Friendship Botanic Gardens

2055 East U.S. Highway 12
Michigan City, IN 46361


Still in the throes of the Great Depression, the Chicago World's Fair (A Century of Progress International Exposition, 1933-34) was future oriented with science as its theme. It was a mixture of carnival, science exhibits, famous personages, and beautiful gardens strewn along the Lake Michigan coastline between 12th St. and 39th St.

Tucked in this array of attractions was a small garden originally dubbed 'An Old Mill Garden.' It was developed by the three Stauffer brothers, Virgil, Joe, and Clarence from Wakarusa, Indiana, who had a nursery in Hammond, Indiana. The garden concept was changed to become the International Friendship Gardens.

Among the visitors to the Fair were Dr. and Mrs. Frank Warren developers of Potawattomie Park and Warren Clinic in Michigan City, Indiana (about an hour's drive east of Chicago). They were so impressed with the garden and theme, "Peace and Friendship To All Nations", that they made an offer of a site near their home if the brothers would consent to create an International Friendship Garden at that site.

The brothers were a gifted trio who grew up on a farm. Virgil was an opera singer; Joe, an engineer, and Clarence was a banker, developer, and inventor. They accepted the offer to come to Michigan City.

In 1936, International Friendship Gardens opened to the public. Consisting of fourteen ethnic gardens, the Symphony Theater and the unique Theater of Nations.

The Theater built on an island with natural seating for an audience on an adjacent hillside and was the scene of ballet, drama, and concerts which brought thousands each week to enjoy " music under the stars. "

Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands donated 200,000 tulips. The King of England sent plants and a Royal Gardener to make an English Garden. The King of Persia sent roses for the first Rose Garden. Other governments responded with seeds, plants, and statuary. A Peace Bell ended its travel to each State following WW II, and other bells donated locally can be seen or heard on the grounds.

The mission of the International Friendship Gardens struck a responsive chord in the world as well as in local leaders; kings and presidents have visited the Gardens.

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