Student club seeks to restore rose gardens to former glory

Photo of plots of soil
Leo Bernstein Newman / The Mossy Log

East, past the Frank Manor House, the Reflecting Pool and Great Plat Field, there is  a grassy plaza with a flagpole in the middle. To the right are stone steps, hugging the plaza and leading down to a large, open space with geometrically-shaped rosebeds that have seen better days. This is what remains of Lewis & Clark’s rose garden. 

The gardens once held 17,000 roses and produced prize-winning flowers for the Portland Rose Festival in 1929 and 1930. The rose garden was entered on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The garden was first planted at the time of the construction of the Frank Manor House, now the president’s office, in 1924. 

The Rose Garden flourished for some time and was memorable to LC students and faculty after the college’s purchase of the Fir Acres estate in 1942. However, the garden started deteriorating due to a lack of funding and proper maintenance. Isaac Blake ’23 worked on the school’s grounds team for two years and came up with  the idea to start a rose garden club last academic year.  

“It was renowned and known as one of the best rose gardens in the state of Oregon,” Blake said. “The Rose Garden has not been a rose garden for a decade or two. It has been out of commission for a long time and people still have this knowledge or know that it is there. It used to be a very big deal in Portland. There are plaques there and WWII memorials.” 

According to Blake, maintenance of  the rose garden is also difficult due to the dynamic environmental landscape of campus.

“The ravine behind campus has grown considerably,” Blake said. “The Douglas Fir trees down there have gotten so much taller than they were in the pictures (from)  the 1930s.”

The club currently stands as an ad hoc committee. They are currently looking for funding through the Alumni Office and applying for funding as a student organization. 

“We are reaching out to alumni because so many talk about how beautiful the Rose Garden was and it is a shame that it does not look like that now” Blake said. 

This group of alumni includes Jennifer Huenik BA ’91 JD ’94 who has worked alongside her daughter and current student Sophie Abbassian ‘25 to help restore the garden. 

“I am the only visible alumni promoting it but certainly every other alumni I have talked to has thought reviving the garden is fantastic and glad that someone is doing this,” Huenik said. “I am here to support Sophie but I do funnel all the ideas into my head  her way and reach out to the alumni with a specific ask or request for support has been something on our minds.”

The club has sparked discussion among students and administration despite not being recognized by the college. Many students have argued that instead of roses, the garden should be home to other plants.

“(Students) wanted to restore the area but didn’t necessarily want it to be a rose garden and had a number of arguments, such as deer are just going to eat all the roses, native plants would be better and more interesting,” Huenik said. 

There have been many efforts made by the club to promote and fundraise itself, including a rose sale in celebration of Valentine’s Day. The club hopes to get support from the facilities, alumni and neighbors of the college.

“It is a really cool space,” Blake said. “I think the type of student who goes to LC gravitates towards places like that. If we have a big space with a lot of potential, run by a student-run initiative to change it and create a beautiful place with a student’s stamp of approval.”

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