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City Island Garden Club Celebrates 50 Years

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One of City Island’s greatest institutions has made it through half a century.

The City Island Garden Club, which was founded by four women in 1961, and now has nearly ten times as many members, celebrated its 50th anniversary on Saturday, June 18 at Morris Yacht and Beach Club.

The club honored the lone survivor from its four original founding members, legendary City Island real estate broker Jacqueline Kall.

“We never thought about whether it would last that long,” Kall said, who is now in her 80s and still selling real estate on the island. “It will continue. A lot of them are as old as I am. They’re still active and good and brainy.”

The club, which convenes on the first Monday of every month at the City Island Yacht Club, was actually founded in 1960, by City Island women who shared a passion for gardening.

The 50th anniversary, however, marks when it was officially recognized by the Federated Garden Clubs of New York State. Members believe it is the oldest garden club in New York City. In it’s earliest days, the club was true to its name and activities were mainly based around botany.

The City Island Garden Club competed in semiannual flower shows against other officially-recognized clubs throughout the state. It even developed a rivalry with the Larchmont Garden Club, but over the years, its mission changed from traditional garden club activities to promoting endeavors that would serve the entire City Island community. It sponsors two island-wide cleanup programs each year.

“It has evolved,” said current club president Barbara Hoffman, whose mother was one of the founding four. “We still do some gardening and horticultural activities, but we try to get the stores involved and the residents in our community programs. The most important is to make sure our plants and garden areas are maintained and kept clean, but its almost impossible with the kind of visitor traffic we have up here.”

The club has maintained planters on City Island Avenue for the past three years and was instrumental in the cleanup of Hawkins Park, which was rededicated last year.

The demographics of the all-female club are decidedly older than when it was founded. The oldest members are in their 80s, while the youngest are in their 50s. All but two are City Island residents. Some friends of the club help out occasionally, but are limited by family and work constraints.

“The thing is, in my mothers’ day, women didn’t work so much, so that’s what it was,” said Hoffman, who retired as VP of employee benefits at Saks Fifth Avenue 13 years ago.

The younger generation could always follow Kall’s example. She has been heavily involved in the club since its inception, all the while building a real estate business and raising a family.

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