Staci L. Catron Awarded the Garden Club of America 2023 National Medal for Historic Preservation

Cherokee Garden Library Director Staci L. Catron has been awarded the Garden Club of America 2023 Medal for Historic Preservation. The Historic Preservation Medal is given for outstanding work in the field of preservation and/or restoration of historic gardens or buildings of national importance. Staci is being recognized for her significant contributions as a garden preservationist and scholar. As a long-time friend and supporter of the Cherokee Garden Library, I commend our director for her dedication and congratulate her for the recognition she so richly deserves. 

Proposed for the honor by the Cherokee Garden Club, which founded CGL in 1975, Staci has had a long and productive relationship with GCA. She has consulted with the organization on its own library holdings, served as a guest lecturer during the GCA exhibition, Gardening by the Book, at the Grolier Club in New York, and archived The Bulletin of the Garden Club of America dating to 1913 at CGL. Staci was invited to become an Honorary Member of the organization in 2014.  

Under Staci’s leadership over the past 23 years, CGL has evolved into a premier institution for the study of gardening, landscape design, garden history, horticulture, cultural and natural landscapes, and plant ecology.

Staci Catron studying historic plants at Mount Vernon with Southern Garden History Society members in 2022.

Staci with Girl Scouts outside of McElreath Hall in 2011.

The strategic acquisitions policy she led vastly expanded the resource and research material on American gardens for scholars nationwide, and indeed for those in countries beyond our borders. In the process, Staci became fluent in each of the formats held within CGL collections–rare and contemporary books, historic periodicals, seed catalogs, manuscript collections, and visual arts collections––guiding researchers to interpret relevant resources pertinent to their work. She is also fluent in the language of library and archival conservation, which is vital to keeping the most fragile and valuable holdings at CGL in conditions that allow researchers hands-on access to them.  

Many will recall the exciting exhibitions curated or co-curated by our director over the years, including Pathways to the Past: Highlights from the Cherokee Garden Library, Edward L. Daugherty, A Southern Landscape Architect, and most recently, Seeking Eden. Catron also curated local components to traveling exhibitions, including Following in the Bartrams’ Footsteps and Nature’s Beloved Son: Rediscovering John Muir’s Botanical Legacy. Each brought new and thoughtful insights to the public.  

The Seeking Eden exhibition was presented in combination with the launch of the University of Georgia Press book, Seeking Eden: A Collection of Georgia’s Historic Gardens, by co-authors Staci L. Catron and Mary Ann Eaddy, and book photographer, James. R. Lockhart.

Gardens whose stories are explored in the exhibition include Swan House, the iconic house and gardens that have graced Atlanta since 1928; and Dunaway Gardens (pictured here), a rock and floral garden developed in the 1920s near Newnan, GA by actress Hetty Jane Dunaway Sewell. Photo credit: James R. Lockhart

The content of the exhibition and book are inspired by Garden History of Georgia, 1733-1933, published by Peachtree Garden Club in 1933. Pictured here is the Hills and Dales Estate in LaGrange, GA—home to the historic Ferrell Gardens, one of the best-preserved 19th-century designed landscapes in the United States. Photo credit: James R. Lockhart

Seeking Eden: A Collection of Georgia’s Historic Gardens, the award-winning book co-authored by Staci L. Catron and Mary Ann Eaddy, built upon the Georgia Historic Landscape Initiative, a collaboration among the Garden Club of Georgia, CGL of Atlanta History Center, Historic Preservation Division of the Department of Natural Resource (now Department of Community Affairs), Southeast Regional Office of the National Park Service, and the University of Georgia College of Environment + Design, Historic Preservation Program. Staci’s leadership in this multi-decade endeavor has significantly impacted the documentation of gardens, from the vernacular to the highly designed, in Georgia. The project serves as a model for other regions of the United States.

A nationally known historic preservation scholar and passionate advocate, Staci is an engaging leader and educator who teaches us all why preserving our past stories can help guide us today and in the future.

Garden Club of America

Staci does not relish the limelight, but rather develops collaborative relationships, serving in leadership roles when called. Those relationships include:  

  • Renowned historians and authors, landscape architects, and private donors who choose CGL to house their invaluable works, thanks to their confidence in Staci’s leadership.  
  •  Acclaimed speakers who present programs to inspire the public.  
  •  Atlanta History Center’s Goizueta Gardens staff who collaborate to share the multiple living collections within the gardens to delight and educate the public.  
  •  Professional affiliations and partnerships, including the Southern Garden History Society, The Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries, The Garden Conservancy, The Cultural Landscape Foundation, and The Library of American Landscape History. 
  •  Enthusiasts who are interested in learning from CGL’s bi-annual magazine, Garden Citings, orchestrated by Staci, which elegantly presents new research based upon the holdings of CGL.  

Finally, Staci Catron’s love of her field and passion for telling the stories she works tirelessly to tell have led many over the years to say, “Who knew a library could be so exciting?”