litchfield”
- The LGC presented a public meeting with Gina McCarthy, Connecticut Dept. of Environmental Protection commissioner titled “The DEP and Litchfield”
- The LGC had an open panel discussion titled “Supporting the Future of Agriculture in Litchfield: Farming and the Community”
- The Butterfly Garden at the WMF was updated, replanted, and renamed the Pollinator Garden
- The LGC provided new plantings and a shade structure at Community Field
- The LGC contributed a bench to the Litchfield Area Business Association’s new sidewalk project on West Street
- The LGC celebrates its centennial
22 Linear Feet (46 archival boxes)
Language of Materials
The Litchfield Garden Club records are arranged in eight series.
Series 1. Administrative records (1913-2013) include the following sub-series: Constitution and bylaws, policy handbooks, history of the Club, minutes and annual reports, membership, account books, committees, officers, yearbooks, correspondence and memoranda, records of individual members, and other members.
Minutes are available for every year of the Club's existence, but the manner in which they were maintained varies. For most years, minutes were kept by the secretary, but for some years in the 1930s, the only record of club activities will be found in the president's notes. In some cases, the minutes were filed chronologically, while in other cases, they were filed in reverse chronological order. for some years, presidents had copies of minutes, which generally duplicate the secretary's minutes, although items unique to each run will occasionally be found. In more recent decade, minutes were kept together in groupings in binders. Original order has been maintained as much as possible.
Series 2. Projects and activities (1923-1923)
Arranged chronologically. The Club's newsletter, The Compost File, is also found in this series.
Series 3. Flower shows (1932-2009)
Series 4. Awards and honors (1932-2017)
Series 5. Scrapbooks (1965-2007)
Series 6. Photographs (1915-2013)
Arranged by format and then chronologically and includes the sub-series glass lantern slides, photographs and negatives, slides, and digital files.
Series 7. Audiovisual and digital media (1998-2013)
Series 8. Publicity (1932-2021)
Arranged chronologically by decade.
The Litchfield Garden Club records were placed on deposit with the Litchfield Historical Society in 1971. In 2010, this deposit was converted to a gift (2010-33-0).
Source of Acquisition
Litchfield Garden Club
Method of Acquisition
2021-50-0, 1 lin. ft. administrative records
Other Descriptive Information
This collection was processed with support from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).
- Conservation of natural resources
- Financial records
- Gardening -- Connecticut -- Litchfield -- Societies, etc.
- Litchfield (Conn.)
- Litchfield Garden Club
- Photographs -- Coloring
- Video recordings
- Women -- Societies and clubs -- Connecticut -- Litchfield
- Litchfield Garden Club records
- Under Revision
- Leith Johnson
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description