HCGS History

The Friends of the Hiram Gardens (FHG) was until recently known as both the Hiram College Garden Society and the Hiram Public Gardens (HPG). The HPG was created over twenty five years ago, in the Spring of 1980, by Jamie Barrow (former President of the Hiram Historical Society and member of the Herb Society of America), Roland Layton (former Hiram professor of History), and John Shaw (former Hiram professor of English) so as to maintain and perpetuate the lovely public gardens established throughout the Hiram community. These gardens were at Pendleton House, Bonny Castle, Copperbeech Park, the Hiram Christian Church, and the Century House (Hiram Historical Society). Eight organizations and several individuals in the Hiram village financially supported the HPG project. During this inagural summer of 1980, four work-study students worked in the gardens - Bill Hartman, Warren Kovach, Mark Maire, and Kim Marten. In the Fall they were joined by another student who worked as a volunteer - Melanie Lowe. The students were supervised and given the opportunity not only to learn to care for and maintain the gardens, but they were given every opportunity to learn about all the plants that grew in every garden; shrubs, trees, annuals, and biannuals. They also learned about garden design, bed preparation, plant care, tools of the trade, and mulching proceedures. Books were made available to them for in-depth study if they so desired. As such, since its inception the HPG has always been an organization dedicated to education as well as community service in preserving the beauty of the gardens it maintains. The project had been so successful that, the following year of 1981, support from the commnity was continued. The three who started the HPG were joined by a fourth, Mrs. Francis Pendleton (Mrs. Thorn, wife of former Chair of the Hiram Board of Trustees, for whom Pendleton House is named), who had supported the project the year before. Four Hiram College students again worked in the gardens that summer, along with one local high school student. At this time, memberships were offered to anyone interested in the perpetration of the gardens. The HPG was thus supported by these memberships, organizations in the Hiram community, and businesses in Garrettsville. Hurd Garden and the plantings at Mahan House were soon developed and were added to the list of gardens that the HPG oversaw, make the total gardens of their interest number seven. Since the late 1980s various interested individuals and groups had added further gardens at the water treatment plant (Piney Woods), the Fairview Cemetary, the new Hiram College Library, Bowler Hall, the Martin Common, the Hiram Christian Church, and most recently the Fisher All Faith Meeting House, making the Hiram community more garden-rich than ever before. Some of the new gardens have endowments to fund their maintenence, allowing for assistance to an already understaffed grounds crew. Moreover, there have been numerous individuals who have devoted their time and care to the gardens. At the same time, however, interest in maintaining the established the public gardens has waxed and waned to the point that, since 1990, all the older gardens have been intermittently in need of major replanting and rennovation. The state of disrepair of many of the older gardens, as well as the history of Hiram Village investing in new public spaces while abandoning older spaces, speaks to the need for a more coordinated effort to keep up such public spaces. Establishing gardens is a simpler task than providing for the long-term maintenance necessary to have them remain as places of beauty. Moreover, The gardens are underutilized as an educational tool for community use and benefit. In response to this dire need for continuity and stewardship of gardens once they are created, in the Spring of 2003 Hiram professor of biology Dennis Taylor organized a group of interested faculty, staff, students, and alumni of Hiram College to work with community members to redefine the mission and role of the Hiram Public Gardens. Progress was made very quickly and greater projects were taken on as members were inspired by their current success and positive reactions from the community. By the end of the summer the board of the Hiram Public Gardens chose to rename itself the "Hiram College Garden Society," with a focused mission and re-established organizational structure. The activity of the members over the Summer of 2003 bespeaks a rejuvinated and concerted effort to provide for a stable and long-term plan for maintaining the beauty and service of the public gardens of the Hiram community. In January of 2005, the HCGS board decided to rename the society the Friends of the Hiram Gardens in keeping with other support organizations at Hiram College. FHG has metamorphosed into an important educational resource utilizing recent advances in technology to further its educational mission.