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VA Pride: Lewis Ginter

A travel article on Richmond in Philadelphia Gay News has neat RVA history just in time for VA Pride:

Historically, Richmond had been a great manufacturing and tobacco town, and it might have been a much different city had it not been for Lewis Ginter. A savvy businessman, abundantly generous, Ginter was a highly decorated war veteran who was the first major American marketer of hand-rolled cigarettes. Ginter and his long-time business and domestic partner John Pope were very well liked, yet the two remained fairly reclusive, preferring not to be in the public eye frequently.

Upon their deaths, the 85-acre Ginter Farm and all attached wealth were bequeathed to Ginter’s niece, Grace Arent. Arent, who also had a same-sex companion, Mary Garland Smith, passed away in 1926, and her will stated that upon the death of Smith, the farm would go to the city for a botanical garden.

The Ginter legacy exists today in the form of the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden (lewisginter.org) on that site. It’s a beautiful space where one can learn about plants or just relax in a beautiful setting of trees, shrubs and flowers from around the world. The garden’s butterfly conservatory is one of the country’s largest and is home to thousands of butterflies and hundreds of varieties. Walk through and watch them feed and dance in the air, and become a landing perch for them during your stroll. No worries, everyone is thoroughly examined for stowaways at the exit.

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