Cassina Garden Club
Garden Club, Glynn County’s first garden club, was organized in
1928 with nine charter members: Mrs. Martha Baker, Mrs. D.C.
McCaskill, Mrs. Bernice Cain, Mrs. James Shadman, Mrs. Hoyt
Cain, Mrs. William Shadman, Miss Betty Curry, Mrs. N.C. Young,
and Miss Madge Merritt.
1932, the Glynn County Commissioners were persuaded to renovate
the two crumbling tabby houses on Gascoigne Bluff that had
formerly been Hamilton Plantation slave cabins and to allow the
Cassina Garden Club to use them for their meetings. In 1934,
after the Club had furnished the cabins and landscaped the
grounds, the entire project was entered in a national “More
Beautiful America” contest where it won an Award of Merit.
Over the years Cassina has
sponsored many civic beautification projects. From 1933 until
1970 the Club planted azaleas in Christ Church cemetery to
beautify the grounds. In 1937, Cassina sponsored the first
Garden Club of Georgia pilgrimage. That same year the Club
organized the Boy Scout movement on St. Simons Island and helped
build a scout hut. Cassina continued as sponsor of this troop
until 1940 when another civic organization assumed leadership.
In 1937, the Club sponsored and
organized the St. Simons Public Library in the old County
Casino. Also in 1937, the Club conceived the idea of a
cookbook, Coastal Cookery, containing hand-written
recipes and hand-drawn sketches typical of the coastal area of
Georgia. Proceeds were used to construct a kitchen for the tea
cabin. These funds continue to provide for major repairs to the
cabins. A 65th Anniversary edition of the cookbook was
published in 2002 and received a National Garden Club award. A
copy of the first edition is now on display in the cabins.
The Club sponsored its first Junior Garden Club in 1937. The
Little Cassina Berries, a club for educationally challenged
first and second graders, was organized in 1991. For these
programs, the Club received a first place award from the
National Council of State Garden Clubs in 1992.
Cassina members sponsored their
first Camellia Show in January 1947 and made this an annual
event until 1972.
Through the efforts of the Wildlife and Conservation Committee
of the Club, Gascoigne Bluff was declared a bird sanctuary in
1957 and in 1995, the Club had the entire island declared a Bird
has adopted the State Champion Southern Red Cedar Tree
(Juniperus virginiana) located adjacent to the cabins. The site
has a marker identifying this special tree. Among plantings on
the grounds of the cabins is a memorial garden where azaleas are
planted to honor the memory of deceased members.
Another project, a Tour of
Homes, was first held as a Christmas time fund raising effort in
1985. The slave cabins and five island homes were decorated for
the holidays and opened to the public. This effort has become
so successful that it continues annually, thus allowing the Club
to support a number of other community projects in addition to
maintaining the cabins and their grounds. In the spring of
2007, the Club held its first Garden Walk to benefit the
historic preservation of its cabins and grounds. This
three-day event included eight private gardens and a renowned
landscape designer speaker. This highly successful event has now
become an annual activity of the Club.
Wednesday mornings during June,
July and August, members of the Club who serve as docents,
welcome visitors to the cabins. The local Elderhostel regularly
includes a tour of the cabins as part of its program on local
Because of its strong commitment
to the care and preservation of the cabins, in 1950 Cassina
Garden Club was presented with the deed to its historic slave
cabins on Gascoigne Bluff. On June 30, 1988, these cabins were
placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 2001, members of the club
produced a video as a documentary to depict the history of the
club and to describe its long-standing dedication to
preservation and to civic beautification. In 2002, the National
Garden Club honored Cassina with its Video Program Award.
Recognizing its obligation to
assure the structural stability of the cabins and to maintain
the surrounding grounds, in 2001 Cassina members approved an
ambitious project to restore the deteriorating tabby and wood
trim on the exterior of the cabins. The cabin restoration
effort was funded by a Georgia Heritage grant from the Historic
Preservation Division of the DNR, matched by Cassina cookbook
and Tour of Homes funds, plus a donation from the Friends of
Coastal Georgia History. In 2005, the club received the
prestigious Excellence in Stewardship Award from The Georgia
Trust for Historic Preservation.
Cassina celebrated its 75th
Anniversary in February 2003 with a special commemorative
luncheon. One hundred members, including 10 past presidents,
enjoyed a reflective review of the club’s history. Sea Island
Company, also observing its 75th anniversary,
planted a live oak tree on Cassina cabin grounds.
In recent years Cassina has
received numerous top awards from the National Garden Club and
the Garden Club of Georgia for its newsletter and its yearbook,
which includes the written history of the club’s founding more
than 75 years ago.
Cassina is proud of its role as
caretaker of the historically significant Gascoigne Bluff site,
which represents a part of the island’s cultural heritage. The
club maintains its commitment to garden club goals of
beautification, conservation and education in its many works of
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