Summertime, and the living is easy. It’s a time of year when fish are jumping in Fowl River and when southern skies are bright and your skin is warmed by the sun even as it sets into a horizon swimming in orange and pink. There’s really no better way to indulge in this free-spirited season than by being outside in the beauty of nature. Summertime at Bellingrath Gardens and Home is particularly lovely, and with the summer of 2016 being the Gardens’ 80th anniversary, there’s no time like the present to take a stroll around one of Mobile’s most famous attractions.
History of Bellingrath Gardens and Home
Though the anniversary is celebrated based on the Home’s construction completion in 1936, the Gardens actually preceded the home. The site of today’s Bellingrath Gardens and Home was originally purchased by Walter Bellingrath in 1918 as a small fishing camp along Fowl River. While Walter was content using the acquisition as it was as a weekend retreat, avid gardener Bessie, who enjoyed accompanying Walter to the camp, felt the space could use a little beautification. Thus, she started buying and planting old-growth azaleas and camellias to spruce things up.
As Miss Bessie’s gardens grew, so did their reputation. Friends of the Bellingraths spread the word that the Gardens were truly a sight, which prompted people to drive down to tour them. Finally, in April 1932, the Bellingraths placed an ad in the Mobile Press Register inviting anyone who was interested to visit the camp and to walk through the Gardens. Over 4,700 guests showed up, which created a massive traffic jam in south Mobile County. After that, the Bellingraths decided to open the Gardens to visitors for a small admission fee. No longer was Walter’s humble fishing camp humble or just a fishing camp.
Soon after, the groundbreaking for Walter and Bessie Bellingrath’s 10,500 square-foot on-site home took place in June 1935. The house, designed by architect George B. Rogers, was completed in 1936 with the first recorded family meal being consumed July 4, 1936.
Modern Day Bellingrath Gardens and Home
Today, the pastime of touring the gardens is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Visiting Bellingrath Gardens and Home has been described as an idyllic daycation where guests can enjoy strolling amid 65 acres of natural splendor and touring the elegant home, which is decorated with original furnishings and collections. Guests enjoy visiting Bellingrath year-round despite Mobile summers’ warm temperatures because of the respite offered by the shady canvases of towering oak trees and secluded pathways.
When to Visit Bellingrath this Summer
June & July Events
While anytime is a good time to visit, the Wonderful Wednesday program, which takes place at every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. through the end of July (except the week of July 4). For the regular admission price, Wonderful Wednesday attendees can enjoy gardening and history lectures, seminars, and workshops. Call 251.973.2217 to make reservations.
Another popular summer event is June’s Tuesday Tours in which guests enjoy a special anniversary museum tour with Museum Home Director, Tom McGehee. Each tour highlights a certain feature of the Home’s decorative arts. Tuesday Tour guests receive a free souvenir book. Tours are Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. through the end of June; reservations are required for these limited-space tours.
August at Bellingrath will be a special time. August 6 was Walter D. Bellingrath’s birthday, so to celebrate, Mobile and Baldwin Country residents are invited to tour the Gardens at no charge on Founder’s Day (August 6). Tickets to tour the Home are just $9 as are Fowl River tours courtesy of Delta Safaris. As a special added treat, Five Rivers Delta Safaris River Tours will feature 45-minute biodiversity tours of Fowl River on Founder’s Day.
Even if you can’t make it for Founder’s Day, visit anytime in August for the August Anniversary special in which adult Gardens and Home tickets are $16.50 (regular $21) and children’s tickets are $11.50 (regular $13). Bellingrath Gardens and Home is open every day of the year from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Days. For more details on tickets, what’s in bloom, and special events, visit the Bellingrath Gardens and Home website.
Enjoy strolling through picturesque grounds this summertime at Bellingrath Gardens and Home while expanding your knowledge of the home’s history and picking up gardening and other tips and facts. Visit the Bellingrath Gardens and Home website to discover the beauty of a distinctly southern experience.
Photos courtesy of Bellingrath Gardens and Home