On January 7, 1928 a small group of 20 men and women, who shared a love of gardening, met at the home of Mr. Willis H. Ropes for the first meeting of the Salem Garden Club . In 1929 the Club joined the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts.
The Club’s first decade was one of intense activism. In 1930, at the suggestion of local architect Phillip Horton Smith members rebuilt the garden at the Brookhouse Home on Derby Street. For a few years in the 1930’s the Club also sponsored a garden contest for children who were active in the Salem summer playground program. Cash prizes were awarded to the youngsters in each of the city’s wards who were deemed to have the best home gardens.
Beginning in 1929, the Salem Garden Club began participating in the annual spring Flower Show in Boston. By 1938 the organization felt secure enough to hold its own horticultural show in historic Hamilton Hall on Chestnut Street. To raise money for the event, the Club sponsored the city’s first garden tour in the summer of 1937. More than 300 people visited the ten gardens, some on Chestnut and Federal Streets and others in the Salem Common neighborhood that were open to the public.
A second smaller garden tour was held in 1941 to celebrate the opening of the Gardner-Pingree House on Essex Street. The Salem Garden Club had taken on the responsibility for the replanting of the garden at this magnificent Federal mansion which had been designed by the great Salem architect Samuel McIntire.
The beginning of WWII forced the Salem Garden Club to curtail many of its activities. During the course of the conflict, Mrs. Willis Ropes, the group’s conservation chairperson, provided advice and assistance to citizens wishing to plant their own war gardens. During this period, members of the club had begun reading and exchanging interesting facts and fun stories surrounding their gardens which had been kept in their diaries since the Club’s inception. In 1945, a committee was appointed to compile this information and ultimately, under the leadership of Mable C.H. Pollock, President, a history of the gardens was published in 1946. The publication was entitled “Old Salem Gardens”. This charming book is still available for purchase today.
Membership enrollment has fluctuated over the decades. Meetings have taken place in a variety of places throughout a season and meetings in a member’s home were not unusual in the 80’s and 90’s. While it has primarily been comprised of women in their mid to later years, a new generation became involved in the late 80’s when the daughters of members began to join. Since then the Club has continued to grow and has remained popular to this day as evidenced by the list of those who join each year!
Julie Andrews (President)
Open Position (Vice Presidents)
Paula Contilli (Recording Secretary)
Patti Schaffer (Treasurer)
Scholarship: Bonnie Henry
Programs: Position Open
Hospitality: Susan Ellis
Graphic Design: Adele Maestranzi
Website Manager: Julie Andrews
Membership: Janice Baldwin
Horticulture: Maria Connell
Newsletter: Position Open