Essex County Presby Memorial Iris Gardens – NRHP

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Presby Memorial Iris Gardens is an Essex County Park in New Jersey maintained by the nonprofit Citizens Committee. The gardens were established in 1927 in honor of Frank Presby. Presby was a horticulturalist who helped found the American Iris Society in 1920.

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Presby Memorial is the largest non-commercial garden dedicated to irises in the world,  with approximately 10,000 individual plants. It has over 3,000 different varieties.  Some of its vintage rhizomes were stolen in 2008, but were later recovered.

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The Victorian house on the grounds is the Walther House and is the headquarters for the Citizens Committee and also houses a museum store. Barbara Walther lived there and was the garden’s curator for over 50 years. In 1977, she passed away and the Citizens Committee was formed to maintain the collection.

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The Citizens Committee had financial troubles in 2008 so Essex County purchased the Walther House and property and designated it a County Park. The County maintains the structure and leases the land back to the non-profit organization which continues to oversee the gardens, completely through private donations and volunteerism.

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Presby has over 10,000 visitors, mostly during the blooming season each year, from Mid May to early June. The gates open pretty early…I got there as soon as it opened and had no trouble finding parking or taking photos without mobs of people.

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To see my other Essex County Park posts click Branch Brook Park.

Location: 474 Upper Mountain Ave, Montclair, NJ 07043

Designation: National Register of Historic Places, County Park

Date designation declared: September 17, 1980

Date of my visit: 5/28/2016

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NRHP: Branch Brook Park

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Branch Brook Park is a county park in Essex County, New Jersey and protects the largest and most diverse collection of blossoming cherry trees in the world. It began in 1896 as the first county park open to the public in the US. In 1927 with a donation from the Bamberger (department store magnate) family, the cherry trees were planted. The expanded park was popular during the Great Depression. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.

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The groves grew to around 2000 trees, but by 2005, the original trees were dying out.  Through public support and the Branch Brook Alliance, the park was saved and restored. Today there are close to 5000 trees blossoming in the Spring.

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Having seen beautiful photos of this place on social media for the past few years, I decided to head over there on the first sunny April weekend. I was a little apprehensive about going there alone and at the crack of dawn. The park is within the city limits of Newark and there are some rough neighborhoods there.

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So I decided to begin at the Cherry Blossom Welcome Center which is on the outskirts of town. The welcome center has some displays inside and tours are offered from here seasonally (there is also a self-guided mobile phone tour which I did dial in to a few times.) When I arrived, there were a few other people wandering around with cameras, so it seemed safe enough. I took a few pictures here and then drove to the other end of the park via the park road.

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Branch Brook Lake is at the Southern end of the park with the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart on its East side.  The blooms were just starting here. We’ve had a very cold Spring. In fact, it was only 34 degrees while I was snapping these photos.

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On the west side are the Prudential Lions. These are replicas of the original limestone sculptures, crafted by Karl Ritter at the turn of the 20th century. The originals were restored by the former CEO of Prudential (whose wife was president of the Branch Brook Alliance) and moved to the Essex municipal building for their protection.

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There is also an interesting sculpture, awarded to a Newark choral group for winning a competition in 1909.

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Location: Lake Street & Park Avenue, Newark, NJ 07104

Designation: County Park, National Register of Historic Places

Date designation declared: 1/12/1981

Date of my visit: 4/21/2018

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Cute children’s playground by the Welcome Center
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Two signs of Spring in one frame and it was only 34 degrees Fahrenheit!

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Concerts take place here in the Summer
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It was difficult to photograph the Cathedral as the sun was rising behind it

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