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Cape Fear Garden Club - History of the Azalea Festival Garden Tour In-Person

History of the Azalea Garden Tour, 1953-2023

Presentation by Elaine Henson will be at the New Hanover County Downtown Library at 2nd & Chestnut Streets on April 11, 2023 at 6 pm.  Free parking in the library parking deck, entrance on 2nd Street.  

Cape Fear Garden Club began with its first meeting on February 11, 1925. It sponsored spring tours of member’s gardens beginning in 1937 with ticket prices of $.50 and $.75. In 1945 they began having Garden Pilgrimages as part of the Garden Club of North Carolina’s state wide effort of local tours.  After the Azalea Festival began in 1947, the seed for a garden tour during the festival was planted.

The Azalea Garden Tour began on March 27-29, 1953 with a $1.50 ticket. It became a reality with CFGC club member Mrs. P.R. Smith “Bess” from a meeting in her garden on Forest Hills Drive. Bess Smith was president of the garden club at the time and hosted the first Ribbon Cutting in the expansive 5 acre Smith garden that first year. The Smith garden went on to be on the tour 18 times including the 50th Anniversary in 2023 and the 70th Anniversary this year 2023.

This presentation looks at some of the garden tours over the last 70 years and key changes with the advent of Azalea Belles in 1969 and Azalea Ambassadors in 2022.

About the Speaker:

Elaine Blackmon Henson grew up in Wilmington, graduated from New Hanover High School and Wilmington College, now UNCW.  She taught second grade for 31 years.  After retiring, her lifelong love of history and a vintage 1940 beach cottage led to collecting local post cards and researching the historical places in them.  Next came her book Carolina Beach: A Postcard History published in 2007, magazine articles and local history presentations. Her collecting continues and includes cards and photos from Wrightsville, Carolina and Kure Beaches, Fort Fisher, Wilmington and a special group of bathing beauties cards from the late 1900s to the 1980s.

Elaine is in her 24th year as a member of Cape Fear Garden Club and is past chairman of the 2003 Azalea Garden Tour and  served as president 2009-2010.  She served on the board of the Lower Cape Historical Society and the board of Federal Point Historic Preservation Society for 20 years, eight of those as president.  She and her husband, Skip, have two children and three grandchildren.

Tuesday, Apr 11th 2023
6:00pm - 7:00pm
Time Zone:
Eastern Time - US & Canada (change)
New Hanover Room
Main Library
  Adult Program     History & Geneaology  
No Geolocation available for event.