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Afton Villa: A conversation with Genevieve Munson Trimble

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afton_coverOn Wednesday, April 20 at 5:15 pm (informal pre-talk reception and book signing to begin at 4:30 pm), please join us at the Hill Memorial Library Lecture Hall for a conversation with Genevieve “Gen” Trimble on her beautiful new book, Afton Villa: The Birth and Rebirth of a Ninteenth-Century Louisiana Garden (LSU Press, 2016).  This event will be a conversation between Trimble and her editor, Dr. Lake Douglas, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture and Associate Dean for Research and Development, LSU College and Design. Books will be available for purchase, and refreshments will be served. This event is free and open to the public.

Genevieve Trimble’s remarkable story of Afton Villa began with a tragedy. In 1963, fire ravaged the forty-room Victorian Gothic plantation home on the historic estate, bringing to ashes over 170 years of history. Over the next decade, its once-regal serpentine entryway and carefully laid out gardens gradually deteriorated, as vines strangled the rows of azaleas that once welcomed guests. A place of enchantment crumbled toward extinction.

The irreversible loss of Afton Villa’s once pristine nineteenth-century gardens and carefully built stately home did, however, inspire Trimble to seize the opportunity to protect the derelict property from oblivion and she and her husband purchased the estate in 1972. This ambitious move initiated a forty-year regeneration of one of the most treasured and legendary gardens in Louisiana.

Afton Villa documents Trimble’s decades-long restoration project while providing a history of the original owners and paying tribute to the other people who contributed to its rebirth. Focusing on preservation, Trimble reveals how the garden’s original footprint survived as well as how she thoughtfully introduced new flora into the terraced landscape, including the foundation ruins of the house, under the guidance of landscape architect Neil G. Odenwald. With steep learning curves and devastating setbacks, including hurricane destruction, each milestone in the recovery of Afton Villa marked a triumph of collaborative will over adversity.

Hundreds of visitors every year journey to St. Francisville to enjoy the result of Trimble’s arduous and rewarding efforts. The moss-draped oaks welcome them to a rolling vista of daffodils, cherry trees, and a boxwood parterre as well as hundreds of other features in this thirty-five-acre garden. With a vivid narrative and beautiful images, Afton Villa: The Birth and Rebirth of a Nineteenth-Century Louisiana Garden captures the story of this remarkable restoration.

19709849-standardDr. Douglas, working with Ms. Trimble, will donate the manuscript materials relating to this book to LSU Libraries Special Collections. We are thrilled to have this important addition to the collections, which will help build our holdings in Landscape Architecture, supporting one of the finest programs in the United States.

In addition to Afton Villa, Genevieve Munson Trimble oversaw the restoration of the New Orleans Botanical Garden, where she served as president of their Foundation for twenty-five years. Among many other accolades for her horticultural achievements, Trimble received the Place Keeper Award from the Foundation of Landscape Studies, the Garden Club of America’s National Achievement Medal, the inaugural Edith Stern Legacy Award from Longue Vue Gardens, and the Preservation Award from the Foundation for Historical Louisiana.

Jessica Lacher-Feldman is the Head of Special Collections at Louisiana State University.

Posted in Announcements, Events, Special Collections Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
One comment on “Afton Villa: A conversation with Genevieve Munson Trimble
  1. Margaret Lovecraft says:

    Genevieve Trimble earned her degree in journalism from LSU and was an editor of the “Reveille.” This afternoon’s talk is a golden opportunity for LSU journalism students and the “Reveille” staff to interview Mrs. Trimble about her life as a writer, preservationist, and “journalist” of her historic gardens.

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