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Timeline: The History of Callaway Gardens


1894 (November 6): Cason Jewell Callaway of LaGrange, Ga., was born.



1900 (February 21): Virginia Hand of Pelham, Ga., was born.



1920 (April 3): Cason Jewell Callaway of LaGrange, GA, marries Virginia Hand in her hometown of Pelham, GA.

1928: The Callaways picnic with friends for the first time at Blue Springs in Hamilton, GA.



1930 (Aug. 12): Cason Callaway discovers an extremely rare flower, the Plumleaf Azalea, growing in the wooded area around Blue Springs. Later that year, he purchases 2,500 acres of land in Harris County. The Callaways eventually own 40,000 acres in the area.

1935: Cason resigns as president of Callaway Mills but remains chairman of the board. He moves his family to Blue Springs.

1936 (Jan. 27): Ida Cason Callaway Foundation is chartered in LaGrange, GA.

1937: Cason resigns as chairman of the board for Callaway Mills.



1944: Cason implements The One Hundred Georgia Better Farms Program, which continues until 1950./p>

1949: After Blue Springs Farm suffers from a flood, Cason and Virginia turn their attention to creating the Gardens. In the Fall, construction begins on Mountain Creek Lake and Boathouse, Lake View Golf Course and clubhouse (which now serves as the Gardens Restaurant), Overlook Pavilion, the Gardens Office (now the Information Center) and the boathouse on Whippoorwill Lake. All were completed in 1951.



1950: The Callaways deed the land, now the Gardens, to the Ida Cason Callaway Foundation.

1951: The Horticulture Department is created, and the first plant nursery constructed.

1952: Gardens opens to the public as Ida Cason Gardens on May 21st. The Country Store opens to the public.

1953 (June 10): Howard H. “Bo” Callaway is appointed Executive Director. Fred Galle becomes director of horticulture. (June 23): Robin Lake Beach opens to the public.

1955: The Gardens name changes to Ida Cason Callaway Gardens.

1956: First 50 rooms of Gardens Motel (which would eventually become Mountain Creek Inn) open, making it the largest motel on U.S. Hwy. 27 between Hamilton, GA and Chattanooga, Tenn. The Pavilion at Robin Lake Beach is constructed. The one millionth visitor passes through the Garden gates on June 21. On Sept. 8, Cason Callaway is featured in a story in The Saturday Evening Post titled “His Own Garden of Eden.” The article, written by Harold H. Martin, included a picture of the first nine holes of Lake View Golf Course taken by Bill Shrout.

1958: Gardens Services, Inc. incorporates to operate motel, food concessions, golf operations, and Robin Lake Beach. 1830s Pioneer Log Cabin is moved to the Gardens.

1959: Laurel Springs Trail opens. Preserve Plant opens. Construction begins on Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Garden. Ski Pavilion is built at Robin Lake for Masters Water Ski Tournament, which begins the same year.



1960: Pioneer Log Cabin opens. Summer Family Adventure begins.

1961: The Gardens name is changed to Callaway Gardens. FSU Flying High Circus begins. First A-frame cottages are built, motel receives addition of 120 rooms, and Lake View Golf Course adds second nine holes.

1961 (April 12): Cason J. Callaway dies. On the same date in 1962, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale dedicates Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel, named in memory of Cason’s mother.

1962: Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Garden opens.>

1964: Fifty more cottages are built, and the motel adds 73 rooms. Country Store is expanded.

1965: Mountain View Golf Course opens. The five millionth visitor enters the Garden gates on April 22.

1967: Cottage complex adds 26 more units. Motel adds 120 rooms, the convention center, and another pool.

1968: Education Department is established. Nine-hole Sky View Golf Course opens. Callaway Gardens Country Store undergoes expansion. Kiddie Land Recreation facility is built at Robin Lake. New greenhouse, outdoor display area and parking area constructed. Gardens View Golf Course opens, and golf clubhouse is expanded.



1971: Callaway’s School of Needle Arts is established. Greenhouse complex receives new conservatory.

1972: Virginia Callaway establishes Cason J. Callaway Memorial Forest, which the U.S. Dept. of the Interior designates as a Natural Landmark. Meadowlark Garden opens with the cupola from the Hand family home as a feature. This area is where the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center stands today with the cupola atop the facility.



1981: Construction of Villas begins.

1984: Original A-frame cottages are sold and new cottages constructed. John A. Sibley Horticultural Center is dedicated. WGBH’s The Victory Garden program begins filming a Southern segment from Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Garden to better serve the interests of their Southern viewers.

1985: Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens begins.

1986: Southern Gardening Symposium begins.

1988 (September 25): Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center dedicated. Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel and surroundings undergo renovation.

1989: 7.5-mile Discovery Bicycle Trail opens. Permanent Beach Dome erected at Robin Lake Beach.



1990: Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel rededicated. Home Demonstration Garden within Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Garden honored by then First Lady Barbara Bush and the American Nurseryman Association with a National Landscape Award.

