The storybook garden helps to highlight the history of the local woman, the farm
A new storybook garden in Oakland Township focuses on seven children’s characters and stories, which make up the seven sections of the garden. These include Winnie the Pooh, Peter Rabbit and Ferdinand the Bull, as well as “The Secret Garden”, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, “The Wind in the Willows”, and “Charlotte’s Web”.
OAKLAND TOWNSHIP – A new storybook garden at Cranberry Lake Farm in Oakland Township aims to connect the present with the past.
The township recently developed the garden in honor of Helen Southgate Williams, who lived at Cranberry Lake Farm in Oakland Township from 1948 to 1949.
Oakland Township Historic Preservation Planner Barbara Barber pitched the idea while looking for a way to showcase the history of Cranberry Lake Farm and the people who lived there.
“We wanted to do something that would honor some of the people who lived here, so we could get more people involved to come out and be a part of our story,” Barber explained.
The garden theme focuses on seven of Williams’ children’s favorite characters and stories, which make up the seven sections of the garden. These include Winnie the Pooh, Peter Rabbit and Ferdinand the Bull, as well as “The Secret Garden”, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, “The Wind in the Willows”, and “Charlotte’s Web”.
The garden also includes a small free library — which organizers want to make sure contains all of Williams’ favorite children’s books — and has plenty of spaces for people to sit and enjoy the books.
“The little free library was specifically designed for books to borrow, because we selected those books specifically because they were Helen’s recommended books. There are some wonderful books in there,” Barber explained.
The garden was made possible through donations from community members, as well as the Oakland Township Historical Society, the Historic District Commission, and the Department of Parks and Recreation. St. Paul’s United Methodist Church Youth Group, which worked on the garden, also contributed to the project in Williams’ honor.
Known to some as the “Pied Piper of Reading” and “The Story Lady”, Williams has dedicated her life to bringing good books and literature to children throughout the metropolitan area.
Williams – who taught children’s literature at Wayne State University and the University of Chicago – operated a bookstore called The Old Red House from the living room of her home on West Second Street in Rochester for 15 years.
In 1964, she moved her book business to Main Street in downtown Rochester, after her house and property on Second Street had been sold for an apartment development.
From 1964 to 1974, Williams owned and operated her bookstore, called The Book Stall, where, officials say, her love of books and her skills as a storyteller challenged the imagination and expanded the world for many children and adults.
Although Williams closed The Book Stall in 1974, she continued to operate an educational consulting business from her home until she was over 80 and was a popular speaker for schools, churches and communities. private organizations.
For eight years she published “The Incessant Trumpet”, which contained her essays and thoughts on children’s literature, and she was appointed to the International Council for Children’s Books, an agency of the United Nations.
Williams died on May 10, 2002, at the age of 97.
The Cranberry Lake Farm Historic District is located at 388 W. Predmore Road in Oakland Township. For more information about the farm’s storybook garden, visit www.oaklandtownship.org or call (248) 651-4440.