Tribute Gardens | Millbrook, NY

Posted by on June 28, 2004
There’s an eighty-five year old story that should be told. Trouble is, the protagonists don’t really want any publicity. It is the history of the Millbrook Tribute Garden, a philanthropic foundation that has quietly beautified Eastern Dutchess County since its inception in 1919.That was the year that Oakleigh Thorne and his wife, Helen S. Thorne, created the Tribute Garden as a living memorial to the veterans from the Town of Washington who served in the armed forces in World War I. They donated six acres of land to create a living memorial to veterans.

It was the Thornes’ idea to plant a tree in honor of each veteran, which they did.

I walked through the Court of Honor, this grove of maple trees, which stand in several rows, that outline the childrens’ playground at the top level of the Tribute Garden. I was fascinated to learn that there is also a plaque at one end of the garden, with numbers to note which tree honors which veteran. Read the list of names, you’ll find many familiar ones. I took this walk on an early fall day with George T. Whalen, Jr., who proudly pointed out various landmarks in the garden. Mr. Whalen has reason to be proud of this incredibly valuable asset in Millbrook. It had been years since I had been in that part of the garden. I urge all of you, especially those with children and grandchildren, to visit the space. There is a wonderful play area with climbing apparatus, a fire truck and a large pirate ship, all waiting for the climbers in our families.

Not only is this a wonderful place for children, and a great honor for veterans, but it is wonderfully cared for. One gets the distinct impression that nothing is too good for the children of this town. As to the veterans, over the many years since 1919, several trees have died, but they have been carefully replaced by the Tribute Garden. Up top there is also a cannon from the Argonne Offensive in September, 1918. The view up Franklin Avenue from this vantage point is truly spectacular.

Later, a memorial was set up for World War II Veterans, and for Korean And Vietnam War Veterans. These are down below near the entrance road to the village, where at the Memorial Day Parade, honor is done to all our veterans.

The garden from top to bottom is a quiet place of meditation. In fact the lovely footpaths are very conducive to walking meditation. It is beautifully landscaped with specimen trees, subtle groups of plantings, pools, and even includes a bridge feature. The garden was landscaped by the Millbrook Garden Club, supplied with gifts from the Tribute Garden, Inc., in about 1920. Mrs. Thorne was one of the founders of the Garden Clubs of America, and a lover of nature and natural beauty.

(Tell the story of the garden, and the foundation and how foundation was set up as an endowment to fund the needs of the garden and then for charitable gifts to other worthy endeavors.)

While the focus of the Tribute Garden was originally the garden itself, other improvements to the town soon began to take place. When I counted up the inventory, ( the litany)of what the Tribute Garden has done to make Millbrook the beautiful community it is, I am staggered. I had no idea that the Village Green , the parking lot across from Marona’s and even the gas station is on Millbrook Tribute Garden land. Oh, and the Fire House, and the Tennis courts, and the parking lot between Marona’s and the Allen Funeral Home. The farmers’ market is held in a parking lot owned by the Tribute Garden.

In case you think the lower village has all the beauty, take a look at the other entrance to the Village, one of my personal favorites of the donations of the Tribute Garden Inc. It is the garden at the top of Franklin Avenue, beautified in the eighties.

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