New life for Glencairn

Glencairn Garden had suffered a midlife crisis. Nearing 50, it was looking a little ragged around the edges, unkempt, not its useful self.

That's when a coalition of concerned Rock Hill residents stepped in to give the garden a makeover. The initial changes already are dramatic, and the plan envisioned for the garden over the next decade is breathtaking.

Glencairn Garden has remained a Rock Hill landmark and gathering place ever since it was purchased by the city from Hazel Bigger in 1958. It soon became the spiritual home of the annual Come-See-Me festival. It is the site chosen by thousands of prom couples and newlyweds to have their pictures taken. It is a peaceful green getaway near downtown Rock Hill.

But there was a sense in the community that Glencairn could be much more, that it had a larger role to play. For inspiration, planners have gone back to the original master plan drawn by South Carolina landscape Architect Robert Marvin, who later would landscape at the governor's mansion in Columbia.

The Glencairn project is an ambitious undertaking, conservatively estimated to cost $10 million to $12 million over the next 10 to 12 years. An advisory committee has helped plan and promote the project; a city development committee will mount a campaign to raise money; sponsors have been enlisted to help pay for improvements; and city officials and members of the parks and recreation department have been active in the initial stages of expanding the garden.

Ultimately, two new terraced display gardens will be added, along with a second pond, a memorial meadow, a pavilion, an outdoor classroom, a cascading water pool and new trails. The garden will feature eye-catching plantings and public programs for every season of the year, not just the warm summer months.

While much work remains, supporters already have made an impressive start. The old Bigger House has been completely renovated, and will serve as headquarters for the Come-See-Me festival. The house, now surrounded by an elegant brick patio, also will be available to rent for receptions, parties and other occasions.

The new Vernon Grant performance stage, named after Rock Hill's beloved illustrator, is nearing completion in the garden's center. And renovations are under way on the former United Way headquarters on Edgemont Avenue, which will serve as an environmental education classroom, offices and a maintenance facility.

This project is a triumph of vision, community pride and respect for the city's heritage. Glencairn Garden had come to a turning point -- either it would remain unchanged, deteriorating a bit each year, failing to grow as the city changed around it, or it could be transformed, enlarged, improved, maintained as an integral part of the heart of the city.

We're grateful that a diverse group of concerned residents banded together to realize the dream for Glencairn and ensure that it will remain a green haven for generations to come.


Dedicated group of Rock Hill residents are working to expand Glencairn Garden.

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