ZBG in the Beginning
AREA GARDEN CENTER
The story of the
Garden Center starts in 1946 when the Violet Crown Garden
Club set aside $50 earned from the sale of firewood, to initiate
a building project. The club immediately organized and sponsored
fund-raising events to add to the initial donation. Mrs. W.
Bradfield was first to approach the city with the request
for land to be designated as a building site. Mrs. Alden (Mabel)
Davis continued the quest and in 1955 the city accepted the
idea. In November of 1955 seven garden clubs organized as
the Austin Area Garden Council and took on the task of overseeing
the project. These original clubs were Violet Crown Garden
Club, the Men's Garden Club, Wilshire Garden Club, the Austin
Women's Federation Garden Group, Heart of the Hills Gardeners,
Western Hills Garden Club and West Lake Hills Garden Club.
On November 15,
1962, the City Council allocated space in Zilker Park. The
city retained ownership of the land but agreed to furnish
utilities, grounds maintenance and building repairs to the
new Garden Center. The council presented plans for the building
and adjacent gardens under the direction of Beverly Sheffield,
then Director of Parks and Recreation. The plans were approved
and construction began following groundbreaking ceremonies
on September 8, 1963. The building was completed and dedicated
on October 25, 1964. In 1996, the Garden Council along with
the City undertook a massive renovation of the Garden Center
in order to do necessary asbestos abatement, comply with the
standards of the American Disablilities Act, and improve the
usefulness of the building.
The present Garden
Council is composed of 31 clubs representing 1,500 members.
The Center is the site of 45-50 meetings per month and approximately
300,000 visitors come to the gardens each year. One thing
that is unique about these gardens is that they represent
a collaboration between many area garden club members and
the city. The contributions of many groups and individuals
have resulted in the gardens as they are today.
HISTORIC ZILKER PARK
Colonel Andrew, "Andy"
Zilker was born September 1, 1858 in New Albany, Indiana. He worked
his way to New Orleans on riverboats and then drove oxen teams for
frontier caravans to make it as far as San Antonio. He was 18 years
old when he arrived in Austin with fifty cents in his pockets. He
survived by washing dishes in a small Congress Avenue restaurant
earning and a place to sleep in a storeroom at the rear of the building.
Because of a friendship
with a young engineer at the ice plant on the riverbank, Zilker
developed an interest in the manufacture of artificial ice which
led to him becoming one of the city's most prominent businessmen.
It took him only six weeks earning $1.25 per day as a plant fireman
at the ice plant to advance to the position of engineer. Three months
later, he assumed control of the plant. The ornate fire drill tower
of the Fire Department on the north shore of Town Lake marks the
original location of the ice plant.
In 1918, Zilker donated
Barton Springs and the surrounding area to the City of Austin on
the condition that an endowment of $100,000 be established to benefit
the children of Austin. The income was to be spent by the public
school system for manual training and domestic science (industrial
education). This project was augmented in 1931 by an additional
endowment, insuring technical education for Austin's children indefinitely.