1991: Mountain View Golf Course becomes host of PGA Tour’s Buick Southern Open (held in Columbus since 1968).

1992: Fantasy In Lights® begins.

1995 (Feb. 11): Virginia Hand Callaway dies.

1999: Groundbreaking for Virginia Hand Callaway Discovery Center. Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl dedicated and Discovery Bicycle Trail expansion to 10 miles officially opens. Labor Day Weekend featuring Air Balloons begins.



2000: Virginia Hand Callaway Discovery Center, Mountain Creek Café, Discovery Gift Shop, and Birds of Prey program at Discovery Amphitheater open on what would have been Virginia Callaway’s 100th birthday. Wildflower Trail is renamed Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail, and Callaway becomes affiliate of Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Enchanted Rainbow Forest added to Fantasy In Lights. Eight new units added to Mountain Creek Villa complex.

2001: Lake View and Mountain View Golf Courses are renovated. Entities of Ida Cason Callaway Foundation change from Callaway Gardens to The Gardens at Callaway, The Preserve at Callaway, and the Resort at Callaway.

2002: Southern Pine Conference Center opens in September, featuring 22,000 square feet of meeting space, 150-seat restaurant (the Piedmont Dining Room), and new check-in desk at The Cottages.

2006: The 150-room Lodge at Callaway Gardens opens.

2007 (March 31): Spa Prunifolia opens. Callaway Gardens begins using wind power to offset use of electricity.



2011: The Lodge and Spa becomes one complete unit, which in turn becomes managed as part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. TreeTop Adventure opens. Aqua Island, Light Striker Laser Tag, and Blaster Boats opens. Refreshment of Mountain Creek Inn rooms completed.

2013: TreeTop Adventure expands, offering the Discovery Course and the Lake Course, which includes zip lines over water.

2014 (March 14): Howard H. “Bo” Callaway dies.

2014: TreeTop Adventure adds the children’s Sapling course.

2015: William R. “Bill” Doyle, III is named President and CEO of Callaway Gardens.

2016: The exterior gardens of the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center are renovated, including a walking corridor between the Hydrangea Trail and the Butterfly Center. Callaway Gardens purchases The Lodge and Spa. Seating at the Discovery Amphitheatre is expanded. The Discovery Bicycle Trail is completely renovated and repaved. In celebration of the 25th year of Fantasy In Lights, the new scene “Snow Day” is added.

2017: The Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens is completely renovated to create a more upscale experience for guests. It is now possible to view Robin Lake from the Lodge. Callaway Gardens changes its consumer-facing brand to Callaway Resort & Gardens. Cason’s Tap Room opens at the Lodge & Spa.

2018: The Original Main Gardens Entrance is reopened on US HWY 27. Information Center opened. Cottage decks are renovated.

2019: Cottage renovation with upgrades to flooring and living room and kitchen furniture. Fall, Herschend Family Entertainment took over the management of the Gardens and Sonny Horton named Vice President/General Manager of property. Overlook Garden restoration begins.

2020: MegaBugs outdoor exhibit featuring larger than life bugs was introduced at the Callaway Discovery Center. New scene introduced, Magical Field of Lights featuring the tallest Christmas Tree in the South. Beach Dome receives new outer shell. TreeTop Adventure overhaul and switch to current system (auto belay). Kayaks & Paddleboards introduced at Robin Lake Beach.

2021: Various Villas were refreshed. Aqua Island return & expansion. Pedal Boats returned with swan and rubber ducky boats. New event was introduced in the Fall, Pumpkins at Callaway, which featured a giant pumpkin tree and lighted walkthrough path. Fantasy In Lights gained a new scene, Magical Tunnel of Lights, and a walkthrough portion was added at Robin Lake Beach.

2022: Parking lots at Robin Lake Beach and Day Butterfly Center were repaved. Callaway has full ownership of the Spa and renovated the Eucalyptus Steam Rooms. Luxury Cabana’s added to Robin Lake Beach with seating, tv’s, fridge & privacy screens. Cason’s Vegetable Garden reactivated during Pumpkins at Callaway with the Cason’s Corn Maze attraction. Cottage upgrades to appliances, mattresses and window treatments. Herschend Family Entertainment purchased Callaway Resort & Gardens. For FIL 30th anniversary introduced Celebration Lake with 30 floating Christmas trees.

2023: Lodge & Spa refresh in rooms to include new flooring and furniture. Piedmont Dining Room buffet equipment refreshed. Parking lot was reconstructed at the Lodge & Spa. Water Tubing returns at Robin Lake Beach. Herschend Family Entertainment names Chris Lutz as Vice President/ General Manager of property. The Spa built and launched the Himalayan Salt Room with four person capacity and updated the Women’s Relaxation Lounge. Chapel drive was repaved. New restrooms added to Cason’s Garden. NEW Foggy Hollow for the Enchanted Forest Walkthrough and Garden of Giants at Cason’s Garden introduced for Pumpkins at Callaway. New Tree of Traditions at Robin Lake Beach for Fantasy In Lights.

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