Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Kampong is the historic home and personal garden of famed plant explorer Dr. David Fairchild and his wife Marian, the daughter of Alexander Graham Bell, and later philanthropist and preservationist Catherine Sweeney.
Dr. David Fairchild, one of the most influential horticulturalists and plant collectors in the United States, devoted his life to plant exploration, searching for useful plants suitable for introduction into the U.S. As an early “Indiana Jones” type explorer, he conducted field trips in Asia, the South Pacific, Dutch East and West Indies, South America, Egypt, Ceylon, China, Japan, the Persian Gulf, and East and South Africa. These explorations resulted in the introduction of many tropical plants of economic importance to the United States. All told, as Head of the Office of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction of the United States Department of Agriculture (1897-1928), Dr. Fairchild introduced some 30,000 varieties and species of plants into the United States.
Fairchild remained at The Kampong until his death in 1954. After Marian Fairchild died in 1963, The Kampong was purchased by Edward Cleaveland and Dr. Catherine Hauberg Sweeney. The Sweeneys were world travelers and Mr. Sweeney served as president of the Explorers Club. Dr. Sweeney, a botanist, philanthropist, and preservationist, was primarily responsible for preserving this irreplaceable botanical treasure for future generations. She has been referred to as the “Savior of The Kampong.” In 1984 The Kampong was entered into the National Register of Historic Places. Later that same year, Dr. Sweeney gifted The Kampong to the Pacific Tropical Botanical Garden (now National Tropical Botanical Garden). She remained a principal sponsor and leader of The Kampong until her death in 1995.
For more on The Kampong and the National Tropical Botanical Garden, click here.
David Fairchild's Laboratory by Mark Dion
photo by Jon Alexiou