As part of Bellingrath Gardens and Home’s 75th Anniversary in 2007, the Gardens celebrate the birthday and legacy of Bessie Morse Bellingrath this Sunday, May 20. As the wife to Mobile’s first Coca-Cola bottler, Mrs. Bellingrath played a …
As part of Bellingrath Gardens and Home’s 75th Anniversary in 2007, the Gardens celebrate the birthday and legacy of Bessie Morse Bellingrath this Sunday, May 20. As the wife to Mobile’s first Coca-Cola bottler, Mrs. Bellingrath played a significant role in the Gardens’ inception.
To commemorate what would have been Mrs. Bellingrath’s 129th birthday, guests are welcome to complimentary birthday cake and ice cream in the Magnolia Café. They will also have the opportunity to learn more about “Miss Bessie,” as she was affectionately called.
Since Mrs. Bellingrath was well-known for her love of shopping, the Bellingrath Gift Shop announces its “Buy Like Miss Bessie” sale. On Sunday only, buyers will receive discounts throughout the Gift Shop.
Learning about Mrs. Bellingrath’s legacy is not complete without touring the Bellingrath Museum Home. A special tour emphasizing her collection of decorative arts, as well as her life as a humanitarian, loving aunt, friendly neighbor, architect and so much more is available to guests. Wonderful stories, such as how she assisted families during the Great Depression by paying exorbitant sums of money for what she claimed were rare azaleas and camellias, will be included in the special tour.
Furthermore, the Gardens and Home combination rate will be discounted to $15. Other combination packaged rates remain the same price.
Bessie Mae Morse was born in Mobile to Sewell Walker Morse and Alice Morrow Morse in 1878. The daughter of a Maine-born shipwright, Bessie was one of nine children.
After working as a stenographer in Mobile’s Coca-Cola Bottling Co., she married its owner, Walter Duncan Bellingrath, in November 1906.
He was 37 and she was 28.
The couple moved into 60 S. Ann St. in Mobile and Mrs. Bellingrath began planting azaleas and camellias in her garden.
After Mr. Bellingrath purchased property on Fowl River in 1917, Mrs. Bellingrath’s overflow of plants soon found their way to what was designated as a fishing camp.
After a European vacation in 1927, the couple hired prominent Mobile architect George B. Rogers in transforming the property to a garden estate. Three years after the Gardens first opened to the public in April 1932, Rogers also designed their 10,500-square-foot home.
While Rogers was the architect for the Gardens and Home, Mrs. Bellingrath’s influence on the projects are undeniable. For example, the idea for the Rockery was completely hers, as well as expanding the main dining room for additional space.
The Bessie Morse Bellingrath Collection of Decorative Arts is among one of the finest in the country.
On display in its entirety throughout the Bellingrath Museum Home, Mrs. Bellingrath amassed the collection from individuals as well as fine antique stores throughout the South.
Bessie Morse Bellingrath died at the age of 64. Having no children, Walter Bellingrath established the Bellingrath-Morse Foundation to honor her memory. Her marker at Magnolia Cemetery reads:
“I shall always think of you wandering through a lovely garden,
Like that which you fashioned with your own hands,
Where flowers never fade and no cold wind of sorrow
Blights our hopes and plans—And on your face,
The peace of one whose whole life through,
Walked with God. — Your devoted husband.”
Founded by Walter and Bessie Bellingrath, Bellingrath Gardens and Home is one of the top public gardens in the United States.
Known for its Southern charm and unsurpassed beauty, the gardens have long been a treasure to the community and a favorite of tourists and garden-lovers worldwide.
Bellingrath Gardens is located 20 miles southwest of Mobile. From I-10, take exit 15A onto Highway 90. Turn south on Bellingrath Road and follow the signs.
For additional information, call Crystal Wall at (251) 973-2217, Ext. 137.