Note: This article was written by one of the original, founding members—Annette Cavender. Annette wrote it commemoration of Garden Center’s 60th anniversary, and when she was approaching her own 100th centennial birthday.
In 1940, five Garden Clubs existed in San Antonio. Among the members were two women, Mrs. R.A. Witt and Mrs. J.R. Murphy. They conceived an idea to establish a Headquarters that would provide a link between organized members, potential gardeners and the general public.
The purpose was to generate interest in horticulture, conservation, civic beautification and community projects. The women took their vision to Ellen Quillen, curator of the Witte Museum, who gave the group the use of the Weaver’s House at the Witte. This was the beginning of a period of intensive work by creation people who produced untold accomplishments, including promotion of the famous World War II “Victory Gardens.”
The Garden Center was incorporated in 1955. It had outgrown the Weaver’s House at the Witte Museum and a search was on for a new home. The city and the San Antonio Conservation Society approved a site at Mahncke Park. After 10 years of preparation, ground was broken in 1965.
The building was constructed at a cost of $250,000 with funds raised by individual member clubs. It was officially opened on October 26, l966 and dedicated on May 3, 1967. A year later, an extension of 2,400 – square feet was added to our building. This is now known as the Adele Frost Horticulture Hall.
The number of organized clubs grew rapidly and by 1962 there were 65 clubs, with members totaling more than 2,000. During the ensuing years, the Garden Center contributed to many projects, including beautification of public places, planting trees at city schools, highway plantings, teaching junior gardeners and participating in the community “Litter-Bug” program. There were numerous, and intensive, garden therapy programs. However, our priority was to create the Garden for the Blind.
Even though the promotion to establish a Garden for the Blind started as early as 1956, action eventually materialized in 1967. Though years of hard work and a concerted effort, the Garden Center women raised $58,500 towards the project, a tremendous undertaking.
Nine years later, on July 21, 1976, as most unique and impression groundbreaking ceremony took place. A mule and plow, guided by two women from the Lighthouse for the Blind, along with Mayor Pro Tem Al Rhode, plowed a furrow across the one-acre site, located up the hill from the Garden Center. This area is now the Garden for the Blind*, and it was the cornerstone of what was to become San Antonio Botanical Garden.
Today, San Antonio Garden Center remains a centerpiece for Garden Clubs throughout the area. Supporting the Garden for the Blind* is still our highest priority.
*Since this history was written, the Garden of the Blind has been renamed the ‘Sensory Garden’. If you would like to donate to maintaining this area of the Botanical Garden:
San Antonio Garden Center
Attention: Sensory Garden
3310 N. New Braunfels
San Antonio, TX 78209