Through the Decades:
The Fairfield Garden Club 1915-2018
The history of the Club parallels New England and America in the twentieth century. But there is one great exception. Five years before women voted in America in 1920, the twenty –five founding members of 1915 were already leaders: single-minded, visionary, generous, and civic-minded.
In the Beginning
1915 In December, meeting at the home of Mrs. William Glover, the first Chair, and twenty-five charter members founded The Fairfield Garden Club.
Mrs. James O. (Mabel Osgood) Wright was elected as the first President. She presented a short paper outlining the purpose and aims of such a club:
“That it might be for the pleasure and profit of amateur gardeners, where ideas could be exchanged, and interest stimulated in the proper care of flowers and vegetable gardens.”
Mabel Osgood Wright was already a civic and community presence. In 1898, she became the first President of the Connecticut Audubon Society. In 1914, she founded the Birdcraft Sanctuary. She was a prolific author with twenty- seven works about birds, wildflowers, and nature. She also created a collection for children.
Miss Annie B. Jennings (1855-1939) was not “present but sent word that she wished to join.” She was a “birder” like her friend Mabel Osgood Wright. Heiress to Standard Oil, she was a philanthropist like her brother, Oliver Gould Jennings. Her brother, a charter member of the Fairfield Historical Society, had their first home on Old Post Road named after him. Miss Jennings endowed the public library and created Fairfield’s first high school on Unquowa Road.
She had opened her extensive rose gardens to the public earlier in 1915 at her home on sixteen acres between Old Post Road and Long Island Sound called Sunnie-Holme. This waterfront land later became Jennings Beach in Fairfield.
1916: In one year, the Club grew to 100 members.
1917: The Club was incorporated with a constitution and bylaws.
1917: The Club undertook “The Home and School Garden” work in Fairfield.
Fairfield Garden Club Timeline
1921: A committee was created to supervise wildflower exhibits at the Birdcraft Sanctuary.
1923: The Club joined The Garden Club of America, which was then ten years old.
1923: The Billboard Committee was formed. Since 1914, the GCA was advising member clubs on the threat they felt billboards created. A Massachusetts club had sponsored a statewide bill in 1920.
1923: The Wayside Committee was formed to work in the schools for wildflower conservation.
1923: Planting was installed by the Club’s Civic Committee around the Town Hall.
1924: The Club sponsored and created a widely distributed “Stop-Look-Think” Pamphlet on Wildflower Preservation written by Mabel Osgood Wright.
1924: The Club sponsored a wildflower exhibit every week from May through October at the Birdcraft Sanctuary.
1925: Trees and shrubs were planted at the Fairfield Railroad Station.
1926: The Club became one of the Charter members of The Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut.
1927: The Club received the Gold Medal of the Horticultural Society.
1927-1928: The Club took a formal stand against gas stations in residential neighborhoods.
1928: The Club contributed money for trees at Southport Railroad Station.
1928: The Civic Committee planted 200 Japanese cherry trees on Penfield Road, Rowland Road, and Lalley Boulevard. A flowering cherry tree was given to every school, the library, Legion Hall and every church in Fairfield. Miss Jennings’s gardener helped plant 194 of these trees.
1928: The Club planted additional trees, shrubs and conifers at the railway station and at Town Hall.
1928: The Club hired an expert to help with deteriorating elm trees and financed spraying of 1200 elms and shade trees.
1928: The Club planted 250 tulips at the Old Academy.
1929-1930: The Club planted several hundred flowering cherry and crabapple trees in Fairfield.
1930-1931: Continuing their keen interest, the Club sponsored a bill restricting billboards.
1930: The Club established the Maude Cady Warner Cup given for meritorious performance above and beyond the call of duty.
1931: The Junior Garden Club was established and continued through 1997. For over 60 years, this Club was a focused and collaborative parallel force. Many later leaders of The Fairfield Garden Club emerged from The Junior Garden Club.
1931: In addition, new classifications of membership were instituted: Honorary, Sustaining, Active, and Associate.
1931: A George Washington elm was planted on the Town Green. George Washington’s Bicentennial of his birth was to be celebrated nationwide in 1932. This planting of a descendant of a tree in Cambridge where Washington anecdotally stood was encouraged in public parks.
1932: The logo, first called the “emblem,” of The Fairfield Garden Club was created as a bookplate. Designed in a competition, Mrs. W. Haywood Everett’s beautiful drawing highlighted archways of elms south of Old Post Road near today’s Beach Road with a vista towards Long Island Sound. John Taylor Arms hand-lettered the Club’s name around the circumference.
