Walter E. Bartlett

The Happiest Man

November 13, 1870  
Today is the birthday of the physician, naturalist, and civic leader of the south-central Kansas town of Belle Plaine - Dr. Walter E. Bartlett.

In 1910, Walter started the Bartlett Arboretum by purchasing 15 acres of land on the edge of a town called Belle Plaine - about 20 miles south of Wichita. The property had good soil, and it also had a little creek. One of Walter's initial moves was to dam up a creek and create a lake for waterfowl. In the flat expanse of Kansas, Walter was tree obsessed. He planted them everywhere - lining walkways, drives, and riverbanks.
Walter was civic-minded, and he enhanced the arboretum with a running track, a trap shooting area, and a baseball diamond complete with a grandstand.

After Walter died, the park was managed by his Landscape Architect son Glenn. Glenn had studied the gardens at Versailles - noting that they were transformed out of sand dunes and marshes. Back home, the Bartlett Arboretum had similar challenges.

Glenn married Margaret Myers, an artist, a magazine fashion designer, a floral designer, a Garden Club organizer, and an instructor. Combining their fantastic skillsets, Glenn and Margaret turned the Arboretum into something quite beautiful.
Together, they Incorporated tree specimens from all over the world. Using dredged dirt from the lake, they created man-made islands. At one point, the Bartlett Arboretum was the only Arboretum between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains. Known for its beautiful spring tradition called Tulip Time, the Arboretum featured a tulip bed with over 40,000 bulbs.

In 1997, the Arboretum was sold to Robin Macy. Macy was one of the founding members of the Dixie Chicks, and she is the current steward of the Bartlett Arboretum. Naturally, Robin incorporated music into the Arb.

The Facebook Group for the Arboretum recently shared a register page from April 7th, 1929, and across the top of the register, Walter Bartlett quoted Wordsworth,

“He is the happiest who has the power to gather wisdom from a flower.” 

If you get the chance to visit, you’ll likely agree that the folks who tend the flowers and trees at the Bartlett Arboretum make people happy all year long.

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Walter E. Bartlett
Walter E. Bartlett

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