March 16, 2023
All Hallows Guild was founded in 1916 to provide for the care and beautification of the grounds of the National Cathedral. While All Hallows Guild is not exclusively a women’s organization, throughout our history, our membership (and leadership) has been comprised primarily of women – including early member Florence Brown Bratenahl (1884 – 1940). Mrs. Bratenahl worked with landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., to create the landscape design for the Cathedral Close.
Bratenahl and Olmsted envisioned the expanse of greenery at the Cathedral’s foot (the Bishop’s Garden) to recall a medieval cloister garden, with carefully chosen plants and sculpture dispersed among separate “garden rooms.” Mrs. Bratenahl was able to acquire enormous trees and other unusual material from remote Piedmont estates (and other areas) for use throughout the Close. Some notable transplants were already hundreds of years old when moved to the Cathedral grounds – each deemed to possess sufficient character for placement near the Cathedral.
To learn more about some of the original plantings in the Bishop’s Garden CLICK HERE to see All Hallows Guild’s 1927 publication “In the Spirit of Old World Gardens“, written by Florence Bratenahl.
Florence Bratenahl was married to the Cathedral’s second Dean, George C. F. Bratenahl. She served as the Chair of All Hallows Guild’s Garden Committee, as well as Guild Treasurer. She worked tirelessly to raise funds for the construction of the gardens. She was awarded the Emily D. Renwick Achievement Medal by the Garden Club of America in 1929 for her design of the Cathedral College of Preachers Cloister Garth. The Garth, now part of the Washington National Cathedral Virginia Mae Center, has been renovated under the supervision of Sandra Flowers – who has served as the Cathedral Director of Horticulture since 2015.
Women make up all of the current membership of the All Hallows Guild Governing Board. Board members are unpaid volunteers who donate countless hours of time to forward our mission to “maintain the gardens and grounds as a haven of peace in the midst of the Capital City.” All Hallows Guild Garden Committee members work with the Cathedral’s horticulture staff to identify areas of the gardens and grounds that are in need of improvement or restoration. In recent years, fundraising activities, membership dues, and memorial gifts have enabled the Guild to invest more than 6 million dollars to improve and maintain the Cathedral gardens and grounds.
Take our Virtual Tour of the Bishop’s Garden to see the work of talented women – those who currently care for the gardens and grounds and those who (literally) laid the groundwork for the garden spaces that continue to welcome and delight visitors.