February 17, 2005
The Garden Library project was launched with a substantial initial collection that grew, in part, through the course of another important initiative of historical interest -- the restoration of the Hermann-Grima House, a National Historic Landmark located in the French Quarter. Ask anyone familiar with either this project or the Garden Library and one name surfaces repeatedly: Shingo Dameron Manard (NC '40).
Among her many contributions to the community, Town Gardener Manard was a dominant force in the library's creation. Manard's years of effort to help research and restore the Hermann-Grima House and its courtyard produced a substantial collection of resources related to Southern and Creole gardens of the 19th century that ultimately formed the core of the library when it was founded in the mid-1980s.
Well-known for her community work, Manard served on the board of the Christian Woman's Exchange, an organization founded in 1881 by a group of New Orleans women to help other women in need. In 1924, the group purchased the Hermann-Grima House, which provided affordable shelter for disadvantaged women seeking work in the city.
By 1963, the Exchange determined that proper restoration of the historical structure would make an important contribution to the community. In researching the design and materials needed to restore the structure and the courtyard, Manard, who served as restoration chair, worked with a small dedicated group, including eminent architect Sam Wilson, a long-time member of the Tulane faculty.*
"What we were trying to do was get authentic information," says Manard. "We started reading old French and English newspapers looking for ads for furniture that was for sale and that's when we started on the garden, and we found out about the plants."
One of the most important resources was a little book that Wilson gave Manard -- Nouveau Jardinier de la Louisiane, a rare work that now resides in the Garden Library [see sidebar]. In addition, Manard says she spent a good bit of time in Special Collections of the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, handling rare works with white gloves.
Manard also was involved in helping to save Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, another project that called for information on local plants. In support of these and other community service efforts, she set up a volunteer office on one side of her duplex on Delachaise Street, where her collection of Southern gardening resources gradually grew.
*An accounting of the Hermann-Grima House and its restoration is detailed in Women Who Cared, (Christian Woman's Exchange, 1980), edited by Manard.
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