On May 15, 1925, Mrs. Matthew Griswold hosted a small group of women to vote on the Constitution and Bylaws of the Carrie T. Watson Garden Club, named after a pioneer in civic beautification and the first true horticulturist in Erie. Her gardens were legendary, and the giant trees still on the grounds of the Watson/Curtze Mansion(now owned by the Erie County Historical Society), were planted in the 1890’s by Mrs. Watson. In 1926, the first Carrie T Watson Garden Club Show was held, benefitting the Shriner’s Zem Zem Children’s Hospital and the Perry Memorial. The club also lobbied for a city park commission to be appointed by City Council.
By 1927, the members decided additional clubs were very much needed in neighboring communities. They promoted the startups of the Fairview and Northeast Garden Clubs, and were requested to help open clubs in Franklin, Bradford, and Oil City, Pennsylvania, and in Westfield, New York. By the early 1930’s Carrie T had won statewide gardening awards and was recognized as one of the outstanding clubs in Pennsylvania. In 1937 they won a gold medal given by the PA State Federation of Garden Clubs for distinguished work in civic, horticulture, & conservation fields, and for their organization of Junior Gardeners programs.
In the 1940s, the club helped encourage the planting of over 12,000 Victory Gardens, and in 1952 Mrs. E.R. Behrend, a charter member of Carrie T, gave her estate to Penn State University for the establishment of the Behrend College Campus. The garden club planned an arboretum at the campus and in 1955, began planting 25 varieties of crab apple trees, 69 trees in all. Today there are over 200 different species of trees, including the state trees of all 50 states.
Since then, Carrie T members have established gardens at the Erie Zoo & Asbury Woods Nature Center and gifted the city with the Labyrinth at LEAF.
In April of 2009, the garden club was formally inducted into the prestigious Garden Club of America. The vision and perseverance of our founders have continued throughout our 98 year history.