Presby Memorial Iris Gardens, NJ
In 1927, the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens were established in the name of Frank Presby a local resident known for his stewardship of the American Iris Society. These gardens were tended by curator Barbara Walther for more than five decades and are now maintained by a volunteer society, the Essex County Presby Memorial Citizens Committee. Seeing the non-profit organization that maintained the gardens struggling to survive, and in danger of having to sell the Walther House, the County of Essex formed an extraordinary partnership in 2009 with the Citizens Committee’s Board of Trustees and the Township of Montclair.
With $1.1 million in grants from the NJ Green Acres Program and the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund, Essex County purchased more than seven acres of land that make up the House and Garden complex; the adjacent 3 acres of Township land will be sold to the County for $1. The County now maintains the House and grounds, and the Citizens Committee, maintaining ownership of the iris bulbs, continues to preserve the Gardens and records, build an endowment and expand their educational programming.