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Our Fox Chapel Garden Club History


1st president The Fox Chapel Garden Club has made many remarkable contributions to our community in conservation, preservation, education, and horticulture.  Our Club has been inspired by a very big ‘Can Do’ attitude since its inception in 1931.

 In 1931, the community was small and only men belonged to the District Association.  The borough itself wasn’t incorporated until 1934.  In those days of the great depression Mrs. A.P. Meyer had more on her mind than just flower arranging.  Ella Miller Myer joined with Mrs. Harold Nomer, the two Misses Langenheim and 26 women in the area to form the Fox Chapel Garden Club (FCGC).  Ella Miller Myer was elected as our first president from 1931-1936.  She obviously thought that women should have an influence in the future planning and planting of the Fox Chapel community, as well as in preserving the natural beauty of our district.

In 1935 our Club financed the Master Plan for Fox Chapel Borough created by landscape architect, Ezra Stiles.  The plan provided for designated parklands, protection of the watershed, and maintaining the natural beauty that has made Fox Chapel a unique Pittsburgh suburb.

Another outstanding contribution to the tri-state area was the creation and continued support of the Pittsburgh Civic Garden Center. By 1933 the Club felt that the entire Pittsburgh Community would benefit from a centralized location that would obtain and disseminate gardening information.  Led by the FCGC founding members, Mrs. Harold Nomer and Mrs. A.P. Myers, along with other existing garden clubs and the Pittsburgh City Council a space was rented in Schenley Park, and the first Pittsburgh Civic Garden Center came into existence in 1935.  In 1948 it moved to the current location in the carriage house of the former R.B. Mellon estate.  The first three presidents of the Center over a 24-year span were from our Club.  Proceeds from our booth at the May Market plant sale helped support the Garden Center for many years.

Painting at Trillium TrailWith Mr. Stiles’ Master Plan in hand, our members were aware of areas worthy of protecting for their natural beauty.  In May of 1946 the thirty-three acres on Squaw Run Road (presently Hemlock Hollow Road), now known as Trillium Trail, were for sale.  Members of our club met with Dick Boyles, the current Fox Chapel Borough Manager, at the site to discuss the purchase of that property.  A developer was ready to buy it from the Sunstein Estate.  Immediate action had to be taken and Dick and Ruth (a FCGC member) Boyles bought the property.  It took two years for the Club, with the help of the District Association, to work out details leading up to its purchase by Fox Chapel Borough for a wildlife and flower preservation area.  In 1948 Trillium Trail became a reality.  With its diversity of native eastern wildflowers, the Trillium Trail is one of the finest examples of Pennsylvania Mesic Forest in our region.  For this project the Fox Chapel Garden Club received the highest acclaim given by The National Council of State Garden Clubs – The Green Ribbon Conservation Award. In 1952 its beauty was enhanced by our one-thousand dollar donation for the purchase and planting of hemlocks and rhododendron in memory of Dick Boyles.  Our Club has continued to help support many projects for the Fox Chapel Area Parks throughout the years.

Educating children about the environment has been an important part of our work.  Due to the influence of two of our members, Ruth Boyles and Ruth Scott, our club started environmental presentations in the elementary schools.  Later, our club began educational walks for elementary students at the Trillium Trail, Blue Run Trail, and at Emmerling and Salamander Parks.  In 1949 we awarded a scholarship to Beulah Frey, a local biology teacher, to attend training in conservation practices.  Beulah later started and coordinated the environmental education program for the Fox Chapel Area School District for many years.  In 1969 the FCGC joined with the Fox Chapel Area School District to develop a K – 12 environmental curriculum.

Garden therapy was another important form of community service undertaken by the FCGC.  In the 1950’s garden therapy programs were carried out by our members at Leech Farm Hospital and the Veterans Hospital on Delafield Road.  In 1975 a garden therapy program was initiated at the Harmarville Rehabilitation Hospital – now Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Harmarville.  For 31 years volunteers from our club worked weekly with patients and their therapists.  In 1996 FCGC created an outdoor garden designed by FCGC member Shelley Stoecklein at the Rehabilitation Hospital to be used by patients and therapists.

In 1998, club members hatched a plan in FCGC president Nancy Vincett’s home, to start a new garden club event.  That December they launched the first Holiday Auction for members and guests.  This event has grown exponentially over the years and is our major annual holiday community event called ‘Glitter and Glow.’ It is now always a sell-out with about 250 people attending.  Proceeds from the event are donated on an annual basis by our club to local organizations and programs, which are in line with our FCGC Mission to further the appreciation of gardening and to advocate sound environmental stewardship.

Mary’s Garden at the Fox Chapel Area High School was created in 2001 in honor of Mary Succop, for her active commitment to the school’s community.  The garden was designed to be a place of instruction, observation, and meditation for our school students and the community. Working with school personnel, particularly teacher Ron Frank, and other community volunteers, the Fox Chapel Garden Club was very involved in the original design, building, and planting of the garden.  Mary’s Garden creates valuable green space at the high school with multiple uses dictated by its many visitors. Students, young and old, regularly come to the garden to draw, photograph, paint, and write.  A variety of environmental/biology classes study the endless changes in the flora and fauna as the garden grows from season to season.  Students are also actively involved in the garden’s annual maintenance. The garden plantings were carefully chosen to peak during the school year and to educate all about Pennsylvania native plants.  The garden is wheelchair accessible to include all in our community.  Our Club has continued to support Mary’s Garden over the past twenty years by regularly tending the garden, sharing native plants from our own gardens, as well as with annual financial donations.

