Monday, April 6, 2015

I Found Spring In The Archives: A History of the Talcott Greenhouse

With spring finally starting to shine through, it's always nice to pay a visit to the Talcott greenhouse (known over the years as Talcott Arboretum or the "plant house") a warm spot of green even in the middle of winter. Warren O. McAvoy, who was head of the greenhouse starting in the early 1960s, stated that in winter the "lift the students get is reason enough for the Talcott Conservatory."

Mount Holyoke students model in the greenhouse in the early 1970s

Constructed in the late 1890s with funds provided by Mr. James Talcott,  the greenhouse was mainly used as a laboratory for students of botany. Talcott was related to the family of a Mount Holyoke student by marriage, and two of his great-great-grandaughters attended the college in the 60s. The greenhouse structure itself remained largely unchanged until a new section was dedicated in 1980, behind the original left wing. The entire greenhouse was renovated 1992-1997. It was fitted with new glass, wood, and modernized heating.
Farmerettes examining plants in the Talcott greenhouse

The greenhouse has been used as a facility for many different education programs about plants and farming. It was also used during both World Wars as a learning environment for Mount Holyoke's "farmerettes," who spent time during the school year and in the summer tending farm land to help provide labor to local farmers while many workers were away at war.

The greenhouse has been host to a flower show on and off since about the time of the greenhouse's construction, but it was horticulturist John Walker who revitalized the project around 1970. Past themes have
included: Dutch, Japanese, Wizard of Oz, and Italy.
Photo from The Springfield Republican captioned "Patricia A. Mayweather, '72,
 wears hotpants in the hot house as Arboretum staff director Myron J. Robinson
arranges a display."

The idea of giving out plants to students was thought up by John Walker around 1970-71. John Walker, described in one Daily News article as "a green-thumb version of santa claus" provided up to two or three plants for any student that showed interest, a practice that developed into our current tradition of receiving "first year plants." Walker also had an "emergency room" for plants that were freezing, overwatered, or infested with bugs.

Photo from The Springfield Republican

Samantha Snodgrass, Class of 2018, is a volunteer student assistant in the Mount Holyoke College Archives. 

1 comment:

  1. Hello! I am the daughter of Myron Robinson. I was pleasantly surprised to see a photo of him in the greenhouse at MHC! Can you tell me the year this photo was taken/published? He passed away shortly after this. Thank you for sharing! Kim Robinson