Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
In 1873, Ginter joined John F. Allen to form Allen & Ginter, a partnership selling foreign made tobacco. Shortly after, Ginter thought of manufacturing Virginia made cigarettes to compete with foreign products, and Allen & Ginter released their first line of domestic cigarettes as the “Richmond Gems” in 1875. Early production began in a factory with twenty young ladies who hand-rolled the cigarettes. The domestic cigarettes enjoyed phenomenal success, and Ginter began designs for more brands. Allen & Ginter soon released “Perfection,” “Napoleon,” “Virginia Pets,” and “Old Dominion.” By 1888, the company employed over 1,000 workers and cigarette production increased from 100,000 per month to 2,000,000 per day. Allen & Ginter eventually opened offices in London, Paris, and Berlin in order to meet foreign demand for their products. With growing competition in the tobacco industry, Ginter commissioned custom designed cigarette machine rollers. Allen & Ginter continued to prosper until they merged with J. B. Duke, Kinney Tobacco, and Goodwin & Company to form the American Tobacco Company in 1890. Ginter was offered presidency, but declined and remained a director until his death.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
When Lewis Ginter died in 1897, a large portion of his estate was inherited by his niece, Grace Arents. Arents devoted her life to philanthropy and gave generously to many causes and institutions. She was especially interested in helping the children of Oregon Hill. In 1913, she conceived the idea of a convalescent home in the country for sick infants who might benefit from the fresh air. To realize her dream, Miss Arents purchased the abandoned Lakeside Wheel Clubhouse and its approximately 10 acres (40,000 m2) from the Lewis Ginter Land and Improvement Company. The structure was remodeled in the Dutch colonial style and named Bloemendaal Farm after a small village in the Netherlands which was the Ginter ancestral home. The translated name means “flower valley.” The roof was raised to provide a second floor of bedrooms, a classroom, a library and a playroom for the sick children. Miss Arents traveled extensively in Europe, and her trip diaries describe the joy she derived from her visits to continental botanical gardens. Her interest in horticulture, already strong, was heightened by her travels and found abundant expression at Bloemendaal Farm. She imported collections of rare trees and shrubs, constructed a series of three ridge and furrow greenhouses and laid out a border of herbaceous perennials along the side of the greenhouse range. Her great love of roses is evident in the photographs of Bloemendaal Farm taken in the 1920s. This garden, adjacent to the Bloemendaal House, exists today as the Grace Arents Garden. The immense ginkgo on the front lawn, the massive American hollies and the southern magnolias were planted by Miss Arents. Over the years, Miss Grace added piecemeal to the original area. Thus, she reunited some of the land that had belonged to the Powhatans, Patrick Henry, the Williamsons, John Robinson and others, and Bloemendaal Farm became widely known as a model for the best agricultural practices of the day. Seventy-eight-year-old Grace Arents died suddenly on June 20, 1926 leaving Bloemendaal Farm to the City of Richmond as a botanical garden and public park in perpetual memory of her Uncle Lewis Ginter to be known as Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Major Lewis Ginter (April 24, 1824 – October 1, 1897) was a prominent businessman, military officer, real estate developer, and philanthropist centered in Richmond, Virginia. A native of New York City, Ginter accumulated a considerable fortune throughout his numerous business ventures and became Richmond’s wealthiest citizen despite his exceptionally modest demeanor. While the Jefferson Hotel, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, and Ginter Park embody some of Ginter’s major urban contributions to Richmond, many of his philanthropic gifts were given anonymously to charitable organizations and individuals in need. His continued devotion to Richmond is captured in his famous remark, “I am for Richmond, first and last.”
Ginter was inspired by the suburban developments in Melbourne and Sydney that he visited on one of many business trips marketing for Allen & Ginter. Beginning in 1888, Ginter and John Pope began purchasing large tracts of land on the northern side of Richmond in Henrico County with the intention of developing suburbs. Their purchases included Westbrook Plantation, which they developed into a grand country estate. The Westbrook house included a private barbershop and one-lane bowling alley, and earned a reputation as “one of the grandest homes in the South.” Ginter and Pope divided the large swaths of land into residential plots and provided many extravagant amenities, such as fresh artesian wells, tile sewer lines, roads covered with crushed stone, and the extension of the Richmond Union Passenger Railway, the nation’s first electric tram system. The neighborhood, known as Ginter Park, attracted the Union Theological Seminary and was eventually annexed to the City of Richmond. Ginter also had a hand in developing several nearby neighborhoods. He established the Lakeside Wheel Club in 1894, and built a nine-hole golf course and a small zoo.
