The Gamble Garden Archives Committee

What is the Archive Committee and what do its members do? Though rumor has it that the Archives Committee members — Gwen Whittier, Linda Norton, & Marilyn Sutorius — spend their time in the upstairs closet of the Main House sipping bourbon, the reality is far less scandalous (though just as interesting). These ladies have actually been collecting, sorting, cataloguing and preserving a treasure trove of documents concerning the history of Elizabeth Gamble and the founding of the non profit organization.


The Archive Committee began in December of 2007 as an ad-hoc group of 4, recruited by Gwen Whittier. Gwen had a lifelong interest in gardens, and welcomed the opportunity to volunteer at the “new” Gamble Garden, serving on the Garden Committee and as Chief Plant Propagator. During a 10-year hiatus in Washington DC, she worked in the United States Botanic Garden. Back at Gamble, Gwen was responsible for starting the Heritage Plant Project. In her search for plants that had been on the Gamble property in Elizabeth Gamble’s lifetime, Gwen reached out to Elizabeth’s San Francisco nephew, Launce, asking if he had any information on the subject. This resulted in the delivery to Gamble of 12 cartons of unsorted correspondence and other papers which had been in the attic of the Waverley Street house at the time of Elizabeth’s death. To go through the vast amount of material searching for mentions of the garden, Gwen recruited 3 others who she knew were interested in early Gamble history: Marilyn Sutorius, Mary Jane Tapp and Linda Norton. 


Soon after moving to Palo Alto in 1960, Marilyn became interested in the preservation of historic properties. Marilyn was a major player in the Garden Club of Palo Alto’s efforts to preserve the Gamble property for the community. That interest was shared by Mary Jane Tapp, also a Garden Club member who had the pleasure of living in an historic Birge Clark house. Mary Jane moved to Sonoma County a few months ago. Linda Norton, living across the street, couldn’t not have been involved in preserving the Gamble Estate . She was active in the neighborhood “Save Miss Gamble’s Garden” group and did the research which established Gamble as a State of California Point of Historic Interest. Gwen, Marilyn and Linda have all served on the Gamble Board in varying capacities at some time over the years.


Meeting once a week over a period of three years, Gwen, Marilyn, Linda and Mary Jane read the contents of those 12 raggedy cartons and sorted the jumble of correspondence and other papers into 10 banker’s boxes, indexed by family member and date.


Very little information was found about Gamble’s heritage plants, but the project ignited an interest in another goal:  locating, sorting and indexing the materials pertaining to 

* the stewardship of the Gamble estate after Elizabeth’s death in 1981,
* the City of Palo Alto’s deliberations on the outcome of the Gamble estate,
* the development of the proposal to the City of Palo Alto by the Garden Club of Palo Alto to lease the property for a horticultural foundation,
* the City’s acceptance of the proposal,
* and the subsequent lease to the Gamble Garden Foundation in 1985.

This project led to locating and organizing the materials relating to the first 5 years following the first option to lease by Gamble Garden . . .. . . which led to locating, sorting and organizing and indexing 82 blueprints, maps, plans and drawings . . .. . . which led to rounding up, sorting, eliminating duplicates and indexing the hard-copy files which now exist at GG. 


Over ten years later, the Committee isn’t done yet. Still left on the Committee’s agenda is locating, sorting and organizing photos, slides, videos and media clippings. Why do they do it? From the Committee:

It’s tedious work, but we’ve been rewarded by discoveries of new information about the Gamble family history, the early beginnings of the Gamble Garden Foundation, and surprises like Elizabeth Gamble’s original plant invoices. It has been a pleasure to be able to ferret out information and to locate facts and photos, policies and papers for individuals and committees. 

Thank you Archives Committee for all of your hard work! We appreciate all that you have done to preserve Gamble Garden’s history for future generations.