The Detroit Garden Center (DGC) was born out of the “garden center movement” of the late 1920’s. Mrs. Edwin Hewitt of the Garden Club of Michigan suggested that a garden center be established in Detroit and 1932 DGC became the third in the nation. The purpose of the center would be to serve as an educational resource for horticultural and allied activities and to be of service to the general public. This would be accomplished through lectures, displays, workshops, field trips and other related activities. Over 300 visitors attended lectures and exhibits the first year. In 1935 a library was established with the donation from Mrs. Howard Longyear in memory of her daughter, Mrs. Fred T. Murphy. The library became known as the Esther Longyear Memorial Library and was maintained jointly with the Michigan Horticultural Society as the “Garden Library of Michigan”.
The DGC was instrumental in helping the public with “Victory Gardens” during the war years. In 1944 the center organized a flower show at J.L. Hudson’s in which 45 garden clubs participated. Weekly lunchtime garden lectures were very popular. The Bulletin (newsletter) was started in 1956 as a means of keeping in touch with the growing membership.
The DGC was initially housed in the Society Arts and Crafts Building, followed by the DIA, and by the Grosse Pointe War Memorial and then to the White House on Belle Isle. It was clear that DGC needed a permanent home and an endowment fund was started.
When the Old City Hall was razed in 1961, DGC moved to 133 East Grand River. Then, in April of 1967, the Center was presented with an opportunity for a permanent location and the Moross years began. The Moross House is an example of the homes of Detroiters of modest means in the 1840’s.
The Moross House was the first brick home built in the city. In 1967, the City’s Housing Commission and the owner of the Moross House offered a plan to obtain restoration funds so the DGC could have a permanent home. It would become Michigan’s first federally assisted historic preservation project to be financed under The Housing Act of 1966. In the spring of 1972, DGC received notice that the building where they were located on Grand River was to be demolished and the Detroit Historical Museum offered a room in the museum as a temporary office until the Moross House could be occupied.
Mrs. Windell W. Anderson, landscape architect, completed restoration of the Moross House gardens at the request of the Garden Club of Michigan. She received the Medal of Merit from The Garden Club of America for her work in making the garden as authentic as possible to the 1840’s period. All who have been involved with DGC since 1974 have loved the gardens.
In 2004 DGCC was forced to vacate the Moross and move, with its large library, a few blocks east on Jefferson Ave. to the Vigliotti Building. The DGC has become known as the headquarters for garden information and inspiration throughout the Detroit metropolitan area. “Join the Detroit Garden Center and become a part in preserving Detroit’s past and in planning a more beautiful future” became a slogan to grow by. The Center was instrumental in planting children’s gardens throughout the city, in giving lectures and sponsoring craft lessons and field trips to places of horticultural interest. At its present location, members have built and maintain a half acre hillside garden of plants native to Michigan that can be seen from the Dequindre Cut, a “rails to trails” walking, biking, and jogging venue.
Condensed from an article researched and written by Sandy Jackson for two consecutive DGC Bulletins in Volume 53, 2007.
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