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The History of the Country Garden Club of Perrysburg, Ohio

 

For over 75 years, the Country Garden Club has contributed to the preservation, conservation, and beautification of Perrysburg, Ohio and the surrounding community.  From their first community project in 1932 ($50 for a Gas Station Beautification Contest) to the present, the energetic members of the CGC have worked tirelessly toward the betterment of northwest Ohio.

In September, 1932, Country Garden Club (“CGC”) was organized by several prominent local women, including Mrs. Horace Barnes, Mrs. James Bell, Sr., Mrs. George Ford, Jr., Mrs. William Gosline, Mrs. George Greenhalgh, Mrs. W. W.  Knight, Mrs. Howard Lewis, Mrs. Lockhart McKelvy, Mrs. George McNichol, Jr.,  Mrs. James Secor, Mrs. C.B. Spitzer, Mrs. Frank Suydam, Mrs. Frank Stranahan, and Mrs. Henry Thompson.   Earlier in the year, the ladies had travelled to Norwalk, Ohio, to observe and learn about a garden club there. 

In November of 1932, the club held its first meeting offering a program.  The ladies heard from Arthur Berger, a noted New York landscape architect who was in Toledo to design the landscaping at the Toledo Museum of Art.  Mr. Berger later landscaped East River Road, presumably at the behest of the founding ladies, several of whom resided along that scenic byway.

By  1933, the CGC was already a member of the Garden Club Forum of Toledo and the Garden Club of Ohio.  In 1942, it became the only garden club from Northwest Ohio to be admitted as a member of Garden Club of America.

From the beginning, CGC adopted an attitude of service to the surrounding community.  Among the contributions during 1933, when money was exceedingly scarce (CGC was founded during the Great Depression),  was $25 to the public school lunch program, $10 to the Wild Gardens and Bird Sanctuary at the Toledo Zoo.  CGC members also began sewing once a week for the American Red Cross.

During the next few years, CGC gave small amounts of money to the local community for such things as a base for the statue of Oliver Hazard Perry (the War of 1812 Commodore after whom the City of Perrysburg is named), improvement and beautification of local highways, and the elimination of obnoxious billboards.  In 1935, CGC appointed a committee to seriously investigate civic projects and develop goals and guidelines for projects.  Community Projects has since become a permanent standing committee of the CGC.

On the gardening front, members of CGC at this time were required to maintain gardens at their homes, and each year the gardens would be inspected by their fellow members.  In recognizing the change in society from one which routinely hired gardeners to help maintain expansive formal gardens to the present time which has more working women with less time for creating such formal gardens, this requirement has thankfully been dropped.   Membership meetings generally took place at members’ homes, and were used to show off gardening skills and local plant knowledge.   Flower shows, which frequently have highlighted specimens from members’ gardens, have been held within the club since its inception.

In 1956, the Junior Country Garden Club was organized as an off-shoot by some younger women who were invited to join CGC, but did not care for certain rules and requirements then in existence.  By 1964, as society evolved, so did the CGC requirements, and the Junior club membership became full active members of the CGC.    In 1961, CGC incorporated and obtained tax-exempt status.  Around that time, GCG began raising funds for its projects through house and garden tours.

From 1966 through 1980, CGC was responsible for landscape developments and plantings in several local parks:  Hood Park and the Commodore Perry Project, Orleans Park, Milestone Park, the former log cabin in Bicentennial Park, and Woodlands Park, as well as landscaping at Way Public Library and  roadside improvements along East River Road.  

Always concerned with the conservation and preservation of Perrysburg’s historic district, the CGC in 1968 contacted Dr. Milton Osborne, an architect specializing in historic restoration from Penn State University,  to create plans for improvements to the storefronts along Louisiana Avenue, Perrysburg’s historic ‘main street’.  In 1976, CGC underwrote the cost of an Urban Design Study, the forerunner for the final passage of the Historic Area Zoning Ordinance.

In 1993, CGC won a national award from Parents Magazine for developing landscaping plans for the Perrysburg Heights Community House and Chapel.  In addition, CGC has won awards from Sears, Roebuck & Co.  and Readers’ Digest magazine for its work in the renovation of the Commodore Perry Statue  at Hood Park in downtown Perrysburg.

In 1987, CGC began raising money by inviting vendors and shoppers to a trunk show at Carranor Hunt and Polo Club.  For nearly 25 years, the annual Holiday Trunk Show has been the main source of funding for the CGC’s community projects.  The show is a three day shopping extravaganza featuring 20-25 boutiques from around the country and attracts approximately 1500 shoppers each year.  In the last 15 years, proceeds from the show have been used to fund, among others, the following projects:

  • Over $100,000 donated for the development of the W.W. Knight Nature Preserve including $30,000 toward an educational laboratory,
  • $75,000 grant to the Way Public Library for landscaping and a reading patio,
  • $30,000 grant to the City of Perrysburg for the beautification and landscaping of the 3 gateways into the city,
  • $8000 donated to the Hospice of Northwest Ohio Gazebo project, and
  • $6000 of landscaping and solar lighting donated to the Perrysburg Area Arts Commission for a sculpture garden.

 

While times have changed in the over 75 years since CGC’s founding, its commitment to service on behalf of the local community has not.   The CGC is a small but mighty group of dedicated women for whom no community project is too large and no need is too small. 

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