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Historic garden in Rock Hill restored

The Woman's Club of Rock Hill has completed finishing touches on the most recent phase of the restoration of its Mauldin Garden.

The garden behind the historic Armstrong-Mauldin house now looks much as it did in the early 1930s, when a formal garden was planted by Mrs. W.M. Maudlin.

It's a complete transformation from the gravel parking lot that covered most of that area in recent decades.

Using as much of the original materials as possible, the Woman's Club spent more than $200,000 to restore the pergola, reflecting pool and landscaping to the way they looked in the prime of the garden, nearly 80 years ago.

The landscaping features some original plants, some heritage plantings and some modern landscaping.

On Sunday, the club showed off the restoration work during a self-guided tour and party at the Aiken Avenue clubhouse as part of the Garden Conservancy "Open Days," a national program that allows people to explore private gardens across the country. Some of the finishing touches were planted last week, said Marlene Milstead, chair of the restoration committee.

"We've received tremendous support and interest from the community. And that's the best part," Milstead said. "We're pleased to make a contribution to the historic district."

At one time, a gravel parking lot sat on top of the garden's original brick path and around the tumbled pergola foundation, Milstead said. The path around the reflecting pool to the pergola was unearthed a few years ago, and needed repairs to restore it to its existing state.

"When I joined the Woman's Club, I wasn't much into history," said member Connie Zdencek. "Then, I fell in love with the grounds and the house. And now, I want everyone to see it and know its story."

Some elements in the garden have a story associated with them, including a stone mushroom and sun dial, both part of in the original garden, said master gardener Margaret Jefferies.

The club members looked at every detail in the restoration, matching bricks with a color chip and using some existing tiles on the roof of the pergola. Even the hedges that line the street were taken from the overgrown, original plants and rooted.

"We wanted to complete all the landscaping," Milstead said. "To bring it back to its historic appearance. The whole design is consistent with how it looked before."

"I think overall it's been a long process with a lot of fun, camaraderie and hard work," Zdencek said. "We got to know each other a lot better."

Milstead said the next step is making sure there's a foundation with enough money to more than adequately maintain the restoration work that's been done to the house and garden.

ABOUT THE HOUSE

The Armstrong-Mauldin house is on the register of National Historic Places. It was built in 1921 by former mayor W.R. Armstrong and purchased in 1923 by W.M. Mauldin, president of the Rock Hill Coca-Cola Bottling Co.

The Woman's Club of Rock Hill has owned the property since 1971, and the house and gardens were upgraded during a 2002 Designer Showhouse.

The Woman's Club meets at the house, and the site is available to rent for weddings, receptions and parties.

Members of the club have held fashion shows, cafes, purse parties and traditional English teas to raise money to serve the public and to restore the clubhouse and grounds.

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