Lewis Ginter died of diabetes at Westbrook in October 1897 at the age of 73. An obituary noted that “Death could not have torn from Richmond a more useful and beloved citizen.” A large portion of his estate, as well as his keen desire to enhance the life of Richmonders, was inherited by his niece, Grace Arents. After her uncle’s death, Arents remodeled the Wheel Club in Dutch colonial style, named it Bloemendaal Farm and made it her home. Bloemendaal Farm soon became a model for the best agricultural practices of the day. In her will, Arents honored her beloved uncle by giving Bloemendaal Farm to the City of Richmond as a botanical garden and public park in memory of her Uncle Lewis Ginter to be known as Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.
While working as a banker in New York City, Ginter met John Pope, a young messenger boy who delivered packages to Ginter’s firm. Pope was born in New York City in 1856 to a German immigrant family. His father was a shoemaker, and Pope acquired the delivery job at the age of 14 to help his family make ends meet. Ginter recruited Pope to join his newly formed tobacco company, Allen & Ginter. Shortly thereafter, Ginter relocated back to Richmond, and brought Pope along with him.
Explore Our 50 Acres of Gardens Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden offers year-round beauty on an historic property with more than 50 acres of spectacular gardens, dining and shopping. A classical domed Conservatory is the only one of its kind in the mid-Atlantic. More than a dozen themed gardens include a Children’s Garden, Rose Garden, Asian Valley and Cherry Tree Walk. Pathways will draw you to parts of the garden that delight you around every turn. Come explore, secret, private spaces, learn about our plant collections, and enjoy our world-class botanical displays. With something for all ages and interests, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is a place to learn about plants, to marvel at nature, to relax in a beautiful setting, to take gardening classes, or to have a wedding or a business meeting. See the Gardens
Lewis Ginter was born to John and Elizabeth Ginter, a Dutch immigrant couple, on April 24, 1824 in New York City. His father owned a grocery store, but died soon after Ginter was born. Several years later, Ginter’s mother died, leaving him to be raised by his older sister and brother with their relatives.
On Mildred Ladd’s death, Ufton was divided among her heirs, and it was from one of these in 1884 that Major Lewis Ginter purchased the 10 acres (40,000 m2) which were to become the Lakeside Wheel Club, Bloemendaal Farm and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. The millionaire’s avid interest in planned, landscaped suburban development began during a visit to his company’s Australian office in 1888. The attractive residential developments in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne prompted Major Ginter’s desire to create the same settings in Richmond.
In 1842, at the age of eighteen, Ginter relocated to Richmond, Virginia to open up a shop selling toys. He had visited the city at least once before with an uncle. Ginter soon moved from selling toys to merchandising fine linens, and encountered great success. By 1856, he formed a partnership with his nephew, George Arents, and John F. Alvey to begin marketing wholesale linens. Ginter traveled throughout the United States and Europe in search of high quality linens and amassed a considerable fortune before the beginning of the American Civil War. Preparing for unpredictable times, Ginter invested in large quantities of tobacco, sugar, and cotton that were stored in Richmond warehouses in order to protect his wealth.
Upon his return to Richmond, Ginter found the city in a state of total disrepair. His warehouse stores of tobacco and sugar were destroyed during a citywide fire, though his cotton remained unscathed. With little economic opportunity in Richmond, Ginter decided to return to New York City to pursue a career in banking. He joined the firm Harrison, Goddin, & Apperson and encountered great financial success. But his regained fortune was short-lived. The Panic of 1873 forced Ginter to use his personal fortune to settle heavy debts his firm incurred. Having lost all of his wealth once again, Ginter decided to return to Richmond.