Club recreates historic Zelienople gardens
Gardens at the historic Passavant House in Zelienople soon will be in full bloom, reminding visitors even more than in years past of the woman for whom the town and house are named.
Members of the Southern Butler County Garden Club and the Zelienople Historical Society added a little twist recently, as they planted the gardens for the coming season.
Using Zelie Passavant's original notes and drawings, as well as hundreds of letters she wrote, the garden club members tried to recreate the garden as it was when she planted it.
“They did a remarkable amount of research, said Elizabeth Simpson, director of the Zelienople Historical Society. “It was pretty important for us to come up with something that Zelie herself would recognize if she were to see it today.”
Zelie was the daughter of Baron Dettmar Basse, who purchased 10,000 acres in Western Pennsylvania in 1802 and settled a town he named after his daughter. At the time, she still was in Germany and engaged to Phillipe Louis Passavant.
Basse agreed to give the young couple his blessing if they would move to America, which they did after marrying in 1807. Passavant became the town's first merchant, and built a house that remained in the Passavant family until 1956.
The historical society acquired the house in 1975, and it now serves as its headquarters, as well as a museum and library dedicated to preserving the town's past.
In addition to helping to plant and maintain the garden, the garden club has helped to fund a new gazebo that will be added to the garden this year.
The foundation is in place and work on the structure has begun, Simpson said.
“We are really excited to see it when it is done,” Simpson said. “It is going to be so pretty.”
She said the society already has received inquiries from people wanting to use the gazebo for events or wedding photos.
Garden club members each year also help to decorate the Passavant House for the holidays, using authentic decorations from the early 1800s.
Proceeds from holiday tours benefit the historical society.
The club that formed as the Seven Fields Garden Club in 1998 is involved in dozens of other projects, year round. Currently, there are 36 members.
President Karen Faust said the club started as a group of friends looking to share not only their love of gardening and flowers, but their desire to serve the community.
As members began to join from a broader area, including Cranberry, Mars and Zelienople, the name was changed to Southern Butler County Garden Club, and in 2004 it became a member of the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania.
“As part of the state federation, we have a mandate to serve the community,” Faust said.
The club has raised money for a variety of local charities and causes, including Butler County's Victim Outreach Intervention Center.
Donations have been made to local libraries, as well as to the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden in North Fayette, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Oakland and the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania. The club provided outdoor benches at the Cranberry Municipal Center and the township's Graham Park.
It also contributes each year to a statewide scholarship fund, administered by the state federation.
The source for most of those donations is the club's one major fundraiser, an annual garden tour. This year's eighth annual tour will be on July 16, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., with registration at the Cranberry Municipal Center from 9 to 10 a.m.
For more information, call Rose at 724-272-0501 or visit southernbutlercountygarden club.org.
Vince Townley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-772-6364. or email@example.com.