Lilac Time in the Lilac City

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Starting officially in 1946, Lincoln was known as the Lilac City. During the 1940s and 1950s, by proclamation of the Mayor, the city would enjoy two weeks each year of displaying and celebrating lilacs. The Women’s Division of the Chamber of Commerce spearheaded the initiative and their slogan was, “A Lilac in Every Yard.” Concerted plantings were encouraged at residences and were undertaken around all public schools and other public buildings, and in parks.

It appears that both Pace Woods, Sr. and his son, Pace, Jr., may have been unwitting trendsetters with regard to Lincoln and lilacs, and both had a strong affection for the flowering plants. When asked to share recollections of the two men as colleagues and as friends, associates independently brought up the flowers.

Vera Salmon, a veteran Woods Bros employee, worked closely with the men. “They both came to the office every day. They carried themselves differently, with the demeanor of old-world, courtly gentlemen. Very sharp and well dressed.” She continued, “Pace Sr. would bring in gorgeous antique vases of flowers to the Country Club office. I remember lilacs especially in spring.” There was a smile in her voice as she summoned this final memory, “Pace was aware of how beautiful his flower arrangements were. He would smile and say, ‘You may keep the flowers, but I would like to have the vase back.’”

Gib and Mary Eley were co-workers and close friends with the Woods father and son. In remembering their times at the office they recalled that, “Pace Sr. would bring in beautiful Cloisonné vases of lilacs and all kinds of flowers.”

Before its days as the Lilac City, the Woods family actively cultivated a love of the flower in Lincoln. The family grew lilacs at a nursery south of Sheridan Boulevard. Woods Bros developments of the early- and mid-twentieth century increasingly incorporated landscaping elements into their overall designs, and lilacs were regularly included.

Noted Lincoln landscape architect, Ernst Herminghaus, a designer for Woods Bros in the 1920s-1940s, often used lilacs as major landscape design elements. They were featured prominently in his plans for Pioneers Park and were included in a number of the sterling developments near the Country Club of Lincoln, including Woodsshire.

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