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"The Garden Club of America Day" Proclamation by NYC Mayor Bloomberg
CPC/GCA Liaison Natasha Hopkinson, CPC VP Christopher Nolan, CPC Founder Betsy Barlow Rogers, NYC Parks Commissioner White & GCA President Marian Hill at dedication.
GCA President Marian Hill speaks at Groundbreaking Ceremony. Photo courtesy of Cutty McGill.
Members gather on site. Photo courtesy of Malcolm Pinckney.
Swaths of Narcissus 'Garden Club of America' bloom in Central Park. Photo courtesy of Natasha Hopkinson/
The GCA 2013 Founders Fund gift. Photo courtesy of Cutty McGill.
Skyview of Central Park, New York City
Narcissus 'Garden Club of America'
GCA's 2013 Founders Fund Centennial Award
The dedication ceremony of the Garden Club of America’s 2013 Founders Fund Centennial Award took place inside the East 69th Street Entrance to Central Park on Monday, June 3, 2013. As recognition of GCA’s role in this gift, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared that day as “The Garden Club of America Day.” Hundreds of members of GCA clubs from across the country and guests attended to learn about the successful restoration of this two-acre site back to the original woodland’s edge envisioned by park designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux.
The project, made possible by the partnership between GCA and Central Park Conservancy (CPC), took five years of planning, GCA fundraising and implementation. Read remarks from the speakers below:
Christopher Nolan, Vice President, The Central Park Conservancy
Marian Hill, President, The Garden Club of America
Natasha Hopkinson, GCA/CPC Liaison
Proclamation from New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, presented by NYC Parks Commissioner, Veronika White
Receiving the award certificate on behalf of CPC was Christopher Nolan, Vice President of Planning, Design and Construction. Nolan noted that restoring the site required investment in infrastructure both above and below the ground, plantings and major pruning of existing flora. While much of the work done was invisible, members could see the new benches, improved pathways, stalks of the post-bloom daffodils, the raised tree canopy and the plants appropriate to the edge of a woodland. GCA Centennial Committee Liaison to CPC, Natasha Hopkinson, observed that this restoration was in keeping with Frederick Law Olmsted’s pioneering beliefs that parks should be open to the public and that personal connection with nature brought out the best in mankind. Concluding with a quote by Olmsted, she stated that the restoration was a place for all to gather, “ ‘a place for the poor and the rich, the young and the old, and the vicious and the virtuous…’ ”
NYC Parks Commissioner Veronica White congratulated GCA for its achievements and read a portion of Mayor Bloomberg’s Proclamation. She noted that the GCA had undertaken other projects in the park, a remark echoed by Betsy Barlow Rogers, founder of CPC. Rogers observed that GCA members willingly volunteered at the Conservatory Garden located at 105th Street and Fifth Avenue in the 1980s—a time when many New Yorkers shied away from that part of the park due to safety concerns.
GCA President Marian Hill unveiled the bronze 2013 Founders Fund plaque. By name and committee, President Hill thanked those who had played key roles in the creation and undertaking of this project and the many other Centennial projects. In closing, President Hill again expressed her thanks to “the Central Park Conservancy, our distinguished speakers, the Centennial and Founders Fund Committees, and each of you for taking time out of your busy lives to be here, to be a part of this historic occasion! Let not the splendor of this magnificent project detract any of you from the noble purpose that created it, but rather inspire you to increased devotion to your future work within the Garden Club of America. Remember, it is not only ‘what has been’, but ‘what will be.’”
Following the Dedication, members received acorns from one of the park’s oldest oaks for planting.
The GCA Founders Fund
Established in 1934, the Founders Fund is one of the Garden Club of America’s most effective outreach efforts. Unique among GCA’s philanthropy, the Founders Fund Award is the only award for which every individual club member votes. Garden clubs from throughout the U.S. submit local community improvement projects each year for Founders Fund award consideration. Proposals are reviewed and voted on by Founders Fund Committee members and three finalists are selected for membership vote.
The award recipient is announced at GCA's Annual Meeting and receives $25,000; each runner-up receives $7,500.
Winners have ranged from a garden project in a women’s prison (proposed by the Garden Club of Honolulu) to an arboretum designed to showcase trees resistant to local invasive insects (proposed by the Worcester Garden Club) and an urban vegetable garden created for neighborhood families (Wilmington Garden Club).
In the Beginning
In 2005, and in anticipation of GCA’s 100-year anniversary in 2013, GCA leadership suggested a larger than usual Founders Fund award to restore an area of Central Park in New York City. As New York has been the home of GCA headquarters for 90 years, it was thought appropriate that the Centennial Founders Fund Award would constitute a lasting tribute to GCA’s rich and accomplished history.
At the inception of the gift idea, GCA partnered with the Central Park Conservancy to choose two potential areas within the park for Founders Fund award nomination. To remain consistent with the selection process, clubs voted on their choice of project. The clubs selected the final site, known as the East 69th Street Entrance Area, and the winner was announced at the 2008 GCA Annual Meeting in Norfolk, VA.
The Central Park Conservancy
The CPC was founded in 1980 by a group of dedicated civic and philanthropic leaders determined to end Central Park’s decline and restore the park to its former splendor as envisioned by its 19th century designers, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Today, the Conservancy’s mission is to restore, manage and enhance Central Park, in partnership with the public, for the enjoyment of present and future generations in America’s first and foremost major urban public space. The Conservancy has transformed the park into a model for urban spaces worldwide.
Along the Way
On October 5, 2011, members of GCA clubs around the country gathered to celebrate the start of the renovation. Joining GCA President Marian Hill at the Groundbreaking Ceremony were NYC Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe, CPC President Doug Blonsky, 2013 Centennial Committee Chairman Ray Thompson and the GCA/CPC Liaison, Natasha Hopkinson.
In-house designers at the CPC developed the renovation plan to recreate the picturesque woodland edge of the park as it opens onto the pastoral East Green. A changing palette of plant material offers four-season interest, reflecting the vision of Olmstead and Vaux. New plants are compatible with existing specimens, underground channels protect adjacent areas from flooding, and new pipes have been added to allow for hand-watering as necessary.
Visitors arriving in the park at the 69th Street entrance may pause and sit on new Victorian-designed benches, admire the surrounding woodland environment, breathe the magic of nature, and view the impressive sight of 10,000 'Garden Club of America' spring-blooming daffodils planted in brilliant swaths throughout the site’s two acres. Narcissus ‘Garden Club of America’ is registered with the Royal Horticultural Society and distributed by Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Virginia. Mayor Bloomberg has made daffodils the official flower of New York City.