ALBANY — Although the garden center in the Rawson Circle neighborhood has been managed by the Federated Garden Clubs of Albany since the late 1950s, the property was recently turned over to the Rawson Circle Garden District Inc., also known as the Rawson Circle Neighborhood Association.
The property was donated to the Federated Garden Clubs in the ’50s by the city of Albany, with the agreement that the land would revert back to the city if the Federated Garden Clubs of Albany, which at the time had a total of 29 clubs, ever ceased to exist.
While four garden clubs are still around — the Albany Garden Club, the Palmyra Heights Garden Club, the Daffodil Garden Club and the Serendipity Garden Club — the overarching council of the Federated Garden Clubs is no longer in existence.
Because of this, then-president of the Federated Garden Clubs, Betty Hatcher, knew that the groups wanted to try and turn the building and property with the garden center over to another organization, rather than have the it turned back over to the city.
“That strange little thing with the city owning it, on the deed it says, ‘We give this to the Federated Garden Council as long as they function as a garden center,’” Hatcher said. “It’s really not ours to sell, even though it’s a valuable piece of property. All we kept thinking was that we couldn’t turn it back to the city, so we started talking to some Rawson Circle people because they are what’s new and happening in Albany. This is perfect for them.”
Hatcher said she knew that even though the group wanted to turn the building over to the Rawson Circle Garden District Inc. group, they also wanted to continue to hold the once-a-month meetings for each of the four remaining garden clubs at the facility.
So although the Rawson Circle organization has now taken over management of the facility rental and upkeep of the building, all four garden clubs will still be able to hold their regular meetings at the center.
Hatcher also said that other activities with the garden clubs, such as the Albany Garden Club’s annual plant sale, will continue as they have before, to the best of her knowledge.
Hatcher said she believes that taking over the center makes sense for the Rawson Circle organization.
“It’s a central location to what they’re trying to do now,” Hatcher said. “I think it’s a perfect fit.”
Valerie Buchanan, secretary/treasurer of the Rawson Circle Garden District, said the location was one of the key reasons that club was interested in taking over management of the property.
“We welcome the opportunity to take on the responsibility for the property and the building, because part of our mission is to enhance the historic Rawson Circle neighborhood,” Buchanan said. “Having responsibility for that property means that it will be kept up to a higher standard. It gives us a meeting place for our neighborhood gatherings.
“The Rawson Circle Garden District sponsors and coordinates the annual holiday carriage ride in Rawson Circle and the luminaries, too, so now we have a place where we can actually start and have the carriage ride centered at the garden center. That’s a bigger space, it’s contained. It gives us the opportunity to have an indoor place for refreshments rather than outside. It’s going to be a great place for us to have the carriage ride. That’s a big plus right there, and then a couple of weeks ago we had a neighborhood cleanup gathering at the garden center. We asked our membership and our neighbors to come and help us do some major yard work and they really cleaned up a lot of old brush and a lot of stuff that had not been cleaned up since the hurricane (Michael in October).
“With Rawson circle neighbors living all around the garden center, we’re going to keep a closer eye on it than we ever have before. We do have some goals and some objectives as to repainting and some maintenance things that need to be done. That will be an ongoing process.”
The facility will also still be available for rental for various events. More information about renting the facility is available by calling (229) 888-8366.
Buchanan said club members are also interested in maintaining many of the plantings at the property as well.
“We are very interested in maintaining and preserving the plantings that have been done through the years at the garden center property,” she said. “The camellias are especially important to fertilize and maintain and sustain them because they’re just very special. They have been special to the garden club people, and they’re special to Rawson Circle, too.
“We’re extremely pleased to accept this gift from the Garden Club. I think ... most of us who have lived in the historic Rawson Circle neighborhood for some time have a real commitment to the preservation of the neighborhood. The garden center is a large part of that.”