Family and friends gathered on June 21 in the library at Smith-Gilbert Gardens in Kennesaw to unveila portrait of SGG’s founders Richard L. Smith and Dr. Robert Gilbert. Dr. Gilbert commissioned the portrait created by artist Camille Barton of Franklin, NC, as a permanent remembrance of Richard Smithwho died in 2002. The portrait was revealed in a ceremony attended by Mr. Smith’s family.
Mr. Smith, an accountant and Dr. Gilbert, a periodontist, lived and worked in Atlanta and purchased the house and property in 1970. The dwelling, a historic property known as the Hiram Butler House,was built in the early 1880’s, but had fallen into disrepair at the time of its acquisition. The restorationtook more than 10 years to complete. Additionally, the surrounding 13 acres of land was developed bythe pair into a woodland stroll garden, complete with a vast collection of exotic and unusual plants in a naturalistic setting.
Over the years, Smith and Gilbert traveled extensively, visiting several countries and bringing back many varieties of plants which they added to the grounds. Their collection grew to encompass over 3,000 species of plants. The two also acquired thirty contemporary sculptures thoughtfully positioned throughout the landscape which add interest to the natural beauty of the flora.
After the death of Smith in 2002, Dr. Gilbert entered into an agreement to sell the house and gardens to the City of Kennesaw. A stroll through the property today reveals two water features, an Asian style garden building, a spectacular rose garden featuring over 100 varieties of roses, an award-winning bonsai collection, a nationally recognized conifer collection, and a vegetable garden. Produce from the vegetable area is donated to local needy families. Smith-Gilbert Gardens continues to grow and thrive as a public place of serenity; the portrait of the two men now hanging in the library is a permanent legacy to their vision and creativity.