For many years now, as people come in to Oneonta using the James F. Lettis Highway, one of the first things they notice is a very attractive garden with trees at the corner of Maple and Main streets. That first impression a newcomer sees, known as Curtis Park, is the work of the Oneonta Federated Garden Club, which helps keep it looking its best.
As the club today celebrates the 75th anniversary of becoming a federated club, this most visible project only scratches the surface of what the club has provided at many places around the city through the years.
Although federated in 1938, the Garden Club got its start in 1931 as a project of what was then the Oneonta Woman’s Club. It began with a flower sale in a vacant downtown storefront. In 1933 the new club separated from the Woman’s Club and by 1938 the club had drawn up a constitution and became federated.
According to minutes from the first regular meeting held on Monday, May 16, 1938, it was held in “the beautiful garden of Mrs. Addie Borst on Maple St. and was in the form of a Tulip Party.” A business meeting was called to order at 4 p.m. by the president, Mrs. Clarence Ceperley. Plans were made for a summer flower show in the coming months.
“The objects of the club were set forth as to promote interest in gardens, beautify the City of Oneonta, encourage civic pride and cooperate in the protection of wild flowers and native plants,” it was reported in The Oneonta Star.
While protection of plants was one of the club’s objectives, an exception was made in one of their earliest public projects, as reported in an undated 1941 Oneonta Star article.
“As part of the ragweed elimination campaign sponsored by the Oneonta Federated Garden club specimens of the weed were put on exhibit in 12 stores and other public places, with placards reading, ‘Ragweed — Destroy It!’”