National Horticultural Congress

The planning for the first National Horticultural Congress began in March of 1908. The event was going to be held in mid December, the same time as the National Corn Exposition in Omaha

As the planning progressed residents were encouraged by Mayor Maloney to clean up their front yards, while he would see to it that the streets and alley ways were clean. Space was needed to house the displays and events, so construction began on the Council Bluffs City Auditorium in early November. Construction was finished just in time for opening day of the congress.

The National Horticultural Congress ran from December 14th to the 19th. Most of the days had themes: Omaha Day, Nebraska Day and Children's Day. Apples were the most abundant item on display with many varieties from all parts of the United States. The exhibits also featured oranges, peaches, grapes, flowers and vegetables from local gardeners. There was also a cooking demonstration showing the various ways to cook apples. Music was provided daily by Covalt's Concert Band.

Photograph of National Horticultural Congress

Attention was paid to the decorations both inside and out of the Auditorium.

"Thousands of incandescent globes of various colors are strung about the building and along the thoroughfares leading to it from Broadway. To the uninitiated, the excessive numbers of colored lights would attract the eye as soon as on Broadway. Here are only a string or two of lights, but leading off Broadway to the Indian creek bridge and the triumphant arch, thence the auditorium, is a scintillating mass of shimmering electric effulgence. The streets are made almost as light as day from the glow given off by the miniature lamps."

"The center of attraction [inside] is a floral design placed on the east wall of the building in plain sight as one enters the front part of the auditorium. This is suspended above the immense platform at the far end of the room. The piece has an intrinsic value of about $200 ($7200 today). It is composed of more than twenty varieties of flowers and contains thousands and thousands of pieces, and is twelve feet square. The center piece is a horn of plenty, out of which pours a veritable deluge of fruit - apples, grapes, oranges."

Photograph of National Horticultural Congress

It's estimated that over 25,000 people from across the United States and several foreign countries viewed the exhibits. Not only was the Horticultural Congress great entertainment, it also proved to be a great opportunity to network and exchange ideas.

Although the first National Horticultural Congress was considered a success, the last national event was held in 1911. Regional exhibitions were held in later years.

Click HERE for more information on Council Bluffs History.

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Mary Carpenter
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