Historic designation gives garden club members reason to celebrate
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer
During a ceremony to salute the founders of the Capital City Garden Club, Emma Jones spouted a few one-liners to keep the interest of the audience.
One could easily become the mantra of the 75-year-old club, which now has the distinction of being a documented part of Tallahassee’s history.
“We are on the move,” Jones said in a matter-of-fact tone. “Let’s keep it moving.”
The Capital City Garden Club is indeed on the move, considering the significance of the event last Saturday. Members of the club and several guests came together to celebrate the designation of the building where they met as a historic landmark.
Leon County Commission will give final approval of the designation at its Feb. 21 meeting. The three-step process started last fall when the organization called on Tallahassee Trust for Historic Preservation.
The club was presented proclamations by Leon County Commission Chairman Nick Maddox and Tallahassee’s mayor pro tem, City Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox.
“This is a special day because it gives notoriety to who we are and how far we have come; from having a small building on Bloxham Street to now having a building without a mortgage, having members and being able to celebrate,” said Linda Inge, president of the club. “It’s been a long road but it’s been a blessed road and we are just so grateful to have existed for 75 years.”
Inge was presented a special award, while Gloria Smith received the organization’s Legacy and Preservation Award.
The day’s ceremony also was a tribute to founder Irie Mae Clark Wood, who started the organization with 18 other women in 1948. Twenty-four years later, Mattie Mobley led construction of the club house at the intersection Zillah Street and Tram Road.
Mobley stands as an iconic figure with club members because of her willingness to use personal property as collateral for financing the cost of the club house.
“If she didn’t do it I don’t know where we would be,” Inge said.
The garden club thrived during its early years as being a place for Black women in Tallahassee to socialize. It grew to include three circles that members know as Pansy Circle, Petunia Circle and Zinnia Circle.
The clubs has also become a part of the fabric of the community, decorating areas around the city. It’s membership has also grown to include men and women of multiple ethnicities.
During the ceremony, one side of the podium had a photo Annie Julia Rolle, a former club member who persuaded her family to donate the 1-acre plot of land to build the club house. A copy of the deed was also on display.
Rolle’s daughter, Rhonda Rolle, who grew up around the club became an official member in 2002 after her mother’s death. She was beseeched by leaders of the club to take her mother’s place, Rolle said.
Rolle expressed gratitude to the government agencies that worked to make the historic designation possible.
“It is more than an honor to see it actually come into fruition because if (the agencies) had not done that we would not be able to go to the historic society,” Rolle said. “All of this makes it a landmark because we have historic designation. … we have this legacy preserved forever.”
The designation means that the building can’t be destroyed and the land can’t be developed, said Shannon Kuch, executive director of Tallahassee Trust for Historic Preservation.
“They have been a fantastic group to work with,” Kuch said. “They’ve really covered a portion of the community that goes beyond beautification; bringing people together and celebrating the history of a place, celebrating the legacy of an organization.”
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