Hilda Justice Artifacts Collection

Sketch plan for the Hilda Justice Building, the original campus library.At nearly 93 years young (in 2011), Mary Reiter has a longstanding special relationship with the Temple University Ambler Campus. An alum who attended classes from 1937 to 1939, she clearly recalls when the campus was the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women, the predecessor to the Temple University Ambler campus today. Clear away the Learning Center, Dixon Hall and most of the other buildings and add back the original dormitory and greenhouse and a cheery cacophony of horses, pigs, chickens, and award-winning cows and you get a clearer picture of the Ambler Campus seen through Reiter’s mind’s eye.

“I still remember my first day and the beauty of the gardens — it looked like heaven to me and I knew it was the right place for me even on that first day. I recall meeting the director for the first time and saying that I wasn’t interested in the chickens; I worked at the school for four years after graduating and actually ended up teaching courses in poultry!” Reiter said with a laugh. “I remember meeting my roommate who had the same name as me, but we came from very different backgrounds. I grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania; I wasn’t very familiar with big cities. We were told to bring at least one long dress for special occasions. My mother told my roommate it was the first long dress I ever had — that was a little embarrassing, but mother meant well.”

Reiter also kept a small memento of her time at the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for the decades since departing the school, which she happily shared with fellow alums, current students, and visitors for years to come — a small silver pin that will become part of Temple University Ambler’s “Hilda Justice Artifacts Collection,” a rich overview of the campus’ history displayed through yearbooks, photos, tools, diaries, documents, and other memorabilia donated or loaned to the campus to celebrate Ambler’s 100th year, which will be on display in the Hilda Justice Building.

“It’s a silver pin shaped like a trowel. I didn’t have much money then and I didn’t think I could buy one but the lady in charge of the kitchen bought me one — it was such a nice thing to do and I’ve never forgotten it,” she said. “Horticulture, landscape design, women simply weren’t doing much of that at the time but this school showed women that we could do just as well as men. My time at the school were the most wonderful years of my life as a young person. I’m delighted this history is being celebrated and I’m so happy that these programs are still available.”

Temple University Ambler formally dedicated the Hilda Justice Artifacts collection in November 2011.

“For our 100th anniversary, we wanted to gather together as much memorabilia as we could so that the story of the campus and our alums could be preserved and shared for generations to come. The collection includes award medallions from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society; silver cups and bowls from the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women won at cattle shows and equestrian competitions; yearbooks dating back to 1914, the first year longtime PSHW director Louise Carter Bush-Brown came to the campus as a student; scrapbooks, tools, clothing, and lots of photos all donated by our alums or their families,” said Linda Lowe, Director of Development and Alumni Affairs at Temple University Ambler. “The Hilda Justice Building presented a perfect location for the collection close to our gardens and classrooms. The building is remembered fondly by almost every alum since it was built.”

The overarching theme of the collection is “Rooted in the Past. Growing the Future,” said Jenny Rose Carey, former Director of the Ambler Arboretum of Temple University.

“While it is a celebration of our history, it is history that we can learn from and build from to create a bright future. It is an extremely important part of who we are as a campus. The school throughout the decades has had a significant impact on local and national history — the practical training that our alums received gave them an excellent launching point into the world and allowed them to do wonderful things within their communities,” she said. “We want to be able to show people our history and not just tell them about it. Without the generosity of our alums and people who have supported the project, this is history that might have been lost. As the original campus library, it is fitting that 60 years after it was built, the Hilda Justice Building is once again becoming a repository of history.” 

Established as the Hilda Justice Memorial Library of the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women in 1951, the artifact collection’s new home was built to house a collection of 16th Century herbal volumes that then director Louise Carter Bush-Brown had donated to the school.

“It’s one of the only buildings that has remained relatively unchanged on the campus since it was built. It was used as a meeting room for student organizations and for small group speakers. It was also Mrs. Bush-Brown’s classroom for her public speaking and journalism classes since all of the books were right there,” said Mary Anne Fry, a 1958 graduate and a member of the Temple University Ambler “100-Year Club,” a group of dedicated alums who worked closely with Lowe, Carey, and Sandi Thompson, Head of Suburban Campus Libraries, to develop the commemorative collection and its companion book, A Century of Cultivation 1911 to 2011 — 100 Years from the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women to Temple University Ambler. “In researching the campus history for the book, I discovered so many outstanding graduates, so many amazing ladies who started this campus. The campus is 100 years old and I’ve been connected to it for 55 of those years — the campus is a part of me and now I feel that its graduates are a part of me as well.”

For more information about the Hilda Justice Artifacts Collection or to schedule a tour of the gardens and the collection, contact 267-468-8011 or ericrivera@temple.edu.