History of the Property
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is on property that was Powhatan Indian hunting ground and was once owned by Patrick Henry. Lewis Ginter , a prosperous Richmond businessman, purchased nine acres in 1894.
Brief Timeline of the Garden
Lewis Ginter bought nine acres on Lakeside Lake and allowed his colleagues in the Commonwealth and Westmoreland Clubs to build the Lakeside Wheel Club, a one-story structure that was later modified and incorporated into Bloemendaal House. The Wheel Club was a destination for Richmond bicyclists.
The Lakeside Wheel Club
On October 2, Lewis Ginter died at the age of 73. His death took place at his country home called Westbrook, on land now belonging to the Westminster-Canterbury retirement community. His death was greatly mourned throughout the city, as he was known for his kindness and philanthropy. Lewis Ginter is buried at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.
Grace Arents, Ginter's niece, bought the abandoned Lakeside Wheel Club. She remodeled the structure, adding a second story, and made it a convalescent home for sick children from the city.
Later with the founding of the Instructional Visiting Nurses Association, the convalescent home was no longer needed and Arents moved into the house with her companion, Mary Garland Smith. She called it Bloemendaal in tribute to the Ginter family's Dutch ancestors and developed gardens on the property. Bloemendaal means "valley of flowers."
Grace Arents in her garden
Grace Arents died at the age of 78 at her home Bloemendaal Farm. She willed life-rights to Smith and stipulated after Smith's death that the city of Richmond was to develop the property as a botanical garden honoring Lewis Ginter. She is buried at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.
Mary Garland Smith died at the age of 100. The city of Richmond took possession of the property. The city investigated plans for a botanical garden but none of them came to fruition and the property languished.
The entrance to house when it was Bloemendaal Farm
A group of botanists, horticulturists and interested citizens banded together to form the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Inc. to uphold the will of Arents. A lawsuit ensued. An amicable settlement allowed the formation of the Garden. The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden was chartered by court decree.
Aerial view of the property in 1981