“The White House Garden,” which originally debuted at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. in 2008, opens at Georgia Highlands College (GHC) on Monday, Feb. 1.

The exhibit will remain on view in the Lakeview Art Gallery through March 29 before continuing on a 20-city national tour through 2012.

The stately grounds of the White House have served as an impressive stage for everything from elegant weddings and royal receptions to Easter egg hunts and President Eisenhower’s personal putting green.

After more than 200 years as the site of those events, that backdrop of history comes to the fore with “The White House Garden,” an exhibition developed and supported by the White House Historical Association and organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES).

The collection includes photos, drawings, maps and family and business correspondence.

Since the 1790s, presidents, first families, renowned landscape architects and countless other Americans have contributed to the development of the formal gardens and parkland surrounding the “people’s house,” shaping the land into an extraordinary, one-of-a-kind national touchstone and treasure and the oldest continuously landscaped garden in the U.S.

“The White House Garden” paints a botanical and historical portrait through a series of thematic sections that highlight three gardens in particular: the Rose Garden, the East Garden (the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden) and the Children’s Garden.

Key to the development, design and evolution of the gardens are some of the biggest figures in American landscape design, including Andrew Jackson Downing, Beatrix Farrand and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.

They built upon a canvas first envisioned by famed city planner Pierre L’Enfant, who set aside 82 acres for a President’s Park in 1792, when the nation’s capital was little more than a collection of farms and marshes.

Visitors to the exhibit will learn about the daunting challenges posed by the indigenous landscape, see the innovative changes and renovations that occurred as the grounds were rebuilt after the War of 1812 and be drawn into the decision and deliberations of the 20th and 21st century presidents, who added their own contemporary touches.

The exhibit features Thomas Jefferson, designer of the area’s first landscape plans; John Quincy Adams, who worked in the garden alongside White House gardener John Ousley; Theodore Roosevelt, who reluctantly allowed his architects to demolish his cherished conservatory; John F. Kennedy, who made the private Rose Garden near the Oval Office into an outdoor meeting place that accommodates 1,000 spectators; and Harry S. Truman and George H.W. Bush, both of whom enjoyed a lively game of horseshoes.

The exhibit illustrates the various roles the White House gardens have played in the international and domestic affairs of each administration: Presidents Tyler and Lincoln held receptions for the public; Civil War soldiers carried out drills on the South Lawn; Jacqueline Kennedy hosted ballet performances and concerts; and Lady Bird and Lyndon Baines Johnson held dinners and barbecues within view of the sweeping lawns and grounds’ carefully tended flower beds.

More than 500 trees planted on the grounds also are highlighted in the exhibit. Initially documented by first daughter Amy Carter as part of a school project, many of the trees were planted for ceremonial purposes.

Among the most renowned are the ancient magnolia planted by Andrew Jackson in memory of his late wife Rachel and the dogwood planted by Bill and Hilary Clinton in 1995, dedicated to the children killed in the Oklahoma City bombing.

“We are honored to continue our relationship with the SITES program to bring the beauty and history of the White House gardens to Rome and Floyd County,” said John Spranza, GHC director of student life. “This is the eighth exhibit that we have hosted over the past four years, and I continue to be amazed at the excitement and positive reception these exhibitions receive from both our campus and the surrounding community.”

“The White House Garden” will be on exhibit in GHC’s Lakeview Art Gallery from Monday, Feb. 1, through Monday, March 29. Admission is free.

The exhibit will be open to the public each week Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. and on Fridays from 8 a.m. until noon. Other days and times can be scheduled for groups by contacting the Office of Student Life at (706) 295-6363.

Rome News Tribune