Bellingrath Gardens and Home

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Bellingrath Gardens and Home
Bellingrath2.jpg
The Bellingrath Home.
Bellingrath Gardens and Home is located in Alabama
Bellingrath Gardens and Home
Bellingrath Gardens and Home is located in the US
Bellingrath Gardens and Home
Location 12401 Bellingrath Gardens Road
Theodore, Alabama
Coordinates 30°25′49″N 88°8′26″W / 30.43028°N 88.14056°W / 30.43028; -88.14056Coordinates: 30°25′49″N 88°8′26″W / 30.43028°N 88.14056°W / 30.43028; -88.14056
Area 6.5 acres (2.6 ha)
Built 1925-1949
Architectural style 20th Century Revival
NRHP Reference # 82001609[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 19, 1982
Designated ARLH September 14, 1977[2]

Bellingrath Gardens and Home is the 65-acre (26 ha) public garden and historic home of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath, located on the Fowl River in Theodore, near Mobile, Alabama. Walter Bellingrath was one of the first Coca-Cola bottlers in the Southeast, and with his wealth built the estate garden and home. He and his wife, Bessie, lived in the home which has since been converted into a museum. Since the Gardens opened to the public in 1932, they continue to welcome visitors to enjoy year-round floral pageantry. Ten percent of all membership contributions go to the Bellingrath Gardens and Home Foundation's Endowment Fund.[3] The site was listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage on September 14, 1977 and on the National Register of Historic Places on October 19, 1982.[1][2]

Gardens[edit]

Azaleas in bloom from across Mirror Lake.

Bellingrath Gardens and Home encompasses approximately 900 acres along the Fowl River. Sixty-five acres are cultivated with annual blooms and continuous color. The gardens include a bridal garden, a conservatory, a great lawn, the Harrigon/ExxonMobil Bayou Boardwalk, a nature walk, the Asian-American garden, a rose garden, a chapel, the Mermaid Pool, Mirror Lake, an observation tower, and the Delchamps Gallery of Boehm Porcelain.[3][4] The garden pathways are composed of flagstone that had been obtained from the old city sidewalks in Mobile, where they had been in place since arriving as ballast in sailing vessels collecting loads of cotton for the mills at Manchester, England. The gardens feature live oaks, camellias, azaleas, roses, and chrysanthemums year round. Plants featured in winter are tulips, snapdragons, pansies, ornamental cabbage and kale, daffodils, poppies, primroses, and many varieties of narcissus. Plants featured in spring include the more than 250,000 azaleas, hydrangeas, Easter lilies, impatiens, salvia, fuchsia, and Pelargonium geraniums. Plants featured in summer are the more than 2000 roses, allamandas, hibiscus, copper plants, begonias, ornamental peppers, bougainvillea, caladiums, coleus, vinca, and marigolds. Plants featured in fall are over 8,000 bedded, potted and cascading chrysanthemums, hibiscus, and copper plants.[5] Special events and weddings are held throughout the year in the Gardens.[3]

History[edit]

Water feature in the formal gardens.

The property on which the gardens would eventually be constructed were purchased in 1917 as a fishing camp by Walter Bellingrath, president of the local Coca-Cola bottling plant, which he bought to balance his work-life schedule. The transformation from the "Belle Camp" fishing post into what is now Bellingrath Gardens and Home is largely thanks to Bessie Mae Morse Bellingrath, who married Walter in 1906.[3] Mrs. Bellingrath began developing the gardens with architect George Bigelow Rogers in 1927. The home was completed in 1935, encompasses 10,500 square feet (980 m2) and features hand-made brick salvaged in Mobile from the 1852 birthplace of Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont. Ironwork was obtained from the demolished circa 1837 Southern Hotel, also in Mobile.[6] The house design borrowed elements from many traditions and eras. Some of the most obvious are a formal Georgian staircase reminiscent of an English country house, French doors, and a Mediterranean courtyard.[4]

Walter D. Bellingrath and Bessie Morse Bellingrath opened their gardens to the public for the first time on April 7, 1932. The Home opened to the general public as a museum home in 1956, after the 1955 death of Mr. Bellingrath at the age of 86, and features all of its original furnishings from Mrs. Bellingrath.[3]

The Bellingraths had no children, and after Bessie's death in 1943 Walter dedicated the rest of his life to work on the Gardens she had worked so hard to create. In 1950, Walter D. Bellingrath founded the Bellingrath-Morse Foundation at the age of 80 to perpetuate his beloved Gardens and Home for future generations to enjoy. The foundation benefits Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Ala., as well as Mr. Bellingrath's church, Central Presbyterian, and his wife's family's St. Francis Street Methodist; these institutions receive approximately 80% of the Foundation's earnings. Although the Gardens receive income from the Bellingrath-Morse Foundation, two-thirds of current operations are financed entirely by admissions, gift shop and restaurant sales, membership, and donations. Bellingrath Gardens and Home is dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of the garden and grand estate home through the highest quality horticultural standards of display and by welcoming visitors in the same spirit that the Bellingraths welcomed the community to their private estate.[3]

Yearly Events at Bellingrath[edit]

The formal dining room in the main house.