The Fox Chapel Garden Club’s Conservation and Environmental Watch programs take on important recycling and environmental issues.  Since 2006 this committee has developed a community-based program to collect and recycle used tennis shoes.  It was often done in partnership with local Girl Scout troops and other youth organizations.  We typically have over 20 community collection sites and usually collect over 1000 pairs of shoes annually.  If the shoes are wearable, they are given to The Free Store and the Second Harvest Thrift Store to be distributed to families in need. The remaining shoes become part of the Nike-Reuse-A-Shoe program, which transforms them into Nike Grind.  This product is made into running tracks and playground mats, and is also made into new Nike shoes and apparel. Over the years, thousands of pounds of shoes have been kept out of landfills and are reused.  Our Club was awarded a National Garden Club Federation Award in 2009 for this project.  The Conservation Committee regularly informs our membership of important environmental and conservation issues and opportunities.

In 2011 Community Gardenfest was started by FCGC in conjunction with the Lauri Ann West Community Center as a new grassroots local garden market event.  Other local garden clubs and community organizations joined to participate.  It is now scheduled annually in May as a FCGC managed community event held at the O’Hara Community Park.  Gardenfest began as a venue to sell plants dug from our members’ gardens and to share gardening knowledge with our community.   Gardenfest has morphed into a popular day-long event offering plant sales by multiple organizations, an artists’ market, food, and a variety of informational booths which might include bee keeping, tree planting and other horticultural information.

The Welcome Garden at the Fox Chapel branch of the Cooper-Siegel Community Library, was planted in 2011 by Jim Mitnick to honor his wife, Fritz, who had been a children’s librarian.  Fritz is an Active Member in our Club and served as our president in 2002-2004.  Maps with plant identification are available to library patrons.  The garden has seating to provide visitors with a place to read, chat or snack, and is used for library programs.  In 2012, the garden received the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society’s Community Greening Award.  Our Club continues to provide regular funding for new plants and hardscape, and many members help with general maintenance of Fritz’s Welcome Garden.

The year 2011 continued to be an auspicious year for the Fox Chapel Garden Club as it was also the founding year of our Club’s Website.  The website has earned numerous awards since its inception.  It provides a wonderful source of information and communication for our members and the community.

In 2016, our Club was proud to sponsor our inaugural Fox Chapel Garden Club Scholarship.  The scholarship is awarded annually to a Fox Chapel Area High School Senior who plans to attend a two- or four-year college, university, or technical school.  The scholarship winner is selected based on an application, reference letter, and a 500-word essay related to a given prompt.  The scholarship is open to all senior students regardless of their intended major.  We believe that, like our own Club, gardening and nature enthusiasts can come from a variety of backgrounds, interests, and professions.

Our amazing Club events, Glitter & Glow, Annual/Annual Adventure, and Community Gardenfest, have empowered our Club to have a major impact on the community programs that we support annually with financial donations. We have had the privilege of supporting and growing multiple endeavors and programs with our local Fox Chapel community, as well as the greater Pittsburgh community.

Major Donation Commitments - Listed Chronologically

Cooper-Siegel Community Library – Fox Chapel

Lauri Ann West Community Center

St. Margaret Foundation – Garden of Hope

Aspinwall Riverfront Park now Allegheny RiverTrail Park

Cooper-Siegel Community Library - Sharpsburg

Audubon Society of Western PA – Creation of an ADA handicapped compliant trail for visitors

Allegheny County Parks Foundation – Sculpture Garden at Hartwood Acres Park opening in 2023

Fox Chapel Borough/Fox Chapel Parks Commission – Assisting with the purchase of the Hardie Valley Park property


Annual Donations Granted - Listed Alphabetically


Allegheny County Parks Foundation - Hartwood Acres Co. Park- Suffragist Grove

Audubon Society of Western PA -Supporting free classes about gardening with native plants

­Camp Guyasuta -Boy Scouts of America - Plantings

Fox Chapel Parks Commission - Various requests for park improvements

Friends of Mellon Park - Tree care and pruning

Garden Club Federation of PA – Penny Pines

Garden Club Federation of PA - Scholarship

Mary’s Garden at the Fox Chapel Area High School - Various requests for garden improvement

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens: Homegrown Program - Mentoring a network of household raised-bed vegetable garden installations for food-insecure disadvantaged urban neighborhoods

Pittsburgh Botanic Garden - Various requests for park improvements


As members of the Fox Chapel Garden Club, we are proud to be part of this amazing organization as we carry on that ‘Can Do’ attitude started over 90 years ago by our founders, and continues to be passed on by all the many members who participated in Club activities for nearly a century.  We continue as … gardeners, preservers, conservers, partners, supporters, recyclers, launchers, educators, students, stewards and mentors.


Compiled by Susanna Hegnes, March 2024





1942 Fox Chapel Borough Building Victory Garden.jpg