Stroll back in time to late nineteenth-century Richmond, Virginia—the age of farms and factories, Civil War and Reconstruction, bustling city centers and streetcar suburbs. This was the era of the Garden's namesake Major Lewis Ginter—a brilliant businessman, refined gentleman, and generous philanthropist whose influence continues today.Ginter purchased the land that would become the Botanical Garden in 1884 and ten years later he constructed the Lakeside Wheel Club. The one-story structure would become a fashionable gathering place for sports cyclists and socially minded belles. Upon his death in 1897 at the age of 73, a Northern newspaper proclaimed Major Ginter "the richest man south of the Potomac," and almost every charitable institution in the city was remembered in his will. The confirmed bachelor magnanimously bequeathed his fortune, estimated at seven to ten million dollars, to the city he loved and to his beloved niece Grace Arents.
In 1913, Arents, who was trained as a nurse, turned her attention to sick children who struggled with illnesses related to the city's pollution and overcrowded conditions. Convinced that a fresh country environment would support recuperation, Arents purchased approximately ten acres and the abandoned Lakeside Wheel House in the city's north side. She remodeled her uncle's former club house in a Dutch colonial style and removed the roof to add a second story for bedrooms, classroom, playroom, and library. Gardens were developed for beauty and food production, and the convalescent complex was appropriately named "Bloemendaal"—Dutch for "valley of flowers"—in tribute to her family's ancestry.
Later with the founding of the Instructional Visiting Nurses Association, the convalescent home was no longer needed and Arents occupied the house with her companion, Mary Garland Smith. In 1926 Grace Arents died at the age of 78. She willed life-rights to Smith and stipulated after Smith's death the city of Richmond was to develop the property as a botanical garden in honor of her uncle. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden was established as an independent non-profit corporation in 1984.
Philanthropy and an appreciation for the importance of plants sparked the Garden’s humble beginnings, and they continue to inspire the success, vitality, and fulfillment of Grace Arents’ dream, which is realized through Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s mission is education; our passion is connecting plants and people to improve our community.
The Garden strives to be a primary resource to the community for learning about the botanical world – its beauty, its heritage, its pleasures and its significance to the web of life, and to our very survival. We are committed firmly to stewardship and sustainability, especially involving water. Following the model established by our first benefactor, Grace Arents, we embrace our responsibility to engage the community, to increase the appreciation for and understanding of the natural world, and through these, to enrich lives and enhance the environment in which we live.
In 2014, Garden visitation exceeded more than 350,000, and the number of membership households exceeded 13,000. Structured Children's Education programs at the Garden served more than 13,000 children during this time.
Current goals include:
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Our short term goals are to
1. Maintain or improve teacher satisfaction.
95% of teachers participating in group programs or teacher workshops will be satisfied or very satisfied.
2. Maintain or increase repeat group program enrollment
50% of groups enrolled in programs in the last three years will re-enroll in at least one successive year
3. Increase the impact of teacher workshops
250 teachers representing 5,000 students will participate in workshops
Lewis Ginter is committed to the education of children as the future stewards of our most valuable natural resources, and is particularly devoted to providing hands-on experiences of nature and interactive learning opportunities to underserved populations.
Our children's education programming addresses the need for children to engage with nature in a way that stimulates their curiosity and encourages appreciation for the central importance of plants in both the natural world and human society. The goals we pursue are not all easily measurable – the enjoyment of nature; increasing interest in and knowledge about plant processes; increased appreciation for the role of plants in providing for basic needs of food, shelter, clothing and medicines; and – for some – the first sputtering flame of a lifelong passion for science, scientific observation and experimentation.
In this dynamic, ever-changing "learning landscape," adult students can expand their knowledge of the plant world, develop gardening skills, and sample the best in horticulture and landscape design.
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The long term goal of the Community Kitchen Garden is to serve as a model to demonstrate the importance of plants to human life and to teach and encourage visitors and volunteers to plant produce gardens for themselves and for others in their community.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
The largest challenge to income is volatility of the markets and the impact on the Garden's invested funds. However, with careful stewardship of daily operations and a well-managed contingency reserve, the garden continues to operate "in the black."
Copyright © 2014 The Community Foundation Serving Richmond & Central Virginia7501 Boulders View Drive, Richmond, VA 23225804-330-7400 | www.tcfrichmond.org