The University of Georgia Founders Garden stands on the edge of historic North Campus as a memorial to the twelve Georgian women who founded the first garden club in the United States in 1891 in Athens, Georgia. Students, landscape architects, historians, botanists, and more utilize the gardens to study, celebrate, learn, and appreciate the cultivated beauty of the gardens and the legacy of the twelve founders.
commissioned by the Garden Club of Georgia in 1936, the
garden was officially completed in 1946. The Founders Memorial Garden memorializes both the founders of the Ladies Garden Club of Athens and veterans of the US Armed Forces. Designed by UGA landscape architecture program founder Hubert Bond Owens, the Founders Memorial Garden possesses more than three hundred plant species over 2.5 acres of land. It consists of a terrace, two courtyards, a boxwood garden, an arboretum, and a perennial garden.
Organized in 1891, the Ladies’ Garden Club of Athens was the first garden club in the United States. The first meeting was held in Mrs. E.K. Lumpkin’s Parlor. Mrs. Lamar Cobb served as the Ladies’ Garden Club’s first president. At first, membership to the organization was select and could only be obtained through invitation. By 1892, membership was reportedly open to every woman who had an interest in gardening. The Ladies Garden Club became the Garden Club of Georgia in the twentieth century and decided to honor their founders and the first American garden club by creating the Founders Memorial Garden in Athens, Georgia. Mrs. Robert (Louise) Neely, the president of the Garden Club in 1946, raised over $4,000 for its creation and added a Living Memorial Arboretum to the plans to honor the men and women of Georgia who had served in World War II. Restored in accordance with the nineteenth century fixtures and trappings of the Lumpkin House, the smokehouse on the property of this memorial garden was turned into an exhibition space and repository for the artifacts of the Ladies Garden Club.
Located on the
University of Georgia’s North Campus, the Lumpkin House and Founders Memorial
Garden were both listed on the Georgia Register of Historic Place and the
National Register of Historic Places in 1972. The American Society of Landscape
Architects commended the Founders Garden landscape design in 1999. Enclosed by
iron fencing and brick walls, arboreta or collections of trees are surround the
Lyndon house, the Robert J. Hill courtyard, and adjacent smokehouse. The
boxwood garden, located behind the smokehouse, has a sundial at its center and
celebrates Georgia’s agriculture through its landscape design. The design
within the boxwood’s four quadrants each represent a peach, a watermelon, a
Cherokee rose, and a cotton bulb. The boxwood garden is lined with a red brick
walkway and surrounded by a white picket fence. A terrace garden separates the
boxwood garden from the one hundred and twenty-five feet long perennial garden.
Installed in 1954, a statue recognizes the 25th anniversary of the
National Council of Garden Clubs. The perennial garden faces an oval koi pond
and is enclosed by a serpentine brick wall lined with planting beds.
At the center of
the Founders Memorial Garden, the Lumpkin House is a Greek Revival style house
with welcoming arm stairs built in 1857 for faculty housing. From 1898-1919,
the Lumpkin House served as a combined student residence hall and dining hall.
In the 1920s, the first Dean of Women, Mary Lyndon resided in the Lumpkin
House. After serving as a sorority house for Phi Mu, this historic building
housed the Department of Landscape Architecture from 1939-1956. In
1963, the Garden Club of Georgia leased the building from the university and
established it as the headquarters for the historic garden club. First meeting at the
Biltmore Hotel in Atlanta, the Garden Club of Georgia was established in 1928.
The Garden Club of Georgia is now headquartered at the State Botanical Garden
of Georgia in Athens.
Today, the memorial garden is a vital part of the University of Georgia’s
campus. Open to the public, it is a popular spot in the
city of Athens and the university campus, especially for special events,
engagements, and photoshoots. The garden is used by the College of Environment and Design for educational purposes. Every semester, students of the College of Environment and Design create art installations for this teaching garden. Apart from student use, the Founders Memorial Garden and Founders Memorial Room can also be rented out for special events.