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Verna Cook Garvan Papers

Identifier: MC 1914

  • Staff Only

Scope and Content Note

The Verna Cook Garvan papers comprise family records that include materials pertaining to Garvan’s parents, Arthur Bacillius and Essie Bordis Cook; her sister, Dorothy Cook Baker; Alonzo Bernard Alexander and Francis Patrick Garvan, her first and second husband, respectively; personal correspondence; legal and financial materials; newspaper clippings; and handwritten notes. Contained also are the business records of A.B. Cook, Wisconsin and Arkansas Lumber, and Malvern Brick and Tile Companies. These include Articles of Incorporation and by-laws; correspondence; financial and insurance policy documents; corporation record and minute books; agreements; and other legal records. The Twentieth Century Gardens materials consist of by-laws; correspondence; annual reports; minutes; notebooks; diaries and handwritten notes. The papers also contain Garvan’s research files which comprise recipe and subject files as well as assorted garden nursery catalogues; publications, garden magazines; photographs; and slides. In addition, the papers include the Brown House materials. The Brown House is located in the Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The bulk of these materials include photographs and slides. There are also garden magazines and other publications; and Verna Garvan’s multiple subject files, notes and chart books. This collection also contains architectural drawings and maps.


  • 1913- 2008
  • Majority of material found within 1950- 1993


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Access Information

Please call (479) 575-8444 or email at least two weeks in advance of your arrival to ensure availability of the materials.

Use Information

No Use Restrictions Apply.

No Interlibrary Loan.

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S.Title 17).

Biographical Note

Verna Cook Garvan was a business woman, art collector, self-taught horticulturist, philanthropist, and founder of the Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas, a renowned botanical garden and one of Arkansas’s most popular tourist attractions.

Verna Cook Garvan, daughter of Essie Louise Bordis Cook and Arthur Bacillius Cook, was born on January 10, 1910 in Groveton, Texas. In 1916, Arthur B. Cook, a prominent entrepreneur in the lumber industry moved his family to Malvern, Arkansas, to become a general manager of the Wisconsin and Arkansas Lumber Company, which was one of the largest lumber companies in the South. Less than 10 years later, in 1925, Cook founded Malvern Brick and Tile Company which became one of the most prestigious businesses in Malvern during the mid-twentieth century. A.B. Cook’s prestige in the industry led to many distinguished memberships and board appointments including appointments to the Malvern’s Farmers and Merchants Bank Board and the Malvern School Board.

Verna Garvan grew up in Malvern, Arkansas and obtained her secondary school education at the prestigious Holton-Arms girls’ school in Washington, D.C. At a young age, Garvan became interested in her father’s business affairs. She accompanied him regularly to various meetings and eventually took an active part in the business decision-making. After her father’s death in a car accident in 1934, Garvan took over the management of the family’s assets. By this time, the business had been consolidated into a corporation named A.B. Cook Company. The Wisconsin and Arkansas Lumber Company manufactured wood flooring while the Malvern Brick and Tile was one of the largest brick-producing companies in the area.

In 1934, Verna Garvan married Alonzo B. Alexander,a United States Naval Academy graduate from Spartanburg, South Carolina. Garvan moved from Malvern, Arkansas to Spartanburg where the couple assumed the management of Garvan's family business operations. Their only son, Arthur Cook Alexander, born with cystic fibrosis, died in November 1954 at the age of 16 years. Two years later, Garvan’s first marriage ended in divorce.

Verna Garvan moved back to Arkansas, and on June 29, 1960, Verna married Francis Patrick Garvan, a graduate of Yale University and Georgetown University Law School and a son of a prominent family from New York City. The Garvans made Hot Springs their home and successfully managed the A.B. Cook Industries, the most notable being Malvern Brick and Tile Company, until Patrick Garvan’s untimely death in 1972. Verna Garvan was one of the first female CEO’s of a major southern manufacturing business. She retained Malvern Brick and Tile Company until selling it to Acme Brick in the late 1970s.

In 1985, Verna Garvan, a life-long, self-taught horticulturalist, generously bequeathed over 200 acres of land on Lake Hamilton, Garland County, Arkansas to the Fay Jones School of Architecture. Garvan spent over three decades developing this lake- front property as a botanical garden. Her philanthropy and her vision that emphasized conservation and landscape design in natural settings materialized into Garvan Woodland Gardens which attracts thousands of visitors from across the country every year and remains an invaluable resource for teaching and research in landscape architecture, botany, plant sciences and other disciplines.

Verna Cook Garvan died on October 1, 1993.


37 Linear Feet (37 boxes, approximately 3,000 photographs, 9 oversize folders, and 5 tubes)

Arrangement of the Papers

Materials are arranged and described in eight series:

  1. Series 1. Family Records,1935-1984 (Boxes 1-3)
  2. Series 2. Business Records, 1921-1978 (Boxes 4-9)
  3. Series 3. 20th Century Garden Records, 1964-1993 (Box 10)
  4. Series 4. Research Files, (Boxes 11-19)
  5. Series 5. Publications, ca. 1963-1993 ( Boxes 20-22)
  6. Series 6. Photographs and Slides, (Boxes 23-24)
  7. Series 7. Brown House Materials, 1974- 2007 (Boxes 25-35)
  8. Series 8. Oversized Flat Items and Tubes.

Acquisition Information

The Verna Cook Garvan Papers were transferred to Special Collections from the Fay Jones School of Architecture, University of Arkansas on June 6, 2011.

Processing Information

Processed by Vera Ekechukwu with assistance from Christopher Galindo and Angel Sigears, 2016.

Verna Cook Garvan Papers
Vera Ekechukwu with assistance from Christopher Galindo and Angel Sigears
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Department Repository

University of Arkansas Libraries
365 N. McIlroy Avenue
Fayetteville AR 72701 United States