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War Memorial Rose Garden History
The rose is America’s national flower and the world’s favorite flower.
According to the 120 year-old American Rose Society (ARS), the rose as a universal symbol of love, friendship, beauty and peace; a flower of unsurpassed importance in art, history, literature and music. Even the Congress of the United States notes that our first president was also our first rose breeder.
The rose is certainly deserving of such recognition, having been in cultivation for over 5000 years, grown throughout history for medicine, perfumery, and food, as a messenger of romance, and for its sheer beauty. Thousands of varieties exist today, the object of everything from the routine Valentine bouquet to a rose breeder’s all-consuming life’s work.
Roses come in every size from 12 inch miniatures to towering 20 foot shrubs and climbers. They have been bred to every possible shade and combination of reds, pinks, yellows, and whites, with some variety suited to almost any climate in the world.
The War Memorial Rose Garden is one of only two All-American Rose Select designations within the State of Colorado and this makes the garden unique in character for our high desert plains.
This park is dedicated to veterans who have served in any of America’s wars, was purchased by the city of Littleton in 1964, and contains over 1800 roses of all types—hybrid teas, shrub roses, miniatures, old garden roses, species roses and climbers. The sundial, just south of the gazebo, was installed in 1969. The Orian Sterne fountain (named for the daughter of W. C. Sterne, for whom Sterne Park is named), at the center of the garden, was originally built in front of the Carnegie Library at the west end of old town Littleton on Main Street, placed in storage at the Littleton Historical Museum when the Santa Fe/Bowles intersection was reconstructed, and moved to the rose garden in 1988.
1946     A group of Littleton citizens donate money to acquire land for a War Memorial Park to honor the veterans of World War I and World War II.
1964     Money used to acquire Knob Hill, a two-acre plot east of the YMCA (now the School for the Blind) across the street from Sterne Park and the Bemis Residence. B.B. Williamson, a veteran of WWI and WWII, founded the Arapahoe Rose Society.
1968     Williamson discusses building a Memorial Rose Garden with city fathers at War Memorial Park and design plans commence by Claude Dussardier and the Arapahoe Rose Society as part of the “Let’s Keep Littleton Lovely” program.
1969     The City of Littleton purchases a sundial at a cost of $4,000 to be placed at War Memorial Park under the conditions that the War Memorial Park Committee donates the land to the City of Littleton and the city builds a suitable monument to honor veterans of all wars.
1969      In March a low bid of $1,612 by Warner Company of Denver was accepted for an irrigation system to be installed at War Memorial Park. In April, 850 roses were purchased for $1,100 through Star Roses of Pennsylvania and were planted at War Memorial Park by area garden clubs under the direction of the Arapahoe Rose Society.
1970      Denver hosts The American Rose Society Convention with War Memorial Park as the highlight of the event.
1980      The War Memorial Rose Garden is designated an All-American Rose Selections Public Display Garden by the American Rose Society under the Arapahoe Rose Society’s President-elect Linda Campbell.
1988      The Orian Sterne Fountain is moved from storage at the Littleton Historical Museum to War Memorial Rose Garden where it is reconstructed. This monument was originally built in front of the Carnegie Library at the west end of Main Street in downtown Littleton (now the Melting Pot restaurant) and was moved to storage during highway construction of South Santa Fe Drive and West Bowles Avenue.
1995      Dr. William Campbell and South Suburban Parks and Recreation, in addition to numerous individuals and organizations contribute funds to design and construct a Victorian style gazebo in honor of his wife Linda Campbell, past president of the Arapahoe Rose Society and Denver Rose Society.
1996      South Suburban Parks and Recreation’s Forestry and Horticulture division transplant the Old Garden Roses (donated by George Kelley to the Littleton Historical Museum in 1987) to the War Memorial Rose Garden.
1997      The Arbor is designed and installed by South Suburban Parks and Recreation at the War Memorial Rose Garden.
2002      South Suburban Parks and Recreation contract with TDB Concrete Inc. to renovate the sundial. The concrete was deteriorating and a new cap was installed for $4,106.
2010      South Suburban Parks and Recreation was awarded a $10K grant from the Colorado Home and Garden Association for infrastructure improvements to the Garden that included a new gate access and electrical lighting for the gazebo with the addition of a new plaza installation for special events.
This information is provided as a valuable historical element to the community, and tribute to the citizens of Littleton, Colorado. It is through their efforts, in conjunction with founder Mr. B.B. Williamson, The City Fathers, Arapahoe Rose Society, and South Suburban Parks and Recreation that this memorial garden flourishes today.