The Trial Gardens at The Grosse Pointe War Memorial
August 14, 2019
Posted by Darby Moran on Tuesday, August 13th, 2019 at 9:01am.
Last week we explored the six splendid homes on Windmill Pointe Omer C. Boushor created during the 1930’s and 1940’s.
This week we take a piece of Windmill Pointe with us, namely one of the historic millstones, as we present the Trial Gardens at The Grosse Pointe War Memorial. The Trial Garden was originally commissioned by the Grosse Pointe Garden Center – an organization founded in 1950 to succeed the Grosse Pointe War Memorial’s Garden and Grounds Committee. Eleanor Roche, a noted landscape architect, designed them.
From the book Grosse Pointe War Memorial, by Ann Marie Aliotta, Suzy Berschback we understand ‘the Trial Garden was so named because it started out with workers trying to see which difference plants and flowers would do well in the South-Eastern Michigan climate’. The huge wheel shaped garden features nine perimeter and four inner plots. The four inner plots, which form the inner circle, are herb gardens representing culinary, medicinal, fragrant, and wedding herbs. The plots change annually. The Herb Society of America – Grosse Pointe Unit, tends to them. Source: http://www.gpgardencenter.org In 1952 one of the recovered historic Windmill Pointe millstones was dedicated to the War Memorial by the family of Frank Lauhoff, and placed in the center of the Trial Garden. It provided the perfect centerpiece to the wheel shaped garden. The stone is made of an extremely hard grade of granite found only in France, and weighs 1-1/2 tons. Source: Tonnancour, Volume 1.
Landscape architect, Eleanor Roche, born in 1892, was a native of East Orange, New Jersey. In 1917 she graduated from the Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture in Groton, Massachusetts. Early on in her career Ms. Roche went to work for Ellen Biddle Shipman in New York City. Shipman, a pioneer in landscape architecture, completed over 400 projects, including several renowned gardens in Grosse Pointe. Her associate Eleanor Roche, having worked for Shipman for several years, opened her own practice in New York in 1926, and subsequently became a member of the American Society of Landscape Artists. She specialized in residential work, in particular gardens for small and moderate-sized homes. Source: The Cultural Landscape Foundation (tclf.org).
By 1934 she was working regularly in Grosse Pointe, and moved to the community in 1935. Aside from the Trial Garden she also worked on several distinctive projects including the Virginia Brush Ford Memorial Rose Garden at Christ Church, and the residence of 187 Irvine Lane, having been hired by architect Robert O. Derrick. Roche continued to reside in Grosse Pointe until her death in 1975, aged 83.
The Grosse Pointe Garden Center members now maintain the Trial Garden. Josephine Alger once tended it. She was the daughter of Russel A. Alger and Mrs. Marion Alger, who commissioned 32 Lake Shore Drive (now the War Memorial), in 1910. Each year the Garden Center invites local garden clubs to take part in an annual judged competition. The designs are based on an annual theme, selected by the previous year’s winner. Each club is assigned a plot, and is required to maintain it over the summer. The plots are evaluated three times throughout the summer by three judges. On September 20 an Annual Awards Tea is held, where the first, second and third place competition winners are announced. The tea is open to members and the public. Source: http://www.gpgardencenter.org Photographs of the garden are courtesy of Katie Doelle.
This year’s theme is “Secret Garden” – selected by the 2018 winners, the Windmill Pointe Garden Club. The judges for 2019 are Sandra Richards – former head of MSU Macomb County Extension Master Gardeners; Mil Hurley – Landscape designer, lecturer, owner of A Southern Gardener; Helen Bai – Chair of Beautification Advisory Committee of Grosse Pointe Shores and landscape designer.
So the next time you are at the War Memorial stop by the Trial Gardens, they are beautiful, tranquil, and perfectly situated with a view of the lake. As for the second Windmill Pointe millstone, well apparently that is still missing…wouldn’t it be great if it was found.
Written by Katie Doelle
Copyright © 2019 Higbie Maxon Agney & Katie Doelle