For the second year in a row, we’ve had the pleasure of sponsoring the Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill Tour & Soirée. This is the largest and most important fundraiser for The Beacon Hill Garden Club, and this year marked its 91st tour. While this spring was unseasonably wet and chilly, the Tour and evening Soirée enjoyed rare days of glorious sunshine – making the experience all the more wonderful.
The Beacon Hill Garden Club has a long and storied history. In 1928, twenty Beacon Hill residents who shared a love of their neighborhood and a passion for horticulture formed the Beacon Hill Garden Club. Their goal was simple: they wanted to improve their beloved Boston niche. During this period following the great depression, described as “the Golden Age of postwar exuberance,” Beacon Hill was rejuvenated as a desirable neighborhood, and many families arrived or returned to purchase and restore area homes.
One of the features many of these homes shared was a walled outdoor area once used as a “laundry yard.” When restoring their own, outdated laundry yards, Club founders, including Gertrude Beals Bourne (described as the moving force in the club’s founding) discovered the joy and beauty a garden could bring to their outdoor living space. The following year they hosted the first tour of the Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill.
Today, the Beacon Hill Garden Club enjoys a thriving membership of 60+ neighborhood residents who own and maintain a hidden outdoor garden. Members agree to show their gardens every 3 to 5 years, which keeps the tour interesting and fresh for the roughly 2,000 visitors who attend each year.
We chatted with club president, Kate Enroth, about what makes the club so enduring, and what keeps it so relevant within the Beacon Hill community. She explained that, because space in Beacon Hill is a premium, these gardens “become special rooms for the homeowners.” The gardens not only enable people to maximize their space, but they also provide an opportunity for individual, creative expression, which club members love sharing with tour attendees. Local shops also welcome the chance to have tourists in the neighborhood and sometimes offer store discounts to tour-goers – another example of the neighborhood community coming together for this special event.
By sharing their gardens with the public, Beacon Hill Garden Club members bring together a wide spectrum of people. Some are serious, well-versed horticulturists, while others – perhaps without a green thumb – come to explore and appreciate the gardens and history of Beacon Hill. All attendees have one thing in common: by attending the tour, they are supporting a significant number of local non-profits. Each year, the funds raised from the tour are donated to approximately 40 Boston area organizations including The Rose Kennedy Greenway, The Esplanade Association, The Food Project, The Boston Nature Center, and Friends of the Public Garden, among others. These grants range from $500-$15,000 and represent important, meaningful contributions for all.