History of Toledo Botanical Garden

Toledo Botanical Garden began in 1964 with the donation of 20 acres of private land to the City of Toledo by George P. Crosby for the purpose of creating a public park. The vision which City Welfare Director Elmer Hinkleman had for the new site included creating a center for gardening and the arts in the community. In 1967, the City established the George P. Crosby Park Board to oversee the operation of and programming at the newly-opened garden.

In 1970, the City’s planning department created the first master plan with input from the Park Board, staff, and interested citizens. More than $200,000 was secured through grants to implement the plan in 1972 and 1973 on the original 20 acres of garden. The City also helped to fund the newly created Director’s position in 1976. The Park Board formed a strong partnership with Toledo Public Schools to implement a 2-year Horticulture Science program for high school students, to oversee the creation of a children’s garden, and to develop environmental education programs including summer plant science camps and adult horticulture education programs. In addition, the installation of the City’s public sculpture park, the incorporation of 19 arts, horticulture, and conservation groups as resident organizations at the garden, construction of a new visitor center and parking area, and community-wide celebrations of visual and performing arts, including the long-running Crosby Festival of the Arts were all early undertakings that formed the foundation on which TBG operates today.

The Garden has grown significantly from 20 acres in 1964 to over 60 acres. The park advisory board incorporated as a 501(c) 3 organization in 1981 and began to raise funds for TBG’s operations and staffing, up to 40% of the budget by 1989. In 1984, the TBG Board, the City of Toledo, and a large committee of interested citizens worked to create a new master plan. By 1987, the Crosby Park Board of Trustees, City of Toledo, and a group of community volunteers raised more than $2.1 million to begin implementation of the 1986 Master Plan. The Board also oversaw the creation of a formal plant collection policy for TBG and the completion of Phase I of the master plan in 1989 including the Shade Garden, Perennial Garden, Crosby Lake, and maintenance area. The Garden’s visitation reached 100,000 and programming was expanded to include festivals, performing and visual arts classes and concerts, environmental education classes and workshops, annual wildflower rescue and native plant programs, and family-oriented weekend activities.

By 1995, the Grand Allee was installed to allow trees to mature prior to building a new Visitor Center on the south side of the Garden as part of Phase II of the master plan. A research and demonstration greenhouse was added to the grounds in 1997 through a partnership with the USDA and Ohio State University-OARDC (Ohio State’s Agricultural Business Enhancement Center) programs. Renovation of the Rose Garden and planning for the new visitor center and parking lot also took place in the late 1990’s. TBG also began a community gardening outreach program called Toledo GROWS (Gardens Revitalize Our World) that targeted under-served areas of the City for neighborhood improvement efforts.

The new millennium turned the TBG Board’s thoughts to updating the 1986 Master Plan and creating a long-range plan for 2000-2005. Creating a nationally recognized garden where the community can enrich their lives through gardens, the arts, and nature became a top priority. In 2000 the Board began taking responsibility for raising 85% of TBG’s $1.3 million annual budget and hiring the majority of the plant curation staff, a task left to the City in prior years. They also created a collections master plan, conservation plan, and curation standards for the living collections with the help of an Institute of Museum and Library Services Conservation Grant. In 2004, the Board was awarded the National Association of Plant Collection Consortium’s prestigious accreditation for TBG’s Hosta Collection. As such, TBG is one of only a few gardens nationwide to achieve this recognition and only one of two for a non-woody plant collection. The following year, the Garden was approved to receive an Economic Development Initiative grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to fund the construction of a new Bancroft Street entryway into the Garden. Also in 2005, an additional greenhouse bay was added to accommodate TBG’s growing relationship with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

Excitement abounded in 2006, as the Garden became a public/private partnership between the Metroparks of the Toledo Area and the Toledo Botanical Garden Board, Inc. in collaboration with the City of Toledo. The Toledo GROWs program began receiving United Way funding and boasted over 40 community gardens throughout the area. The Toledo Community Foundation and other granting organizations agreed to fund long-deferred maintenance priorities on the property. Meanwhile, the Bancroft Street entryway was completed and unveiled and the Garden began preparing for a new site master planning process.

