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Princeville Peony Project

In 2020, the Lillie M. Evans Library District started the Princeville Peony Project or P3. We worked with the Princeville Heritage Museum and other community organizations to locate, photograph, and identify Auten peonies still growing in and around Princeville.This project will take several years to complete, but we have started to catalog some of the iconic images of Princeville—the Auten peonies.

Want to see some of the 122 specimens photographed in 2020. Click here! (This page is under construction so please be patient as we work through the images and identification)

Do you have an Auten peony? If you are certain you have an Auten variety, please fill out this form online or call the library sometime between May 18-June 18. Please contact us after your peonies have started blooming so that we can get photos for identification purposes. The library website is lmelibrary.org and our phone number is 385-4540. For 2020, we are focusing only on peonies that residents know for sure are Auten varieties. In subsequent years, we hope to open identification to possible Auten varieties but we want to focus on the known specimens first.

Thank you for helping us preserve our local history!

Peonies and Princeville

Princeville is known locally as the Peony Capital of the World due to Edward Auten, Jr. and his fields of peonies. Mr. Auten was a life-long Princeville resident who was educated at Harvard University. He graduated with a degree in economics and music and worked at his father’s bank, Auten & Auten. He had many interests and was an accomplished organist and composer.

Mr. Auten started growing peonies as a hobby. He turned to peonies after abandoning roses due to their thorns and difficulty overwintering. As his passion for peonies grew, it became a full-time business. From 1925 until he retired in 1963, Mr. Auten introduced almost 300 named varieties of peonies—many still popular today.

Auten peony fields drew visitors from across the state and around the country. Peonies would bloom in May and June along both sides of Route 91 on the north side of town and by the village of Monica, a few miles west of Princeville. Princeville’s first “Peony Day” was held on Sunday, June 6, 1937 and became an annual event. Crowds flocked to Princeville so they could view the fields and purchase varieties.

Edward Auten Jr. died on May 13, 1974 at the age of 92. By the time he retired at the age of 81, he had devoted more than 50 years to growing and hybridizing peonies. The fields are gone now, but Mr. Auten’s legacy and his impact on Princeville remains.

Bit.ly link: https://bit.ly/PrincevillePeonies

[Photo courtesy of the Princeville Heritage Museum]

 

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