Throwback Thursday – Celebrating the legacy of Ruth Rabold and her green thumb

March is Women’s History Month, so of course Throwback Thursday is dedicating a couple segments to incredible southcentral Kentucky women. Our first celebration is one for the late Ruth Rabold, a Bowling Green master gardener and landscape architect whose works include some of Bowling Green’s most famous landmarks.

She was born in January 1901 and grew up in Trenton, Tennessee—moving to Bowling Green in 1920, marrying Earl David rabold. Ruth’s knowledge of fine gardens and landscaping set her ahead of what was widely-considered a male-dominated field, as most all things were in that period of American history.

Her deep love for greens inspired her to help charter the Garden Club of Kentucky in 1931, championing the Bowling Green Garden Club by 1935. She sought input from the area’s most famous architect of the time, James Maurice Ingram, when creating the gardens of her home. The Rabold home still boasts the magnificence of these multi-terraced gardens and patios, showing their beauty annually at garden club and nonprofit events.

Bowling Green’s Fountain Square Park received a garden makeover in 1934, when Ruth and R.S. Sturtevant reimagined the space with a new formal garden plan, highlighting seasonal floral displays. Ruth’s role in shaping the square’s gardens can still be seen on the park’s Main Street entrance sign. 

Ruth’s love for gardening spread around the world, as she traveled Europe during the 1930s, keeping notes in her diary about such grand garden studies—her favorite being the palace garden as Versailles in France. Using her gardening knowledge, she became a key member of the National Council of Garden Clubs and a leader in Bowling Green beautification.

Ruth helped found the Bowling Green Beautification Commission, which later became Parks and Recreation. Her green thumb was also in landscape work at the Hobson House. Her protégé Mitchell Leichardt used techniques comparable to Fountain Square Park, with similar planting, wrought and cast iron at the Baker Arboretum. 

Ruth Rabold certainly left Bowling Green a more beautiful place than when she arrived. Thanks to the Rabold family and Landmark Association for these stories.