In 2012 Toledo Botanical Garden opened the Robert Anderson Urban Agriculture Center at 900 Oneida Street, in the heart of Toledo’s urban core.  Serving as the primary hub for the current network of 126 community gardens, the Center is a bustling farm showcasing numerous growing techniques to educate avid gardeners. Hands-on workshops, peer learning opportunities and a resource for community garden enthusiasts, the urban farm hosts Community Garden Council meetings, educational field trips and open houses to highlight the importance of local food production.  An ongoing partnership with the Lucas County Juvenile Court provides court-involved youth the opportunity to learn life and job skills on the platform of gardening, facilities maintenance and landscaping.  A new food aggregation model is being formed to provide community gardeners with an entrepreneurial spirit the opportunity to grow produce to sell.  This new Toledo Grown brand is being marketed to numerous local restaurants, markets and through shares of Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs).

2015 celebrated 50 years of nurturing the joy of growing, as Toledo Botanical Garden continues to evolve and bring new experiences, resources, and beauty to the Toledo area.


Navarre Cabin


A rich history is attached to the log cabin standing in Toledo Botanical Garden’s Pioneer Garden. Its occupant, Peter Navarre, was a skilled and courageous Indian Scout of the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812. Its journey to the Toledo Botanical Garden is a testament to the desire of several groups and individuals over the years to preserve it.

The journey began in September, 1922. The cabin originally was built on the farm of Enos Mominee on Consaul Street in Toledo, Ohio. Historical accounts and a Toledo Blade article dated Saturday, September 9, 1922, report that it stood there “for more than three score years”. The cabin had been moved from Consaul Street to Navarre Park and was presented to the City of Toledo on September 9, 1922 by the Peter Navarre Chapter, United States Daughters of 1812.

The citizens of the East Side were, and are today, understandably proud of Peter Navarre, the first permanent East Side resident. It was their desire to save and preserve the cabin and the Navarre history that prompted the cabin’s first move.

Navarre, along with his family, arrived and settled at the mouth of the Maumee in 1807 shortly after Statehood. He was born in 1790 and was of French-Canadian decent. A fur trapper by trade, Navarre covered an area from Presque Isle through the Maumee Valley to Ft. Wayne, Indiana. He was exceedingly skilled as a woodsman, knowing the wilderness that was then Ohio intimately.

Although he spoke French in the Canadian manner, he didn’t read or write and had little command of the English language. Navarre did speak several Native American Indian languages flawlessly. When dressed as an Indian, he was able to pass as one without detection by the native tribes. Those skills, and considerable courage as a volunteer loyal to the American forces, led to his role as an Indian Scout and guide. The East Toledo Historical Society, on an Ohio Historical Marker erected in 2007, described his service to the American forces thusly:“ During the War of 1812, Peter Navarre acted as a scout for the American army and provided intelligence about enemy strength and locations. Navarre was responsible for passing communications between Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry at Port Clinton and General William Henry Harrison at Fort Seneca during August and September 1813. On September 9, Navarre was sent to Perry with orders to begin the attack against the British. The Battle of Lake Erie was fought the next day. His skill and resourcefulness to pass through enemy territory aided the United States in retaining this area during the war.”

At the conclusion of the war Navarre returned to the mouth of the Maumee, resumed his fur trapping, farmed and raised a large family. He outlived his three wives. Peter Navarre died on March 20, 1874 at the age of 86. It is believed that his son, Peter Navarre Jr., built the cabin in the 1860’s for his father’s later days. The cabin remained in Navarre Park until the spring of 1957. During its tenure at Navarre Park it fell into serious disrepair and suffered some vandalism. The Toledo Blade, the Peter Navarre Memorial Association, The Toledo Zoological Society and the Anthony Wayne Park Board raised funds to restore and move the cabin, this time to the Toledo Zoo at a site near the Zoo amphitheater. It stood there until 1975.

In September 1975 the cabin made its final move. It was moved from the grounds of the Toledo Zoo to “Crosby Gardens” now Toledo Botanical Garden. Vernon Wiersma, landscape architect, was planning an “1837 park”. The Trilby Rotary Club assisted with the move as their bicentennial project. The cabin is typical of its period in construction. Logs were usually cleared from the immediate cabin site and hand hewn. Mud was used to fill in the chinks between the logs. Shingles were hand hewn from local materials for the roof. Crosby Garden members went to considerable effort to furnish the cabin with items typical of the period. Today the last cabin of the famed scout sits in the Pioneer Garden surrounded by a large collection of heirloom vegetable plants, many of which he would have been very familiar with.

In 2015 the Pioneer Garden was completely restored to its most authentic representation of period vegetables.