San Antonio Garden Center ~
80 Years of History Worth Remembering!
NOTE: This article was written by one of the original, founding members—Annette Cavender. Annette wrote it in commemoration of Garden Center’s 60th anniversary in 2000, when she was approaching her own 100th centennial birthday.
In 1940, five Garden Clubs existed in San Antonio. Among the members were two women, Mrs. R.A. Witt and Mrs. J. R. Murphy. They conceived an idea to establish a headquarters that would provide a link between organized clubs and their members, new home gardeners and the general public.
The purpose was to generate interest in horticulture, conservation, civic beautification and community projects. The women took their vision to Ellen Quillen, curator of the Witte Museum, who gave the group the use of the Weaver’s House located on the grounds of the Witte.
This was the beginning of a period of intensive work by creative people who produced untold accomplishments, including promotion of the famous World War II “Victory Gardens”.
San Antonio Garden Center was incorporated in 1955. It had outgrown the Weaver’s House at the Witte Museum and a search was on for a new home. The City of San Antonio and the San Antonio Conservation Society approved a site at Mahncke Park. After 10 years of preparation, ground for a new building to call home was broken in 1965.
The building was constructed at a cost of $250,000 with funds raised by individual members and clubs. It was officially opened on October 26, 1966 and dedicated on May 3, 1967. A year later, an extension of 2,400 square feet was added to our building. This is now known as the Adele Frost Horticulture Hall.
The number of organized clubs grew rapidly, and by 1962 there were 65 clubs, with members totaling more than 2,000. During the ensuing years, the Garden Center contributed to many projects, including beautification of public places, planting trees at city schools, highway plantings, teaching junior gardeners and participating in the community “Litter-Bug” program. There were numerous, and intensive, garden therapy programs. However, our priority was to create a Garden for the Blind.
Even though the effort and promotion to establish a Garden for the Blind started as early as 1956, action came to fruition in 1967. Through years of hard work and a concerted effort, the Garden Center women raised $58,000 towards the project—a tremendous undertaking. Groundbreaking took place on July 21, 1976 on property adjacent to San Antonio Garden Center. Now known as The Sensory Garden, it became the cornerstone of what is now the San Antonio Botanical Garden.
Today, San Antonio Garden Center remains a centerpiece for garden clubs and plant Societies throughout the area. Supporting the The Sensory Garden is still one of our missions.