One Hundred Year Timeline

Click here to view the Timeline 1914-2014.

Our Historian Pam Russell and her committee have spent the last two years gathering information, documents, pictures and personal stories from all types of sources. The Newport Historical Society, the Redwood Library & Anthenaeum, the archives of the Newport Daily News, boxes and boxes of reports in the garages and attics of past presidents and committee chairs–these are just a few of the places where the search for information led our band of curious, dedicated adventurers.

The result is a phenomenal archival history of the NGC’s activities over the last 100 years. From the early beginnings with ladies of the Gilded Age in their ‘summer cottages’ and their estate gardeners, the war years, the arrival of the Navy ladies, and now to today’s active, tech-savvy, dig-in-dirt members, the Garden Club continues to advance the joys of gardening, the importance of civic involvement and the importance of friendships based on a shared goal.

With an ongoing, strong relationship with GCA, the Garden Club looks forward to a future that includes learning about new gardening techniques, new plants and cultivation ideas, new solutions to the challenges of weather-changing dynamics and water usage, new civic beautification projects and who knows what else.

We will be updating our timeline every ten years with the hope that at the 200th Anniversary of the NGC the information of what has happened will be a bit easier to find.

Newport Garden Club History


The Newport Garden Club was founded in 1914 and in the same year became a member of The Garden Club of America. The club’s complete history, however, precedes this date by several years as owners of the “summer cottages” of the Gilded Age (mid 1800’s to World War I) vied with one another for distinction in landscape designs and horticultural excellence. Their gardens were designed by world-renowned landscape architects and maintained by only the best estate gardeners.

In 1911, two ladies formed an association strictly for the owners of these large garden properties where they could increase and share their knowledge of gardening. Lectures and flower shows were held and the Garden Association of Newport was born.

A reorganization of the Association took place the following year and then in 1914, in accordance with Rhode Island state laws, a corporation was formed under the name of the Newport Garden Club. In the same year, the club became affiliated with the International Garden Club of New York and the Royal Horticultural Society of England.

1915 and 1916 were extremely active years for the club. A clubhouse was purchased on Bellevue Avenue and numerous flower shows were held. Prize cups were given for exhibits such as the best novelty plant grown, the best exhibit grown by a private gardener, and the best exhibit in the entire show. During the Spring Flower Show in New York, the Newport Garden Club was recognized for the “influence it has exercised upon seed men, growers, and catalogues…and in awakening a general interest in horticulture.”

The War Years brought an end to extravagance and the magnificent garden and floral displays that were being created. It was a time of economic restraint and a reduced labor pool. Gone were the clubhouse, the prizes and the affiliation with other societies. Membership in The Garden Club of America continued, however, and the club’s emphasis and interest were redirected toward horticulture and conservation.

The Newport Garden Club has continued in this direction in the years since. It designed and maintained a garden in Memorial Park on Bellevue Avenue, planted a garden at the Newport Public Library and beds of trees, shrubs and ferns at the entrance to the Boys and Girls Club; it restored and planted a colonial kitchen garden at Whitehall (museum house) with a commitment to maintain it indefinitely for The Colonial Dames of America.

The club proposed the Norman Bird Sanctuary for the 1987 Founders Fund Award and it was indeed the winner, receiving $20,000 for restoration of the barn, a museum and education center; it created plans to restore the garden at the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House for a GCA Year 2000 project, but completion, however, was interrupted by an archeological dig. The club provided funds to replace the trees at the Common Burying Ground with a disease resistant American elm and more recently provided approximately $1,500 to the City of Newport to restore the tree canopy along Broadway. The Norman Bird Sanctuary once again became the focus of the club in 2007 when initial plans were put in place to help with the restoration of Paradise Farm Garden.

Today, and since the late 1990’s, many club members continue to be actively involved in the Newport Flower Show at Rosecliff, serving as chairs, volunteers and exhibitors. Additionally, many participate in the Rhode Island Flower Show in Providence and other shows across the country. Several of our members are judges in floral design and horticulture, and are active locally and at the Zone level.

In 1923, and again in1996, the club hosted the GCA Annual Meeting. In 1979, club member Harriet Jackson Phelps published Newport In Flower, the only book that has ever recorded the glass lantern slides of one city. These images of Newport gardens were among others donated by GCA to the Smithsonian Institution and are the basis for its Garden History and Design Department.

In 2010, then president, Bettie Pardee, was able to secure the funds to have the book updated and republished. In 2010 and again in 2012, the histories of two private gardens – “Parterre” and “The Whim – were documented by Kate Lucey and the Garden History and Design Committee, submitted to and accepted by the Smithsonian Institution’s Archive of American Gardens.

As a non-profit organization, NGC generously donates funds to many causes, especially those focusing on horticulture and conservation. On a local level, the club provides three young students with Star camperships to the Norman Bird Sanctuary and awards a scholarship to a student studying horticulture at Rogers High School in Newport. Additionally, contributions are made to GCA’s Scholarship Fund, once again supporting deserving individuals studying horticulture or conservation.

To enhance members’ knowledge in these areas, the club annually sends delegates to the GCA Shirley Meneice Horticulture Symposium and the National Affairs and Legislation Meeting in Washington, DC. The club president and a delegate attend both the GCA Annual Meeting and the Zone II Annual Meeting where, once again, knowledge and information are shared.

The club membership consists of Active, Contributing, Sustaining, Affiliate, Provisional, and Honorary members. Provisional members serve a term of two years before being voted into Active membership. Eight regular meetings are held each year, one dedicated to conservation and open to the public. Board meetings are held on the first Monday of the month.

The members have hosted the Zone II annual meeting in 2012, and celebrated the GCA Centennial in 2013, and Newport Garden Club’s own Centennial in 2014.

Written by Robyn Spagnolo, President (2008)
Updated by Joan Wilson, 2011
Edited PSR 2012
Edited BW 2014





Co-Presidents: Mary Catherine Bardorf and Brookie McColloch

May 2014 Annual Meeting
Our Golden Members with Pat Fernandez
Fran Sherman, Gay Sheffield, Toni Catlett, Dottie Sheffield, Hope Alexander
Annual Meeting 2014: Bettie Pardee, Susan Ruf, and Jane Bogle
Annual Meeting 2014: Gisela Rogers, Lisa Perrault, Lynne Merrill, Pat Plotkin
Estate Sale 2014: Anne Hogg, Luise Strauss
All winners!
2014 Nancy Hay Hat Meeting: Betsy Leerrsen, Pat Fernandez, Cynthia O’Malley, Candace Morgenstern