Town and Country Garden Club

Site Updated: Febuary 16, 2014


Town and Country Garden Club, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, had a unique beginning. Imagination and determination prevailed in 1956 when two energetic women, Mrs. William Kohl and Mrs. John M. Kohler, determined to organize a House and Garden Tour as a church benefit. There were willing workers, but no gardeners; a garden club was definitely needed. Enlisting the talents of several friends who were avid gardeners, the new Town and Country Garden Club was organized and patterned after a club in Winnetka, Illinois. Only six months later they managed to host the highly successful House and Garden Walk in Suburbia, which enjoyed state-wide attendance of 1,000 visitors. Proceeds of $1,000 went to both the new garden club and to the church group. (Note: Julilly Kohler was a member of the Priscilla Circle at First Methodist Church in Sheboygan, which shared in the tour's efforts and success.)

Town and Country Garden Club had been established and soon became a member of the Wisconsin State Federation of Garden Clubs, an affiliation that continued until 1976.

Two of the club's earliest projects set the tone for subsequent outstanding projects which followed over the next 58 years.

In early 1958 the club joined in an effort to help preserve some rare examples of 1,000- year-old Algonquin effigy burial mounds on about 15 acres of land then being proposed for development. Other garden clubs had been trying to persuade the city, county or state to make the purchase for $15,000. A huge campaign to “Save the Mounds” followed and with the help of The Sheboygan Press, all of the local garden clubs, plus dozens of public contributions, projects, auctions and countless other fund raising efforts, the Mounds were saved, the effort having been spear-headed by Town and Garden Club member, Julilly Kohler. The land was given to the City and with the help of the Milwaukee Public Museum professional staff, Indian Mound Park was laid out and is being enjoyed by many visitors each year. 

Town and Country members continue to take an active role in overseeing the park's maintenance with the co-operation of the City's Park Department. The Club has distributed an educational DVD, Spirits in the Heart, to all schools in the county for use in their mandated fourth grade Wisconsin History curriculum. A Nature Trail dedicated to the memory of Julilly House Kohler and her husband, John M. Kohler expanded the park in 1981. A History and Nature Trail Guide have been published by the Club and is also available on the City's website. It is the only documentation of these mounds that exists. Indian Mound Park was listed as a Wisconsin Historic Site in 1966 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.

Another early project with equally long lasting effect was at the Sheboygan County Historical Museum. Also in 1958 the Club engaged a landscape architect to draw a Master Plan for landscaping the grounds at the Museum. In the next two years they oversaw the planting of 150 trees, 700 bulbs, and countless perennials and annuals. The plan was doubled in the following year due to the opening of Sunny Ridge, a new county home for the aged on property adjacent to the Museum. A once barren and neglected area had been transformed into a two-acre property of which the whole County could be proud. It is enjoyed today by hundreds of visitors annually.

In 1969 Town and Country Garden Club became the 176th member of The Garden Club of America. Town and Country has hosted Garden Club of American Zone meetings in 1980, 1996 and 2014. The Club also joined the three other Wisconsin clubs to co-host an Annual Meeting in Milwaukee in 1978. Since 1983 Town and Country has co-sponsored Art en Fleurs, a major flower show in Milwaukee also with the three other clubs in Wisconsin.

Over the years the Club continued its civic endeavors in a multitude of worthy projects at noteworthy locations, including the redevelopment of Fountain Park as part of the City's Bicentennial project, and researching and establishing an authentic garden around the Wade House, a restored 1850s stagecoach inn and Wisconsin Historical Society site in nearby Greenbush, located on the old plank road between Sheboygan and Fond du Lac..

Two other projects with significant lasting impact in the community and for which each was named a Founders Fund finalist, a Garden Club of America award, are The Arboretum at Maywood in 2000 and Bookworm Gardens in 2008.

In 1960 the Club established The Arboretum at Maywood, the 12 acre environmental park belonging to the City which has been supported by the Club financially and with hundreds of hours of volunteer service by Club members. The Arboretum is a 5-1/2 acre site exhibiting Wisconsin native plants. This project was done with the cooperation and approval of the City of Sheboygan. Substantial dollars and hours have been invested in this project by T&C members.

The concept for Bookworm Gardens, “Bringing books to life for children one garden at a time,” and is a unique project which includes 76 gardens based on children's literature. Located on a 1.5 acre site in a natural landscape of woods and ravines adjacent to the University of Wisconsin – Sheboygan, Bookworm Gardens has become a joyful, family-oriented community resource. Town and Country provided funding for two of the gardens: “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and the “Magic School Bus Plants and Seeds.”

Members have also researched historically accurate plantings for the restored 1876 two-room Heritage School, now used as a museum and classroom for the Sheboygan Area School District elementary students. Similar study and plantings were done on the grounds of The Mill House in Sheboygan Falls, possibly the oldest structure still standing in the County, which now houses the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center.

To support the Club's commitment to beautify and improve our environment, members have sponsored many fund-producing programs for the public. Plans are always underway for the next house and garden walk, lecture, demonstration, flower show, workshop or boutique - something to appeal to and inform the public and to produce income for civic endeavors.

The same imagination, determination, enthusiasm and hard work that the 14 charter members displayed have brought this club to 2014 with a very long list of civic accomplishments and successful public events to fund them. Members now number about 40 and meet in members' homes in the morning on the first Wednesday of every month to conduct a business meeting, to hear committee reports and to benefit from informative program experiences and speakers. Membership is by invitation. 

Town and Country has a presence throughout the community and its members can be found wherever there are matters being explored about the environment – through gardening, flower arranging, protection of wildlife and native plants, preservation of horticultural, historic, scenic or ecological value, protection of air, water and soil pollution and civic beautification. The Club makes every effort to support appropriate and meaningful causes at the local, state and national levels, as a club and as individuals.

For each decade's anniversary the Club has celebrated with a look back and an anticipation of the future. Our first celebration in 1966 raised funds for Fountain Park and in 2016 we look forward to our 60th anniversary with the same enthusiasm, energy and commitment that is our heritage and our legacy.

“Paths to Beauty”

1965-1966 Yearbook

The Thing in Spring is Tulips!

May 26, 1970

Grand Executive Inn

A Harvest Happening

Wed. October 6, 1971

Grand Executive Inn

November 14, 1975

John Michael Kohler Art Center

Lecture, Flower Arranging Demonstration

And High Tea.