Throughout the year, the community is welcomed to the garden for a variety of events, which include the Easter Egg Hunt on the Great Lawn, an Easter Sunrise Service on the Live Oak Plaza, the Balloon Glow with trick-or-treating throughout the Gardens each fall, and the nationally recognized Magic Christmas in Lights each winter. The Gardens are also home to the largest outdoor display of cascading chrysanthemums in the U.S. each fall. During the summer and winter, the community is invited each year to a series of educational events called "Wonderful Wednesdays".[3]

Christmas Season[edit]

Bellingrath Gardens celebrates the Christmas season with a display of over 3 million lights that is known as the Magic Christmas in Lights. The light show began in 1995; it runs from the Friday after Thanksgiving through New Year's Eve. It features over 3 million lights with 1,000 set pieces in 13 themed scenes spaced around the estate.[7] USA Today included Bellingrath Gardens and Home’s Magic Christmas in Lights on its 2014 list of the "10 Best Public Light Displays in America"; votes from online readers put Bellingrath in sixth place.[8]

Cascading Mum Display[edit]

Bellingrath works throughout the year to create a spectacular display of mums. Each year, Bellingrath welcomes cascades, spheres, baskets and columns to the flower beds, decorating the Gardens in an impressive fall fashion.[9] Hundreds of colorful four-foot long cascades are displayed on bridges and balconies, in baskets and containers through the Gardens. It takes over nine months to grow a single crop.[10] The first Cascading Mums Display was held on November 3, 1963. On that day, the garden admission fee was waived, and over 14,727 visitors flocked to the Gardens. Stock plants for the cascade mums were obtained from Longwood Gardens in Kennent Square, Penn.[11] While Longwood Gardens’ Chrysanthemum Festival, begun in 1921, is perhaps the largest indoor display, Bellingrath's display of cascading mums, columns, spheres and baskets is the largest outdoor display.[12]

Awards[edit]

  • On July 18, 1938, the Bellingraths returned from a visit to New Orleans to find a crowd of more than 200 friends and well-wishers in their driveway. A bronze plaque and stone bench had been installed in their absence. It thanks them for opening their estate to the public and "their untiring effort for the up-building of the City of Mobile and this 'Charm Spot of the Deep South.'"
  • On September 9, 1977, the Bellingrath Home was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.
  • On October 19, 1982, the Bellingrath Home was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • On November 24, 1996, the "Garden Estates" episode of America's Castes premiered on Arts and Entertainment Network television featuring Bellingrath Gardens and Home.
  • On May 13, 1999, Good Morning America was filmed at Bellingrath Gardens with Charles Gibson, Diane Sawyer, a former Junior Miss, and Faith Hill.
  • In 2010, Bellingrath Rosarian Linda Guy was awarded the American Rose Society Bronze Honor Medal.
  • In 2013, Better Homes and Gardens' special interest publication, Country Gardens, features Bellingrath Gardens’ annual Cascading Mums Display.
  • On December 15, 2014, USA Today included Bellingrath Gardens and Home’s Magic Christmas in Lights on its list of the "10 Best Public Light Displays in America"; votes from online readers put Bellingrath in sixth place.[8]
  • On June 4, 2015, Dr. William E. Barrick was selected to receive the American Horticultural Society's 2015 Liberty Hyde Bailey Award.[3]

See also[edit]

Media related to Bellingrath Gardens and Home at Wikimedia Commons

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b National Park Service (July 9, 2010). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b "Properties on the Alabama Register of Landmarks & Heritage". Alabama Historical Commission. www.preserveala.org. Archived from the original on September 4, 2012. Retrieved October 25, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Bellingrath Gardens and Home hours, tickets and general information" (PDF). Bellingrath Gardens and Home. Wordpress. Retrieved June 10, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Motyka, john (March 23, 2007). "You Can Call It the Little Easy". New York Times. Retrieved May 8, 2007. 
  5. ^ "The Gardens". "Bellingrath Gardens and Home Website". Archived from the original on October 25, 2007. Retrieved October 14, 2007. 
  6. ^ "The Bellingrath Home". "Bellingrath Gardens and Home Website". Archived from the original on October 25, 2007. Retrieved October 14, 2007. 
  7. ^ "Magic Christmas in Lights". Bellingrath Gardens and Home. Retrieved October 26, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b Norville, Deborah. "10 Best Readers' Choice". USA Today. Retrieved June 10, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Cascading Mum Display". Bellingrath Gardens and Home. Wordpress. Retrieved 11 June 2015. 
  10. ^ "Cascading Mum Display". Bellingrath Gardens and Home. Wordpress. Retrieved 11 June 2015. 
  11. ^ McGehee, Tom. "The Chrysanthemum Finds its Place in the Gardens" (PDF). Bellingrath Gardens and Home. Wordpress. Retrieved 11 June 2015. 
  12. ^ "Bellingrath Cascade Mums.mov". Youtube. Retrieved 11 June 2015. 

External links[edit]