Amazingly, the club is one of the only original clubs that has managed to maintain an archive of photos and documents since the very beginning, according to club President Prue Beidler of Lake Forest.
Sunday, the Garden Club will celebrate its centennial anniversary with a free public lecture at 2 p.m. at Lake Forest College's Lily Reid Holt Chapel. At the same event, three families will be honored with Centennial Family Awards by the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society.
Beidler will speak about the club’s history and contributions to Lake Forest over the years.
“We have archives that go back 100 years,” Beidler said. “This is an all-volunteer organization, so all of this stuff was kept in people’s basements and attics. The fact that we have complete archives is wonderful. We’re very lucky to have that.”
The club eventually will publish a book using archival materials, which are maintained by Arthur Miller at Lake Forest College, Beidler said. The club hopes to have it finished by the end of the year.
The pillars of Lake Forest Garden Club are conservation, education and beautification, focused on Lake Forest and surrounding areas. “We are a committed environmental group,” Beidler said.
The club’s most noteworthy accomplishment came in 2006 when it was invited to install a garden at the world-renowned Chelsea Flower Show in London, England. About 25 members traveled overseas to install, staff and tour the garden.
Lake Forest Garden Club became the first American garden club to win the silver-gilt award at Chelsea for its unique ravine garden, titled “Ravine Garden, Gift of the Glacier.”
“A number of our members have won prestigious awards at Garden Club of America’s national level in floral design, horticulture and photography,” Beidler said. “We have very distinguished and talented members.”
The club regularly works with the Lake Forest City Council on various projects in the parks. Members are overseeing the design plan for Forest Park. They also give yearly civic awards.
Lake Forest Garden Club has about 100 regular members who attend eight annual meetings. The club boasts honorary and distinguished members who are chosen by virtue and invited to participate and guest-speak, such as Miller, the club’s historian, architect Chris Miller, conservationist Stephen Bartram, and horticulturist Marya Padour.
“We definitely have daughters and granddaughters in the club — three generations of members,” said Beidler. “One of the things I’ve enjoyed most is the age range. The older members have wisdom and continuing passion, and there’s an opportunity to mentor younger members. I would say we have a 50-year age range. There’s five decades of people in the club.”
“In the beginning, you had a smaller club and more women with vast estates,” Beidler said, explaining how the club has changed over its 100 years. “Now we have more members who design and maintain their own gardens. Technology has also been a big change, especially photography. Now (in competitions) they have a category for ‘manipulated picture.’ That used to be unheard of.”
Beidler said that club members are likely more concerned with global issues than were their predecessors, who originally formed as the Garden Club of Illinois with Winnetka.
“We talk about things like climate change, conservation and organic gardening,” she said. “It’s not that our founders weren’t concerned with preserving our environment. We just have more language around it.”
“One of the things I’m struck by is our passion and commitment for the living things in this community,” she added. “That has not changed, nor will it change moving forward. That commitment is core to our identity.”
The club’s biannual garden walk is its only fundraiser, which it uses to hold events and also to fund donations to local organizations, such as Lake Forest Open Lands Association and Friends of Ryerson Woods. On June 13-14, to celebrate the centennial, the Lake Forest Garden Club will host an off-year garden walk. (See the attached PDF).
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