Fairchild Garden to launch 75th anniversary celebration
On March 23, 1938, 83 acres of land were dedicated in a ceremony that brought together some of the biggest names in America’s horticultural history: Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Dr. Walter T. Swingle and Dr. Liberty Hyde Bailey, among others.
The dedication was for Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, a nature-lover’s paradise purchased by Col. Robert H. Montgomery and landscaped by William Lyman Phillips.
Montgomery, a successful businessman and plant collector, wanted a botanic garden where tropical plants could grow year-round. Miami was the perfect place.
He named the expanse after his good friend Dr. David Fairchild, the great explorer responsible for introducing thousands of plant species into the U.S., including the famous cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. and the mangos so loved in South Florida. Many of the plants originally planted by Fairchild are still growing strong in the garden today, 75 years later.
Fairchild will kick off its yearlong 75th anniversary celebration with the annual meeting for members on Friday, March 22. Director Carl Lewis will speak about the vision of the founders, and volunteer Bob Petzinger will give a historic tour of the garden.
Members and non-members alike are invited to participate in the weekend-long activities, including historic tram tours and walking tours. The celebrations don’t end there – activities commemorating this milestone will last from March 2013 through March 2014.
At the first annual meeting in 1939, Montgomery presented some statistics about the fledgling garden: There were 285 members, 11 on the board of directors, a handful of volunteers and one superintendent. There were 692 specimens and 243 species of plants. Special events consisted of plant distributions and a few fundraisers.
Now, in 2013, there are 45,000 members, 125 part-time and full-time staff, and more than 1,000 volunteers. There are 22,851 specimens and 3,444 species of plants. Numerous special events are held each year, including the Chocolate, Orchid, Mango, Food & Garden, Ramble and Edible Garden Festivals.
However different the garden may be, the original vision still holds true.
“It should become a place where everyone who has the curiosity to do so can see and touch the beautiful, the strange, the interesting forms of tropical plants that characterize the vegetation of the tropics,” said Dr. Fairchild when asked about the Garden’s future at the 1938 dedication ceremony.
Dr. Montgomery echoed his friend’s sentiments at the 1939 Annual Meeting: “We want our members and their friends to be able to walk amid truly tropical luxuriance.”
Since its opening, Fairchild has offered educational classes and outreach programs, hosted students from all over South Florida to learn about the environment, invited the community to celebrate food and gardening at our many festivals, and much more.
The garden has been through hurricanes, frost and even hail, yet nothing has dampened the spirit of this serene place. Montgomery and Fairchild worked tirelessly to collect, document and study plants, and the garden continues to carry on their legacy by doing the same. The garden will continue to be a place of learning about horticulture and a place to provide a peaceful respite from the rush of a big city for years to come.
Fairchild is located at 10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables. Admission is $25 for adults, $18 for seniors, $12 for children 6-17 and free to children 5 and under and Fairchild members.