Brief History of the Rochester Herb Society
The Rochester Herb Society was formed in early 1971. Sue Marshall, then Director of the Civic Garden Center, and Sue Ferguson, Program Chairperson, felt that there was enough interest in herbs to have classes on their use and culture. Hearing of this, several of the volunteers in the Castle Library suggested a group be formed to be called the Flower City Herb Society to meet monthly at the Castle, the first Tuesday of each month. The purpose of the club was to study and make known all available information on herbs. The following names were listed on the first record kept July 12th, 1971: Ruth Sipp, Ruth Merling, Vera Van Atta, Tish McKinney, Ann Louise Gent, Sue Ferguson, Tessa Wynkoop, Jan Pero, Helen Spilberg, Dorothea Bashnagel, Bessie Quick, Sue Marshall and Helen Foster.
In 1993, the name of the Society was changed to the Rochester Herb Society. Membership has always been open to the public and meetings were held at the Rochester Civic Garden Center. In 2018 we lost our beloved meeting place at Warner Castle with the dissolution of the Rochester Civic Garden Center. However, meetings have continued at Potter Memorial, the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Fairport and the Pittsford Community Center in Pittsford.
The first herb garden was located behind Warner Castle and in 2000, several years after its dissolution, a new herb garden, designed by Yvette Pipes, was established on the grounds of the Cornell Cooperative Extension on Highland Drive in Rochester. It was officially dedicated with a ribbon cutting ceremony followed by a small reception on June 19th, 2001. Sue Ferguson, one of the founding members, cut the ribbon. On September 7th, 2004 this garden was the site of a ceremony and reception dedicating an engraved garden bench in memory of the Herb Society’s founding members: Sue Ferguson and Sue Marshall. Unfortunately, this herb garden at the Cornell Cooperative Extension had to be removed during a construction project on the grounds and the garden bench was moved to its present location in the entrance garden at Warner Castle.
Soon after, in 2007, we answered a request to take on the task of caring for the neglected herb gardens in the historic Garden of Fragrance at the Rochester Museum & Science Center. In 2021 the Herb Society commemorated its 50th anniversary by initiating major renovations to these gardens. On September 14th, 2021, the Rochester Herb Society celebrated its 50th anniversary with a ribbon cutting ceremony and reception open to the public and the Press on the grounds of the RMSC. In completing this project our organization continues to meet its objectives of supporting the local community while promoting interest in and the enjoyment of herbs.