By Barbara Hadley Smith and Pat Geveden, The Garden Club of Frankfort
Lilian Lindsey was a force to be reckoned with at a time when women were not at the forefront of civic life.
Born in 1878, her home was the Vest-Lindsey House on what is now known as the Corner of Celebrities at Washington and Wapping streets in Frankfort.
As an active young member of the Frankfort Woman’s Club (established in 1894), Lilian became its president and led the charge to organize the Frankfort Public Library, by collecting books, raising funds, becoming trained and serving as the first library director.
Lilian also organized The Garden Club of Frankfort in 1924, which will celebrate its centennial next year.
In 1925, after moving the library around to six different locations, the Woman’s Club members purchased the building at 200 Washington Street (the Letcher-Lindsay House) for $1,600 to house the library and serve as a meeting place. Those faithful club women continued to provide library services until 1965 when the club officially turned the library project over to the city of Frankfort.
To honor Lilian, The Garden Club of Frankfort established a small park in her name behind the old Paul Sawyier Public Library next to the Singing Bridge and overlooking the Kentucky River. When that building was sold to Kentucky State University, the Woman’s Club and the Garden Club joined forces to move the park to the lot adjacent to the Woman’s Club Building on Washington Street.
Recently the park has been refurbished. A small pond was filled in with rocks and features a bench with a statue in the background and planters at either end. The pool was picturesque but was filled in when it became a breeding place for mosquitoes and filled with debris from the surrounding trees and bushes.
Concrete benches, some engraved with tributes to Lilian, were reassembled, plantings have been trimmed and walkways created. When spring comes there will be the addition of colorful flowers. The garden is maintained by The Garden Club of Frankfort with assistance of members of other garden clubs in the community.
This natural space is a tribute to a woman of vision and tenacity. Lilian was described as a person “with a record of achievement” and “one whose ideals were high and noble.” She is especially remarkable as she struggled with ill health, including tuberculosis.
She died in 1939 and is buried in the Frankfort Cemetery. In 2006, the bookstore in the Paul Sawyier Public Library was named for her, and a plaque at the library designates Lilian Lindsey as its founder.
The Lilian Lindsey Park is open to visitors and is now a pleasant place to sit and contemplate the living history that is all around us.
To find out more about The Garden Club of Frankfort, contact BHSmith2010@gmail.com.