1932: Annie B. Jennings planted 19 elm trees from Gould Homestead to the library corner.
1933-1934: A Dutch Elm Study Committee was formed.
1934-1935: The Club was invited to establish a garden “as might have been there in the old days” at Ogden House as part of preparation for Fairfield’s 300th anniversary. The Club’s presence remains on that site in the 21st century.
1935: Mabel Osgood Wright, the Club’s first President, died, and donated the Birdcraft Sanctuary as a public monument.
1937-1938: The Club sent letters to Congress about Dutch elm disease.
1938: Miss Annie B. Jennings, “a great friend and benefactor of The Fairfield Garden Club,” died.
1938: A nature trail was established at Gould Manor Park.
1939: The Town Hall received plantings from the Club in honor of Miss Jennings.
1940: The Fairfield Garden Club designed and presented a medal in honor of Miss Annie Burr Jennings to the GCA. The medal was first given as a sweepstakes award at the International Flower Show in New York City. Later, the medal was awarded at GCA major flower shows to the club that accrued the most points. Though it became a paper certificate in the 90s, it is still a coveted award at GCA major flower shows.
1941-1943: The Club planted a victory garden for children and adults working with Greenfield Hill Grange and the Greenfield Hill Garden Club. The Club installed plantings at Red Cross Recreational Centers. The Club sent over one hundred Christmas packages to Fort Wright and financed the Recreation Room at the Fort. It sent furniture and window boxes to the Receiving Hospital on Long Island. The Club founded a Camp and Hospital Committee.
1941 -1944: Aline Kate Fox, a member of The Fairfield Garden Club, was elected President of The Garden Club of America. Miss Fox had been President of The Fairfield Garden Club in 1933-1935.
1943-1945: The Tree Planting Committee was formally established. War bonds were purchased for future tree planting. An additional fund was set up to replace trees in Fairfield. In 2017, the Club again set up a Tree Planting Fund.
1943-1945: The Club planted the Honor Roll on the Town Green. The Club created Christmas boxes for Newington Veterans Hospital, as well as “Foxhole” boxes. It helped the Red Cross plant the quadrangle at Bradley Field Hospital.
1945-1946: The Park Board sponsored the Club’s plans, and work was underway on a major tree planting project.
1947-1948: There were major tree planting projects in the fall (139) and the spring (another 118).
1947-1948: The Club received a prestigious award for its Tree Planting Program in Fairfield.
1947-1948: The History of the Club was written as a reference handbook.
In 1952, a “very useful and handsome gavel” was presented to the President by a Member of the Board. This remains the gavel Presidents still use.
1953: Club dues were raised to $15.00. Juniors reduced their age limit to 30 years. A new time for membership meetings was established starting at 2:45 p.m. 1953-54 the Club first considered one joint meeting per year with Sasqua Garden Club. Formal Joint Meetings (one per year) were established later in our history.
1953-1954: The budget for 1953-54 was presented and accepted as the “first budget to be in balance for a long time.”
1954: The trees planted in town that year were 35 white oak, 23 sweet gum, 55 London plane, 11 pin oak, 15 thornless honey locust and 20 sugar maples.
1954: The membership was capped at 150, although the Club officially preferred 140.
1955: The Club established the Aline Kate Fox Silver Award for the outstanding member of The Junior Garden Club of Fairfield.
1956: The Club landscaped the grounds of the Historical Society on Old Post Road.
1956: The dues were raised to $18.00.
1956: The Club partnered with Sasqua Garden Club in the “Keep America Beautiful” campaign. Founded in 1953, the national organization’s initial purpose was to regulate highway litter.
1956: The Club’s Conservation Committee joined with four other clubs in studying flood control and the preservation of swamp areas. They also advocated public preservation of lowlands for recreation.
1957: A recommendation was made that a noon meeting of the Club be tried occasionally with the first autumn meeting to include lunch served in advance. This resulted in an enthusiastic turnout.
1958: Dues were set for the four levels of membership: Honorary – no dues, Sustaining – $28.00, Active $18.00 and Associate $10.00.
1959: The Civic Committee trimmed a tree at the Bridgeport Hospital and decorated the lobby, a tradition that continued into the 21st century.
1959: The Club also added plantings at the Wakeman Boys’ Club.
1959: The Club also donated $1,000 to Audubon for its new sanctuary on Burr Street.
1959: Tree donations continued with dogwood trees to Southport and seven trees to Fairfield.
1959: The Club held an old-fashioned May Day Flower Festival featuring daffodils on the Fairfield Town Green to benefit the new Audubon Bird Sanctuary.
