This former street car right of way was purchased by John and Ruth West in early 1934. On April 22, 1934 the first strip of thistle and quack grass was turned to begin the future garden. Subsequently, Mrs. West and her gardener hand spaded all 6 acres, removing weeds and establishing lawn. Seventy Colorado spruce trees were planted to develop the north and west windbreaks still standing today.
Designed by Mr. West, the house was built in 1934 with numerous additions occurring through 1950. The first modern-style house in the area echoed the designs of Walter Gropius and Frank Lloyd Wright. It was dubbed by locals, the "Shoebox Estate", while Mrs. West fondly named it West of the Lake.
By the autumn of 1934, Mrs. West became addicted to gardening. A hopeless case! With an initial purchase of 200 tulips, the garden was born. With their success and Mrs. West's enthusiasm, the gardens blossomed. By the 1950's more than 30,000 tulips filled formal, gracefully sweeping beds among developing perennial borders. Thus, began a 30 year tradition of opening the gardens to the public for the annual West of the Lake Tulip Tea. As the tulips faded, they were lifted to be followed by plantings of geraniums and fibrous begonias.
In the early 1960's, areas dedicated to tulips were planted with additional perennials until a mere 13,000 tulips remained. By 1967 all remaining tulips were removed. At that time perennials, roses and dahlias began to dominate the garden. At one point, more than 800 roses filled 900 feet of perennial borders and display gardens to overflowing. A garden of spectacular color with interest from May to October was taking form.
In the 1970's and 1980's, a strong eastern influence became evident throughout the garden. A Japanese garden was added while existing planting beds were converted to intricate designs of colored gravels, accentuated with pots of cacti and succulents from the Wests' greenhouses. It is this influence that still dominates the garden's appearance today.
With the passing of John West in 1989 and Ruth West in 1990, the gardens live on as their legacy to the community and all who share their love of beauty.