Colonel Robert H.
was one of the founding partners of the
accounting firm, Lybrand, Ross Bros. & Montgomery—known today as
PricewaterhouseCoopers. He wrote more than 40 books about accounting practice and tax law. In addition to being a lawyer, accountant, and
book collector, Colonel Montgomery was a lover of plants. In 1936, he
founded Fairchild Tropical Garden (FTG), just 1 mile north in Coral
Gables. He and his wife, Nell, donated the 83-acre tract of land as
well as money for developing the plant collections. On May 2, 1953,
while napping in his Florida home, 80-year-old Robert Montgomery died.
He and Nell had just completed their daily stroll through the Coconut
Upon Robert’s death in 1953,
his wife, Eleanor “Nell,” inherited the
Coconut Grove Palmetum. Nell wanted to perpetuate her late husband’s
name in association with the plant collections and the estate. She also
desired to provide a site for research investigations on the
collections. With these goals in mind, she created The Montgomery
Foundation, Inc., on November 20, 1959, as a private, non-profit,
operating institution devoted to advancing the science of tropical
botany by building research-oriented plant collections. In 1998, the
name was changed to the Montgomery Botanical Center (MBC).
For over 30 years, Nell
committed her life to the development and
growth of MBC and FTG. Upon her death on June 4, 1990, she left the
balance of her estate and an endowment to maintain the property to MBC.
Since Nell’s death in 1990,
MBC directors and staff have worked to
secure and promote Nell’s vision. As part of the transition, a
long-term Master Site Plan was developed in 1992 by the internationally
recognized firm of Sasaki Associates, Inc. This Plan, which is
strategically divided into five phases, was designed so that expansion
of the plant collections could proceed in a systematic and
aesthetically pleasing way. According to the Plan, the 120-acre
property is delineated into four geographic areas: the Coconut Grove
Palmetum, the South Palmetum, the Lowland Palmetum, and Research. The
Research area contains research laboratories, the Montgomery Library, a
herbarium, and nursery facilities operated by Fairchild
Garden (FTBG) on eight acres
leased by the Center to the Garden.
An overview of the history of
Robert and Nell Montgomery in Florida, as
well as the property from 1932 to 1997, was superbly documented in The
Montgomery Story by Bert Zuckerman. This 1997 volume is available for purchase
The Montgomery Archive documents the lives of Robert and Nell
Montgomery in Florida as well as the history of MBC since its founding
in 1959. The Montgomery Archive is open by appointment.