1964: The Civic Committee completed landscaping plans for Fairfield’s new beach pavilion.
1964: The Civic Committee also combined with the Horticulture Committee to replace or relocate prior plantings around the Fairfield Historical Society on Old Post Road.
1964: The Conservation Committee funded a local teacher to attend Audubon’s Maine Camp.
1964: The Club supported the scholarships of The Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut.
1965: The Club’s Fiftieth Anniversary was a time for renewal of past goals: fresh insight into traditional activities as well as new areas of interest. The Club decided to “go all out” for the New York Flower Show held in the Coliseum. The commitment was to enter every single horticultural class as well as every arrangement class. This resulted in the Club winning the Annie Burr Jennings Medal for the sweepstakes prize with the “phenomenal number of 156 points.” The Club also took top honors with their “potting shed” design covered with thyme and sedum.
1965: The Fiftieth Anniversary was celebrated in Southport at the Pequot Library with a show of “The Art of the Nativity through the Ages.” A companion exhibit was at Trinity Church’s Parish House with a collection of Neapolitan crèches. With substantial sums raised with a Christmas boutique and many luncheons at members’ homes, the funds were directed to the planning and planting of a small park as “our anniversary present to the town.”
1967: The Civic Committee continued to work on the new Mill Hollow Park “lest the bulldozer go astray.” This site has a long history and today has evolved into a naturalized wetland under the domain of the Conservation Department of the town of Fairfield.
1967: The Club experimented with “away” meetings: one to Brooklyn Botanic Garden and another to outstanding plant nurseries in Long Island.
1967: For the first time, six clubs collaborated and shared in a meeting on Water Pollution.
1968: The Club became Tax-Exempt through The Federated Garden Club of Connecticut.
1968: The Club held a major fundraiser with a Christmas House Tour raising over $4200.
1969: The Club received a Certificate of Merit from The Federated Garden Club of America in developing Mill Hollow Park in Fairfield’s open space program.
1969: The Club’s major civic project, Mill Hollow Park, had its pond completed. This allowed walks and planting to proceed as well.
1970: The Club hosted the Zone II meeting. The theme was Thoreau’s “In Wildness is the Preservation of the World.” The extensive shoreline of Zone II to “save the marshes and wetlands was the focus. Fairfield and Sasqua Garden Club combined to finance the Mill River Wetlands Study Group.
1972 : The Club was a partner for a Save our Open Space Program assisting the Aspetuck Land Trust. The funds were used to acquire undeveloped land along the Mill River.
1972-1973: The Club created a mini park for senior citizens adjacent to their meeting house in the east side of Bridgeport where “a burned-out school yard corner now has soil, grass, beds.”
1973: The Club also funded the decorations for the new lobby of Bridgeport Hospital.
1973: The Club’s project was a finalist for the GCA Founder’s Fund with a Connecticut Audubon Society’s conservation and nature program called “Reverence for Life.” It was an inner-city pilot program within the City of Bridgeport. The educational program was to serve 20,000 school children in sanctuary tours, ecology workshops and in school classroom programs.
1973-1974: The Club’s membership was as follows:
• 9 Honorary (with GCA privileges, but paid no dues)
• 105 Active Members plus 10 Officers (with GCA dues)
• 6 Sustaining Members (with GCA dues, but had no obligations to this Club)
• 6 Associates
• 15 Affiliates
• 28 Juniors
1974: The colonial kitchen garden using Anne Leighton’s design principles was established at Ogden House. A later generation, now called the “Dooryard Garden” continues in the 21st century.
1975: Anne Leighton visited the Colonial Kitchen Garden and made several suggestions. A detailed plant list was prepared by the Club and source material on its purpose in a 1750 household. In 2018, new detailed signs were added in the garden with additional historical research.
1976-1983: Members with the Chamber of Commerce created “The Greening of the Commons” (Street trees from Post Road, Westport through Fairfield and Black Rock Turnpike from Fairfield Woods to Burroughs Road). The Club organized the Town and other clubs in this monumental project. The first phase was a pilot planting of 20 trees in the center of Fairfield on Post Road.
1979: The main project of The Fairfield Garden Club was the maintenance of the 18th century Ogden House Gardens.
1979: A rose garden contemporary to the 18th century was added.
1979: The Club offered a five home Christmas House Tour called “Christmas on the Hill” in Greenfield Hill.
1980-1981: The Club designed and installed a picnic grove at the Senior Citizen Center.
1980-1981: The Club revamped the Ogden House garden and compiled a booklet about its plants and their 18th century usage.
1981-1982: The Club joined with Sasqua Garden Club in offering a flower show called “A New Awakening” at the Pequot Library.
