The Glover-Archbold Park Community Garden is prominently located southwest of the intersection of 42nd Street and Tunlaw Road, while the Whitehaven Community Garden is hidden from view, south of the intersection of W Street and 39th Place. These two community gardens at the fringes of Glover Park can date their origins to a time when Americans raised nearly forty percent of the nation’s produce in victory gardens.
While it was later recalled that they got their start in 1941, the two present gardens are more likely to date to the spring of 1943, when 400 acres of District and institutional land, to be allocated to 6000 gardeners, were placed at the disposal of the District Victory Garden Committee. There was probably a third victory garden, at either the northeast or northwest corner of Calvert and Wisconsin, because there were three garden organizations in 1947: the 42nd Street Garden Group, the W Street Garden Group, and the Calvert Street-Wisconsin Avenue Garden Group.
(“Five Million Backyard Gardens Are Needed by U.S. for Home Defense”, Washington Post, July 27, 1941, p.L9; “Garden Foods Vital War Need”, Washington Post, December 20, 1941, p.23; “6000 Garden Plots ready For Allocation”, Washington Post, March 6, 1943, p.10; “Glover Park”, Washington Post, May 14, 1947, p.13; “The Hoe and Hose Set”, Washington Post and Times Herald, May 14, 1956, p.14)
Victory gardens continued in use after the war was over. “District Commissioners yesterday called Washington victory gardeners back to their hoes and spades for another year. The action was in response to President Truman’s appeal for another year of Victory Gardens, made in connection with a call to conserve food to avert famine in Europe.” “The National Park Service has turned over use of park lands for another year for the gardens… and vacant lots will be listed at once.” “Already plows have broken ground in many of the 135 scattered acres turned back to amateur community gardeners by the District Commissioners and the National Park Service.”
(“District Launches Campaign For Victory Gardens’ Return”, Washington Post, March 16, 1946, p.2; “District Residents Start to Cultivate Community Acres”, Washington Post, March 26, 1946, p.1; “Revival of V-gardens Urged”, Washington Post, October 5, 1947, p.R6)
One of the victory garden “pioneers” of 1941 was Alfred A. Goldschmidt, a retired German Jewish banker who had fled Hitler’s regime, and joined his son in Washington. Goldschmidt and his wife Camilla lived at 4122 Edmunds Street, in the Park View Terrace apartments, overlooking the 42nd Street victory garden.
(“The Hoe and Hose Set”, Washington Post and Times Herald, May 14, 1956, p.14; “Died––Goldschmidt, Camilla Gabrielle”, Washington Post, July 10, 1961, p.B2; “Yale Economics Professor Raymond W. Goldsmith Dies”, Washington Post, July 15, 1988, p.B6)
Victory Gardens That Sprouted in Wartime Still Feed the Body and Soul
By Joy Aschenbach
Here and there across America, remnants of World War II victory gardens have been peacefully feeding body and soul for 50 years. “You grow a lot more than vegetables here. You grow friendship and warmth. You feed your soul,” says Adrienne Stanley of the small patch of the Glover Park community victory garden that she has nurtured every March through September for eight seasons in a residential neighborhood of northwest Washington. Why? “It’s in your soul. It’s something from childhood,” Stanley says. “I remember my mom, a Red Cross nurse during the war, talking about her victory garden in Providence, (R.I.). Spring comes. It’s time to put seeds in the ground.”
At their peak in 1943, 20 million victory gardens sprouted up in vacant lots, back yards, railroad right of ways and rural communities across the nation. They produced 40% of all fresh vegetables consumed in the United States, worth about $1 billion. In Michigan, acres devoted to victory gardens outnumbered those used for commercially grown vegetables. Victory gardens were one of the most popular home-front programs developed during the war. The U.S. Office of War Information put out posters promoting the gardens: “Plant a Victory Garden. Our Food Is Fighting. A Garden Will Make Your Rations Go Further.” The Department of Agriculture broadcast a national, weekly 15-minute radio program, “Calling All Victory Gardeners.”
“Victory gardens were a grass-roots phenomenon of the war and a concrete and practical response to rationing and shortages,” said James H. Madison, an Indiana University history professor who teaches a course called “The American Home Front during World War II.” “But victory gardens were also a way of getting the American people involved in supporting the war effort,” Madison said. “They were a symbolic way of selling the war.”
Ron Ostrow, who was 10 in the spring of 1942 and living in the shadow of the Presidio in San Francisco, just across the Pacific from Japan, recalls fondly: “Victory gardens were a unifying force. While others were off in the Army fighting the war, they drew people together who probably never would have gotten together in our mixed neighborhood. They gave us a common purpose. “There was frustration about what we kids could do besides collecting tinfoil from chewing-gum wrappers. We were always searching for something we could do for the war.”
Ostrow, now a Washington correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, remembers helping his father hoe, weed, water and sift the sandy topsoil of a vacant lot that had been quickly converted to a 30-plot vegetable garden in San Francisco’s Marina District. “It’s where I found an early affinity for Swiss chard,” he said. Swiss chard connects him to the garden of his youth. He grows it in his back yard in Bethesda, Md.
The world of the Glover Park garden, one of an unknown number of victory gardens still growing today, is measured out in 150 plots, averaging 30 by 30 feet. It’s a mini-United Nations. The current crop of gardeners was born in about 65 countries. “You meet the nicest people, people like Kostantinos Kraniotis, a Greek tavern singer, that you might not encounter otherwise,” said Adrienne Stanley. Stanley and her husband, Daniel, both in their 50s, grow tomatoes, basil, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, spinach, snow peas and salad greens. She is a travel agent; he is an oceanographic geologist at the Smithsonian Institution. Thirty-five prospective gardeners are on Glover Park’s perennial waiting list, said Hazel Murdock, chairman of the community garden association. She oversees the 2.5-acre piece of National Park Service land, which has been a victory garden since 1942.
Half of the 10 park service vegetable gardens in the nation’s capital today are World War II vintage. At least 90% of each plot must still be planted with vegetables or herbs. George Gladstone, a retired Army colonel, says he signed up for a plot in the Glover Park victory garden 34 years ago because he was stationed in Japan after the war and “saw what a Japanese farmer could do with a very small plot.” Arthritis recently forced Gladstone to give it up at 86. “I miss it,” he said. “I was famous for my tomatoes. I had 30 tomato plants last year. I always grew more than we needed. One season I gave tomatoes to 26 different families. One of the best pleasures was being able to share.”
Hazel Murdock, who didn’t start growing vegetables until she retired from the Panama Canal Commission 10 years ago, said: “I’m 70, but I feel 40.” That’s a victory.
Joy Aschenbach, National Geographic News Service, Los Angeles Times, October 4, 1992
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