Little Rock Garden Club

The Little Rock Garden Club (LRGC) held its first meeting in 1923 at the home of Mrs. J. N. Heiskell (Wilhelmina Mann Heiskell). Other charter members were Mrs. J. F. Loughborough (Louise Loughborough), Mrs. J. W. House (Julia Clarke House), Mrs. Moorehead Wright (Hildegarde “Hillie” Penzel Wright), Mrs. George R. Mann (Carrie Rock Mann), Frances Van Etten, Mrs. Shelby England (Lita England), Mrs. W. D. Cammack (Katherine Broaddus Cammack), Mrs. Homer Scott, and Mrs. Robert Butterfield (Alvan Butterfield).

In 1929, the club became a member of the National Garden Clubs, Inc. In 1931, it was a founder of the Arkansas Federation of Garden Clubs, Inc., and in 1960 became a member of the Garden Club of America.

In 1928, under the leadership of Louise Loughborough, the club began its first substantial undertaking, assisting with the planting, maintenance, and supervision of the grounds of the War Memorial Building, now known as the Old State House Museum, restoring the iron fence surrounding the building as well as installing the iron gates at the entrance of the property. The club’s work on this project ended in the late 1930s.

Other long-term commitments have included work at the Territorial Restoration (now Historic Arkansas Museum) from 1942 to 1978, the Pulaski County Courthouse garden from 1952 to 2010, and what is now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law campus in the Old Federal Building from 1978 to 1985, as well as ongoing support at Dunbar-Gibbs Garden, now called Dunbar Garden, beginning in 1996, and of the gardens at the Decorative Arts Museum (the Pike-Fletcher-Terry House) beginning in 1997.

Other projects of shorter duration include improvement on the grounds of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital (1957), the donation of a fountain to the renovated Arkansas Arts Center (now the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts) (1962), landscaping of the grounds at the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History (1970), Braille identification tags on trees at the Arkansas School for the Blind (1978), plant identification labels at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion (2006), the creation of a healing garden at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) campus (2008), and the planting of a variety of native trees at the inception of the CALS Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library & Learning Center (2013). In 2019, the LRGC—collaborating with the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Audubon Arkansas, Central Arkansas Water, the Nature Conservancy, and Quail Forever—initiated the Covey Project to restore a twelve-acre site and habitat for the bobwhite quail. Another Covey Project at Gillam Park on the campus of Audubon Delta began in 2022.

The LRGC has documented and submitted many local properties for inclusion in the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Gardens. Throughout its history, the club has also sponsored many flower shows and plant sales, all open to the public.

The club’s work has also included fundraising, grant writing, and legislative advocacy. One early effort was collaborating with state Representative Morgan Smith to advocate for HB 202, “An Act to Prevent the Disfiguring of Landscapes Along the Public Highways,” which passed in 1933. When it became a member of the Garden Club of America in 1960, the club began coordinating its legislative advocacy with the national club’s efforts.

In celebration of its centennial in 2023, the LRGC pledged grants totaling $104,000 to four new projects: an outdoor pavilion on the campus of Audubon Delta, a monetary contribution to the landscaping of the newly renovated Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, a tree-shaded walking trail alongside War Memorial Stadium, and the publication of Theo Witsell’s book about naturalist Thomas Nuttall, Following Nuttall: An Interpretation of Thomas Nuttall’s Exploration of the Arkansas Territory.

For additional information:
Little Rock Garden Club. (accessed July 20, 2023).

Little Rock Garden Club Records. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. Central Arkansas Library System, Little Rock, Arkansas. Finding aid online at (accessed July 20, 2023).

Little Rock Garden Club Yearbook, 2022–2023. Little Rock, AR: 2022.

Anne Wagner Speed
Little Rock, Arkansas


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