1982-1983: The Club continued its “water project ever with us” at Ogden House. In addition, the Club made a concerted effort to bring its fully engaged Junior Club members into the programs.
1982-1984: The Club hosted a film on “Water” by Peggy Sharpe as the Club continued to maintain and design Ogden House’s gardens “and manage its wetlands.”
1983: The Club’s major tree planting project, The Greening of the Commons, begun to celebrate the Bicentennial, continued in large areas along the Post Road.
1984-1985: The Club’s Conservation and National Parks Committee planned and planted a wonderful wildflower walk and garden at Ogden House. This was a complement to the long existing “colonial medicinal and household garden.”
1986-1987: The Club arranged to have a permanent stepping stone bridge placed in the stream at the historic Ogden House to give year-round access to the wildflower garden under development.
1986-1987: The Club added “transparent ancient boxwood” to the grounds of the Fairfield Historical Society.
1987-1988: The Club participated in a Hazardous Waste Collection day for the first time. The Club invited a national environmental organization to address the membership.
1987: The Club hosted the Zone II meeting at Burr Mansion for all GCA clubs in Zone II.
1988: The Club prepared and assembled donors for a new landscaping plan for the Pequot Library designed by one of its members.
1988-1989: The Club began planning for a flower show, “Four Centuries in Flower” to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the Town of Fairfield.
1989: The 350th anniversary of Fairfield was celebrated with “The British are Coming” at the Fairfield Museum (then Historical Society). There was a re-enactment of the 1779 burning of Fairfield by the British. The Club offered its show.
1990: Members planted six concrete planters with ornamental grasses at the Fairfield to NYC Bound side of the Fairfield Railroad Station.
1991: The Club hosted a GCA flower show, “Four Centuries of Flowers,” at the Pequot Library.
1994: The Fairfield Garden Club staged “Great Performances,” a GCA flower show, at the Black Box Theater on the Campus of Fairfield University in June.
The ground water pollution display featured at the flower show was taken on the road to schools by The Junior Garden Club of Fairfield before being donated to the CT Audubon on Burr Street.
1995-1996: The Club continued its work on two long-term areas: Ogden House and the town garden at Sherman Green. Hundreds of daffodils were also planted along the Post Road.
1995-1996: The Club helped fund the birdscaping project at the Birdcraft Museum with native shrubs and wildflowers to attract birds.
1996-1996: The Club continued its conservation concerns: supported saving the CT Agricultural Experiment Station and the preservation of the Grace Richardson Wildlife Preserve. The Club also offered a groundwater model to the public school in Fairfield.
1996: The Club joined other garden clubs in the “Adopt a Spot” Campaign.
1998: The Fairfield Garden Club presented “Bewitching,” a GCA flower show, at the Black Box Theater on the campus of Fairfield University in October. The Club won the Brown award for our conservation exhibit. “Lost, Threatened, Preserved.”
1997: The Junior Garden Club of Fairfield merged with The Fairfield Garden Club.
1998-1999: The Club’s numbers had grown to 149.
1998-1999: The Club started a training program for new members including workshops and fireside chats.
1999: The Club began a partnership with the Darien Garden Club in the funding of a GCA summer environmental scholarship, which continues to the present day.
1999: The Club added plantings in the Old Burying Ground along Beach Road, part of the “Adopt A Spot” civic beautification campaign with the Town of Fairfield.
1999-2000: The Fairfield Garden Club along with Sasqua Garden Club held a small flower show, “A Century Defined by Duke Ellington,” at Fairfield’s Town Hall, in conjunction with the design of the new ground cover on the property. This celebrated the completion of “Project 2000.”
2000: The Club established the Ann Adams Mandeville Award to a long- standing member who consistently offers inspiration and encouragement to other Club members.
2000-2001: The Civic Committee installed 200 daffodils at the 1790 Burr Homestead in the Old Post Road Historic District. Work also continued at the Sherman Green.
2000-2001: The Club celebrated its 85th year with a gala celebration and memberships programs on flower arranging, orchids, as well as Long Island Sound conservation efforts.
2000: The Club created a Storm Drain Stenciling project as part of an initiative to Save the Sound.
2001: The Fairfield Garden Club presented “2001 – an Odyssey in Space,” a GCA flower show, at the Black Box theater on the Campus of Fairfield University. For the first time, an educational exhibit was displayed and won the Ann Lyon Crammond Award.
2003: The Club’s Horticultural Committee began a new tradition of floral design workshops for seniors at Grasmere by the Sea. This has continued to present day with the Club’s Civic Committee.
