Generations of Rock Hillians return this time of year to Glencairn Garden's bubbling fountains, sloping lawns and flowering trees and shrubs. Admirers are celebrating the treasured oasis in a special way on its 50th anniversary.
A yearlong recognition of Glencairn starts Sunday afternoon, with a kickoff event featuring a jazz and pop concert and brief program on the garden's history.
The park's anniversary coincides with a range of current and future renovations, including new showcase gardens, a second pond, pavilion and restored creekbeds.
Supporters are raising money toward more garden upgrades, and they hope the slate of events will energize the campaign.
A silent fundraising phase, in effect for three years, has raised $500,000 from individuals and businesses. Another $15,000 came through a membership program launched in September. Four more major donations from local businesses could be finalized within three months, said Sherry Martin, chairwoman of the Glencairn development committee.
"It is not easy, make no mistake about that," Martin said. "To be successful, we're going to have to partner with public and private sectors. It's clear you're not going to win unless you mesh the two together."
In 1958, Hazel Bigger agreed to sell the Charlotte Avenue garden to the city for $30,000, payable over 30 years. She died soon after, and left the garden to the city.
Glencairn has shown signs of age in recent years, as the plantings became dated and costly maintenance failed to keep up with the needs.
The creek that winds through the garden had essentially run dry, and the fountains in the main pond were "held together by chewing gum and bailing wire," said advisory committee chairman Harold Peeples.
"We don't want to build anything that we're not going to maintain," Peeples said. "If we don't maintain the plants and make sure they're nurtured in the right way, it's only a matter of time before it will fall back into disrepair."
Changes are expected to occur incrementally over the next decade. The overall price tag is pegged at $10 million to $12 million.
"Construction costs go up every day," Martin said. "We're dealing with a moving scale, and it's upward. We're hoping as we raise the money, we're able to build certain elements of the garden."
In the spring of 2009, a grand finale event will show off the renovated garden with a weekend of concerts, children's activities and garden seminars.