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Encyclopedia of Arkansas Minute: The Vestal Nursery

For more than a century, a North Little Rock nursery cultivated and shipped flowers across the United States.

Quaker horticulturalist J.W. Vestal moved from Indiana to the Baring Cross area in 1881, attracted by the warmer climate and inexpensive and fertile land near the Arkansas River. Continuing publication of a catalog he had founded in 1861, by 1914 J.W. Vestal and Son were mailing fifty thousand catalogs worldwide, promoting roses, magnolias and more than one hundred seventy varieties of strawberries, some of them purple and orange.

A thorn-less rose the Vestals developed became the official flower of the 1936 state centennial celebration and Little Rock became known as the “City of Roses.” By 1957 the firm grossed more than a million dollars in annual income and had greenhouses totaling more than three hundred thousand square feet under glass, heated by steam from three large boilers. All that remains of the plant today is a ninety-foot smokestack.

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