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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Historic Garden Week Photo of Historic House
Historic Garden Week Photo of Historic House

Historic Garden Week in Virginia

Historic Garden Week in Virginia, which is often called "America's Largest Open House," is the oldest and largest statewide event of its kind in the nation. Each year, during the last full week of April, forty-seven member clubs of the Garden Club of Virginia organize approximately three dozen house and garden tours across the state, opening more than 250 of Virginia's finest homes, gardens, and historic landmarks. These properties have included elegantly renovated townhouses with walled gardens, expansive country and suburban estates, farmhouses on picturesque winding roads, and seaside villas. Many of the dwellings have intrinsic historic interest, dating from the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the Victorian era. Tour proceeds benefit the restoration of historic gardens and grounds throughout the commonwealth.

The idea for historic garden week came from a large flower show at Monticello in 1927, held as a fundraiser to save Thomas Jefferson's estate's old trees. The event raised $7,000. When garden club members were asked in 1929 to raise money to landscape the grounds of the historic Kenmore estate in Fredericksburg, which had been the home of George Washington's sister, Betty Washington Lewis, they felt confident they could. Members invited their friends throughout the state and nation to visit Virginia during an eleven-day home and garden tour. Illustrations, historic information, and a map were provided in a special garden tour hardback guidebook. This first Historic Garden Week was a major success, exceeding $14,000.

Garden Week has been produced every year since 1929, except during World War II. The statewide event attracts 40,000 to 50,000 people from all over the United States and abroad. Some visitors come on tours, which have been museum boards, other garden clubs, embassies, educators, and other special interest groups. Garden Week has become a significant player in Virginia's travel industry, and is promoted by the Virginia Tourism Corporation.

As one of the state's largest volunteer efforts, Garden Week is produced by more than 3,000 club members, 200 homeowners, and hundreds of friends and other supporters. Restoration programs are announced at the Garden Club's May meeting. The club's restoration committee evaluates requests for new projects and oversees earlier projects at more than three dozen historic restoration sites.

Project materials include a history of the event, promotional materials, magazine and newspaper coverage, a 1999 program, and poster for the 2000 event.

Originally submitted by: Charles S. Robb, Senator.

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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