Kennett blooms

After a long winter, a new Placemaking Project by Historic Kennett Square brings Kennett back to its roots

KENNETT SQUARE—While Kennett Square is famous for being the mushroom capital of the world, the area was first known for its flowers. Nineteenth-century Quakers who were growing carnations, roses, and chrysanthemums in local greenhouses began growing mushrooms to put the dark, warm, and unused space under greenhouse benches to good use.

William Swayne built the first greenhouse in Kennett Square, on Marshall Street, in 1881. Soon, more of these “glass houses” began popping up all over the Borough and Township. At the turn of the twentieth century, Southern Chester County was known as the “Carnation Belt.”

By 1928, greenhouses covered over 300,000 square feet of land in the Borough, and by the Borough centennial in 1955, coverage exceeded one million square feet. All of these flowers were being grown just a field or two away from an arboretum called Peirce’s Park, which Pierre S. du Pont purchased in 1906 and which would become a centerpiece of Longwood Gardens, one of the world’s premier botanical gardens.

It’s particularly appropriate, then, that as Kennett Square prepares to welcome this long-anticipated spring season, Historic Kennett Square is launching a new project called ‘Kennett Blooms.’ “

"We had such great feedback in response to Christmas in Kennett—from shop and restaurant owners as well as from residents and visitors—that we wanted to do something similar to further elevate the town and show everyone that Kennett Square is an even more beautiful, safe, and welcoming place to shop, dine, live, work, and play this spring,” says HKS Executive Director Bo Wright.

Historic Kennett Square’s Christmas in Kennett décor, with anchor sponsorship from Longwood Gardens, included expanded tree lighting, festive signage, professionally designed planters, a selfie station, and a giant snow globe designed by Casa Guanajuato artists.

Kennett Blooms will focus on three main elements, Wright says: the installation of several placemaking projects, including the parklet; coordinating outdoor dining and street closures; and adding plantings throughout town to complement and augment the hanging baskets and the planters designed by Bill Reynolds of Pratt’s Greenhouse in Avondale, in partnership with the Kennett Beautification Committee.

Bringing back the popular West State Street parklet will be a key part of the Kennett Blooms initiative, and HKS also hopes to build another parklet outside Square Pear Gallery. In addition, there will be new wayfinding signage for visitors—“and a few surprises,” says Wright. “We have such a rich horticultural heritage here in this area, and Kennett Blooms gives us an opportunity to celebrate that and again, as we did with Christmas in Kennett, to help make the connection for visitors between Longwood Gardens and the town. Kennett Blooms is also about celebrating Kennett’s strong sense of place as the community rediscovers the joy and beauty of outside spaces after a long winter.”

HKS is looking forward to working with local craftsmen, artists, and horticultural designers to bring Kennett Square even more alive with color and texture this year.

Local business owners are excited about Kennett Blooms, too.

“We really appreciate all of the efforts of HKS and other local organizations that have been so supportive of the retail community in Kennett Square,” say Sandra Morris and Brett Hulbert, owners of Portabellos. “Just like the tree lights and Christmas in Kennett, with spring approaching Kennett Blooms will make it more enjoyable for people to walk around and shop and dine. Elements like the parklets also create a sense of community because people can gather safely to socialize.”

“This season more than ever, it will be important to provide safe options for families and friends wanting to gather outside safely,” Wright says. “We have lots of ideas for activating some of our public spaces in fun and playful ways as part of Kennett Blooms, and the more support we have from individuals and local businesses, the more we can do.”

The past year has highlighted how important it is to have public spaces that are walkable, safe, and attractive. Kennett Square residents and visitors alike embraced initiatives like the street closures and the parklet in 2020 because they offered pleasant, welcoming, and safe spaces to gather.

“Colorful and well-designed plantings, in addition to simple placemaking solutions like the parklet, are some of the most efficient and cost-effective ways of improving the beauty and perception of public spaces,” says Wright. “When you’ve been in a place that’s beautiful and pedestrian-friendly, you feel good about the experience and want to return—and that’s how we want people to feel about Kennett Square.”

Wright says HKS is now accepting donations towards Kennett Blooms and will be rolling out elements of the project over the next several months as the weather continues to improve.

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