" Rediscovering the Forgotten Garden "

Saturday, May 7- "Rediscovering the Forgotten Garden" is an inspiring story of a forgotten garden, exploring both the natural and the manmade within a 330-acre green space. The program will reveal the history of a forgotten paradise, Lee Park and Willcox Lake, within the old neighborhoods of a Southside Virginia city. The program uncovers the city park's uniqueness among sites nationally and leads us to the present where efforts to establish a vision for its rejuvenation and future use as a city national park are well underway. The Lee Park Master Plan adopted by City Council in 2004 for the preservation of the site along with public improvements, educational, and interpretive programs will be included in this lecture by Leonard Muse and Bettie Guthrie, Co-chairs of the Lee Park Committee.

10:00 AM - 11:00 AM at Historic Petersburg Foundation. No fee, but space is limited so please call (804) 732-2096 to register.

Saturday, May 21 - To continue the program from May 7, you will have an opportunity to walk on the paths constructed by women, both African American and white. These women worked together to create the sanctuary which led to the offering of outdoor educational programs known to educators and botanists along the East Coast during the 1930's. Dr. Ware will share her knowledge and explain the unique geological setting, a natural joining of the Piedmont to the Coastal plain which created a fertile site and a rich "botanical meeting ground" for rare plant species.

10:00 AM - 12:00 noon, meet at Lee Park Pavilion. Guide: Dr. Donna M. E. Ware, Botanist, College of William and Mary. Wear comfortable shoes-some terrain may be difficult. No fee, but please call to register (804) 732-2096

Traveling Exhibit on Petersburg's Lee Park
to Open At the Library of Virginia

"Rediscovering the Forgotten Garden" an exhibition on the history of Petersburg's Lee Park will be shown for the first time at the Library of Virginia from March 8 to 26. Developed by The Petersburg Garden Club, the exhibit explores both the natural and man-made history of this 330 acre green oasis within Petersburg's city limits.

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Although Lee Memorial Park was not established until 1921, paleontologists have unearthed fossils and evidence of prehistoric sites within the confines of the park dating as far back as 7 million years. Named to honor General Robert E. Lee, the park contained segments of Civil War earthworks known as the Dimmock Line that were built to shield Confederate troops.

A significant part of Lee Park's history was unlocked in the 1990s when the Petersburg Garden Club saved from obscurity an extraordinary collection of scrapbooks assembled between 1937 and 1940 containing 325 pressed dried plant specimens from the park along with 238 watercolors by Bessie Niemeyer Marshall depicting most of the same species. The scrapbook collection is the legacy of a Depression-era work relief program funded by the Works Progress Administration. Between 1935 and 1940, crews of African American and white women who were enrolled in the work relief program designed and constructed the twenty-five acre wildflower sanctuary and adjoining bird sanctuary in Lee Park. The women who participated in the project transplanted more than 365,000 plants in the sanctuary, labeling 500 different species. By 1938, the Petersburg sanctuary had become a prototype for four "sister" WPA sanctuaries in Virginia.

After WPA funding ended in 1940, the sanctuary fell dormant. However, the rest of Lee Park remained a popular recreation spot for white residents. In 1953, a group of African American citizens filed suit in Federal Court against the City of Petersburg for denying them use of the park's swimming facilities. Rather than integrate, the city officially closed the park in 1954. Eventually, the park's other facilities were integrated but the swimming area never reopened.

In 1999, Lee Park was placed on the National Register of Historic Places as a unique site in which environmental conservation and women's history come together. The Petersburg City Council adopted a master plan last year for the preservation of the site along with public improvements, educational and interpretive programs. Through historical photographs and images of fossils, herbarium specimens, watercolors and archival material this exhibition offers many individuals across the region a chance to learn about the park's significant history and develop an appreciation for the abundant natural resources that flourish within the park's boundaries.

The Library of Virginia is located at 800 E. Broad Street in downtown Richmond. On March 18 and 19 the exhibit will be featured in conjunction with the symposium, Virginia Women Through Four Centuries and the Library's companion exhibition "Working Out Her Destiny: Women's History in Virginia." The Library's main telephone number is (804) 692-3500. For exhibition inquiries contact pgcbook@aol.com or call (804) 733-7981.


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