2003: The Garden Club of American launched its national website.
2003: The Club created the Marion Graves Award for excellence in exhibiting in flower shows.
2004: The Fairfield Garden Club presents “Jewels,” a GCA flower show, at the Black Box Theater on the Campus of Fairfield University. The Merritt Parkway Exhibit, “Emerald Isle of Connecticut” won the Marion Fuller Brown Conservation Award.
2005: The Club held an in-club flower show, “The Old South,” at homes on Old South Road.
2006: Arbor Day in Fairfield honored the memory of Ann Carter for her civic vision and planted a magnolia at the Greenfield Farm Open Space.
2008 The Fairfield Garden Club hosted the Zone II meeting in Southport. A GCA Zone F
flower show, “Harbor Reflections” was held at Trinity Church. For the first time, Photography was officially added to the schedule. The Club won GCA awards for both Conservation and Education.
2006: Civic Committee continued a longtime responsibility for cleaning up Sherman Green.
2007: The Civic Committee organized a Giant Steps planting day at this local school for children with learning differences as an outdoor garden classroom for hummingbirds. The garden plan was designed by Members in a design challenge at the September meeting.
2007: The newsletter was digitized.
2008: The Club created the Ann Shaw Carter Conservation Award for commitment to the cause of conservation.
2009: Marking the GCA’s Centennial Tree Project, the Club initiated a feasibility study for the planting of 100 American chestnut hybrids and worked with a plant pathology expert. The Club had a chestnut planting workshop with children at the Fairfield Museum.
2009: The Club returned to revamp the Ogden site in its entirety.
2009: The Club with Sasqua hosted a public symposium, “Going Green in your own Backyard” in Southport on lawn chemicals.
2010: The Club celebrated its 95th anniversary by honoring members of 50 years or more at a Christmas tea. 12 of the 14 members were in attendance.
2011: The Club hosted a GCA flower show called “Coloratura” at the Black Box Theatre of Fairfield University. The Club won both the GCA Conservation Marion Thompson Fuller Brown Award for “Invasive Plants-Early Detection-Rapid Response” and the Ann Lyon Crammond award for “Agnes Selkirk Clark-Landscape Design in the 20th Century.”
2011-2012: The Horticulture Committee created a daffodil planting program with thousands of daffodils on public sites throughout Fairfield. This included Brookside Park in Fairfield.
2012: In recognition of the GCA’s Centennial, our Club planted 100 American chestnut hybrids in eight open spaces in Fairfield assisted by Town Conservation, the Tree Warden, and Members.
2012: The Club received the Arbor Day Award from the Town of Fairfield.
2012; The Club hosted a public “Blue Water Symposium” at the Fairfield Library.
2013: A Honey Bee Apiary was created near Ogden House on the Oak Lawn Cemetery property.
2013: The Club created the Margaret Wallace Daly Horticulture Award for excellence in horticulture.
2013: The Club created the FGC Photography Award for excellence in photography.
2014: At the Ogden property along Browns Brook, a pollinators’ garden was created in the riparian border featuring 150 native perennials.
2015: The Club hosted Douglas Tallamy in a public lecture on the interrelationship of native plants and the health of insects and other pollinators with “The Living Landscape and Restoring Nature’s Relationships at Home” at the Pequot Library.
2015: This marked the first century of The Fairfield Garden Club with a GCA flower show called “The Best of Times” for the community held in the Burr Mansion in Fairfield. The Club won both the Conservation and Education Awards from GCA: The Marion Thompson Conservation Award for the riparian border and pollinators garden at Browns Brook at Ogden House and the Ann Lyon Crammond Award for the “Evolution of Fairfield’s Historic Town Green.”
2016: The Civic Committee designed and created a new pocket park at the Fairfield Public Library.
2017: The Club hosted two showings of the movie “Seeds” at the Fairfield Theater Company to the Club and free to the public.
2017: The Club created The Fairfield Garden Club Floral Design Award for outstanding commitment, enthusiasm and encouragement in floral design.
2017: The Club began discussion in Bridgeport with two other nonprofit partners for the funding and planting of a “Tree Restoration Canopy Project “at Olmsted and Vaux’s 1867 Seaside Park.
2017: The Club set up The Fairfield Garden Club Tree Fund as part of its Ways and Means Committee’s annual contributions.
2018-2019: The Club compiled this Chronology for the public and our members to launch on its new website.
“The best is yet to be…”
2020: The Club will be 105 years in existence.
2021: GCA’s annual meeting is in Connecticut.
2022: This marks the Bicentennial Year of Frederick Law Olmsted.