In 1918, Jane Tracy, long-time summer resident of New London, purchased The Morgan Homestead on the corner of Main and Pleasant Streets with the intention of giving the town a library and community center. However, the building served briefly as New London’s first hospital until 1923 when a new hospital was completed and plans for the library could proceed.

Jane Tracy

Mrs. Tracy engaged the Boston architectural firm Strickland, Blodgett and Law to design the interior of the building, and in 1926, she hired Olmsted Brothers Landscape Architects of Brookline, Massachusetts to design and plant the grounds.

In 1927, the grounds were planted extensively and the resulting landscape was extraordinarily beautiful. Below the terrace on the south side was a square garden surrounded by lilac bushes of seven varieties. Grass paths surrounded four “L” shaped beds of perennial and annual flowers. In the center was a stone-lined wading pool with five bronze bubbling flowers on the surface of the water. Old photos show two latticework-raised arbors near the original library building with a well and well sweep between them.

Arbor and Well Sweep

Original Garden

Below the terrace on the north side was a rose garden containing nearly 200 plants. The southern and western boundaries were marked by stone walls. Along these edges were curved beds of trees and flowering shrubs interspersed with flowers.

In 1928, knowing that the garden would require financial and maintenance support, Mrs. Tracy wisely assisted in the formation of the New London Garden Club whose purpose would be to maintain the Garden.

Unfortunately, support was not provided consistently over the years. The membership of the Garden Club was small, their town beautification projects increased, and the library garden gradually deteriorated. By the 1990’s all that remained of the original garden were some trees and shrubs. Realizing that the structure of the garden was still visible, members of the Garden Club began to research its history.

In 1997, a letter from Olmsted Brothers found at the library led to contacting The Olmsted National Historic Site in Brookline, Massachusetts. It was learned that they had on file the original plan and plant lists of the garden.

Old Plan

This inspired the New London Garden Club to approach the library trustees about the possibility of restoring the garden to its original splendor.

Garden view before restoration

Roger Wells, a landscape architect in North Sutton, New Hampshire, made a restoration plan from the original Olmsted Plan. The New London Garden Club, in partnership with Tracy Memorial Library, raised over $100,000 in private donations.

Back of the library as garden restoration work has begun

A devoted group of volunteers oversaw the complete restoration of plant beds and lawns, and a new stone retaining wall was built to prevent erosion.

Empty pool

Truck putting stones in the pool

Volunteers planting perennials

A bronze fountain was created by Dimitri Gerakaris of North Canaan, New Hampshire and installed in the garden pool.

New bronze fountain

Updated garden

By the year 2001, the population had increased and with the influx of new residents came a number of experienced gardeners.

The New London Garden Club, which had almost ceased to exist in the 1960’s, was now thriving with 150 members.

Today, the garden looks as much as possible like the original Olmsted “picturesque style” with a “greater lushness than nature alone would provide.” (Quote from National Association for Olmsted Parks; Olmsted–His Essential Theory by Charles E. Beverage.)


In 2008, the Community Garden at Tracy Library was designated a tax-exempt nonprofit corporation, and a Board of Directors was set up to oversee the garden. Sue Little, one of the extremely active participants in the restoration, became the Board’s first president. She ably served for ten years. Since then, volunteers from the New London Garden Club and members of the community have maintained the garden, working under the direction of a professional gardener. In September 2016 the name of the garden was changed from Community Garden at Tracy Library to Garden at Tracy Library.

The garden is enjoyed by the public as a place to stroll or relax on one of the many benches. It is also a tranquil haven for art classes, and for children during the library’s summer reading program.

Garden Guides with plant lists are located on the information board near the entrance. The Board of Directors with the help of garden volunteers hosts an Annual Garden Party, open to the public.

Jane Tracy’s vision of a garden to be enjoyed by the community has been realized because of the help of generous donors and hard-working gardeners.

New Arbor installed June 2017

Pair of Restored Original Garden Chairs

Avid gardener and generous mentor Donna Ferries became the second president of the Board of Directors. She brought further development of the garden and greater public awareness of it to the local area.

During this time, donors to the garden have continued to be extremely generous, allowing for the purchase of a new information cabinet, refurbished bistro tables and chairs, and an updated and expanded irrigation system.

Working closely with the Library and Town’s Public Works Department, a large tree was taken down which allowed a great deal more sunlight to reach the quadrant gardens and have helped stabilize some of the original lilac trees.

The garden flowers have gotten more vibrant with more locally grown varieties under the direction of Head Gardener Sally Dean. A great deal of attention has been paid to the rose garden, Ellen’s garden (near the parking lot), the woodland gardens surrounding the back lawn, and the Kelsey garden in the upper area near the children’s section window. Two trees and several large scrubs have been added. All of the composting material needed by the garden is made on-site enhancing the beauty of each plant.

The number of visitors to the garden increased during COVID-19 as people of all ages sought an outdoor retreat. Whether to read, paint, participate in a Zoom class, or just sit and reflect, the serenity of the garden provided a much need space.

The garden’s popularity has continued. The annual Garden Party resumed. It is still used by parents and children learning about plants and insects as well as book readers and mediators. And, other organizations in the community have taken advantage of its beauty. The New London Playhouse’s interns perform, the Center for the Arts displays their member’s works and the Tracy Library’s children’s program uses the lawn.

Since 2022 garden volunteers have participated in New London’s Hospital Days parade. It’s proven to be a fun way to raise awareness of the garden.