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Rediscovering the Forgotten Garden in Petersburg
An Exhibition on the History and Natural Resources of Lee Memorial Park
Rediscovering the Forgotten Garden, an exhibition on the history and natural resources of Petersburg’s historic Lee Memorial Park will open at the Siege Museum on April 8 in conjunction with Petersburg’s Friday for the Arts!. Beginning at 6pm, Donna M. E. Ware, retired curator of the William and Mary Herbarium, who has done floristic studies on the flora of the Willcox watershed, will provide a presentation of her studies. From 6:30pm until 8:30pm, Dr. Ware and Helen St Julien Marshall, daughter of Bessie Niemeyer Marshall, whose watercolors are showcased in the book With Paintbrush & Shovel—Preserving Virginia’s Wildflowers will be signing the books featuring her mother’s watercolors. With Paintbrush & Shovel, written by author Nancy Kober, is the companion book to the exhibition. Books will be available for purchase in the Siege Museum gift shop.
In With Paintbrush and Shovel, Kober explores the rich history and abundant natural resources of Petersburg’s Lee Memorial Park. Although the Park was not established until 1921, geologists and paleontologists have unearthed prehistoric sites and fossils dating as far back as 330 million years. Lee Park also serves as a rich botanical meeting ground for plant species and is a habitat for a variety of birds and other wildlife. Named to honor General Robert E. Lee, the park contains portions of the Dimmock Line, a series of earthworks that were built around Petersburg by Confederate troops to protect the city.
A significant part of Lee Park’s past was unlocked in the 1990s when The Petersburg Garden Club saved from obscurity pressed, dried plant specimens along with corresponding exquisitely executed watercolors by Bessie Niemeyer Marshall who was a resident of Petersburg in the 1930s. The project was the legacy of a Depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA) relief program where African American and white women worked together to create a wildflower and bird sanctuary within the park’s boundaries.
The exhibition contains a selection of the original WPA- era watercolors and interpretive panels exploring both the natural resources and extensive history of Lee Park from the Civil War, to the Great Depression, to the park’s pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement.
Co-hosted by the Petersburg Department of Tourism—Museums and Visitor Services, The Petersburg Garden Club, and the Willcox Watershed Conservancy Rediscovering the Forgotten Garden will be on exhibit at the Siege Museum, 15 W. Bank St. in Petersburg through June.
For more information on the exhibition, call (804) 733-2402.
Article from Petersburg Area Regional Tourism