Chestnut Hill

Located six miles west of downtown Boston, Chestnut Hill is notable for the beauty and variety of its stately old houses (Colonial, Italianate, Shingle, Tudor, and Victorian style) and its scenic landscape, as well as the campus of Boston College. Although Chestnut Hill is considered a village, it is not a clear topographical designation or an incorporated municipal entity. In fact, its borders encompass parts of the town of Brookline, the Boston neighborhoods of Brighton and West Roxbury, and the city of Newton. The name “Chestnut Hill” actually refers to a series of hills overlooking the Chestnut Hill Reservoir.

Most of Chestnut Hill remained farmland into the early 20th century. A significant exception was the area around the 135-acre reservoir, developed in 1870 by Frederick Law Olmsted. In 1986, this part of Chestnut Hill was designated as an historic district on the National Register of Historic Places based on the significance of it landscape and architecture.

The Chestnut Hill Garden Club

The Chestnut Hill Garden Club was founded in 1915 and has been an active member of the GCA since 1919.

Originally chaired by men and women with large estates and staffs, the club has evolved into an organization of dynamic women – gardeners and civic volunteers with busy lives at home and outside the home. The club has produced leaders like past presidents Thalassa Cruso Hencken, whose show Making Things Grow pioneered the gardening-program genre on public television and Corliss Knapp Engle who was a horticultural mentor and icon within the GCA.

Devoted to sharing gardening skills and supporting the community, the club has participated in the New England Spring Flower Show and Art in Bloom at the Museum of Fine Arts for many years. At the same time, it has supported civic activities, including conservation causes in the early 1930’s, a soup kitchen and hospital rehabilitation project during and after World War II, the hands-on maintenance of historic gardens in Brookline and Newton, a compost project, children’s greenhouse projects, guides to conservation areas and parks, plantings at the local commuter rail station, post office, highway verge and library, and conservation and restoration of nearby Hammond Pond, a part of the Charles River watershed.

Since 1970, the club has been deeply involved in the rehabilitations and maintenance of the Houghton Garden, which was created in the 1920’s by Martha Houghton, a club member and founder of the American Rock Garden Society. The club continues to care for the garden in partnership with town conservation agencies and a “friends of” organization. Thanks also to the club, the garden has been documented for the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Gardens.

The Chestnut Hill Garden Club (with 100 members) meets seven times a year and also holds two club flower shows and numerous workshops and educational opportunities, all designed to combine members’ talents and interests for the benefit of the community and to have fun doing so. Regarding fundraising, the club does not have one formula. Events in the past have included a tuxedoed evening, garden tours, flowers shows, and lectures. In 2005 the club held a celebration of its 90th anniversary and also produced a calendar commemorating a club photographer, Adelaide M.Brown Pratt (1910-2004) and her documentation of Chestnut Hill gardens.