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River Oaks Garden Club, Board Records, 1927-2006

Biographical or Historical Note

The River Oaks Garden Club (ROGC) was founded in Houston, Texas in 1927 with Mrs. Louis A. Stevenson presiding over the Board of Directors and general membership. In 1938 ROGC joined the Garden Club of America (GCA). As stated in the ROGC´s Constitution, "[t]he object of this club shall be to stimulate the knowledge and love of gardening among amateurs; to share the advantages of association through conference and correspondence; to aid in the protection of native plants and birds; and to encourage civic planting." Consequently, their primary activities include keeping the grounds of the Bayou Bend estate; maintaining the building and grounds of the Forum of Civics; and hosting the annual Azalea Trail, Pink Elephant sale, and the Sadie Gwin Blackburn Environmental Seminar. In conjunction with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), they host the biannual Florescence Flower Show. The ROGC contributes to various organizations in Houston for conservation, horticulture, and city beautification projects.

The history of the ROGC can be tracked closely to the history of their headquarters, the Forum of Civics. In 1942 the ROGC acquired the Forum of Civics building for their club house. Originally the Forum of Civics was built as a schoolhouse in the late 1880s and became the Smith County School built in 1910. Will Hogg purchased it in 1925 and turned it into the Forum of Civics. Upon his death in 1930, Hogg willed the building to the University of Texas to be used for civic purposes until it was purchased by the ROGC. During World War II, the Forum of Civics building was used as a surgical branch by the American Red Cross and the grounds were an official site for the Victory Gardens Project in Houston. In 1965 the Forum of Civics received the first Texas Historical Marker in Harris County. In 1988, the US Department of the Interior officially designated the Forum of Civics on the National Register of Historic Places. The gardens were developed after ROGC purchased the Forum of Civics by club members and landscape architects C. C. "Pat" Fleming, Herbert Skogland and A. Gregory Catlow.

In 1929 "A Garden Book for Houston" was first published by the Forum of Civics and was later given to the ROGC by the Hogg family. A later edition was published in 1975 with the title "A Garden Book for Houston and the Gulf Coast."

1935 saw the first Azalea Trail. The Trail allows the public to explore the gardens of selected members of the ROGC.

In 1938 the ROGC joined the Garden Club of America. That same year, "Culture of Azaleas and Camellias" was published by the ROGC.

The predecessor of the Pink Elephant sale, the River Oaks Green Market, began in 1944. The sale included plants, bulbs, eggs, and fresh vegetables from the Victory Gardens. The first annual Pink Elephant sale took place in 1951. The proceeds went to the Forum of Civics and the vegetable gardens at Faith Home (later DePelchin Children´s Center).

In 1961 Miss Ima Hogg granted permanent supervision of Bayou Bend Gardens to ROGC. The Bayou Bend Collection, the American decorative arts wing of the MFAH, opened a few years later in 1966.

The American bicentennial was celebrated in the 1975-1976 year with the dedication of a new topiary garden at Bayou Bend.

The Forum newsletter was established in 1989-1990.

The first Sadie Gwin Blackburn Environmental Seminar took place at the MFAH in 1990-1991. Mrs. Blackburn was the ROGC President 1975-1976.

The 1994-1995 year saw the first "Florescence" Flower Show. This is a biannual flower show hosted in conjunction with the MFAH. "Florescence" has been deemed a "major flower show" by the GCA.

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