Glencairn turns 50

Glencairn Garden turned 50, and the birthday party will last all year.

The Sunday kickoff for the year-long celebration featured a jazz and pop concert and a brief program on the history and significance of the garden. Organizers look forward to a grand finale in the spring of 2009 that will show off a variety of renovations to the garden and treat the community to a weekend of concerts, children's activities and gardening seminars.

The appearance of Glencairn already has undergone significant changes over nearly three years of work. The changes have breathed new life into the oasis of green in the heart of Rock Hill, and plans include a decade's worth of improvements that ultimately could total $10 million to $12 million.

Glencairn Garden has remained a Rock Hill landmark and gathering place 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 also is the site chosen by thousands of prom couples and newlyweds to have their pictures taken with the garden as an idyllic backdrop.

But nearing 50, the garden was undergoing something of a midlife crisis. It had become a little worn and ragged around the edges.

Thankfully, members of the community who love Glencairn were determined not to let it deteriorate. That inspired the Glencairn project, an ambitious campaign to expand and enhance the garden, and ensure that it will endure for decades to come.

The renovated Bigger House at the corner of the garden was unveiled in 2006. The home, appropriately enough, will serve as headquarters for the Come-See-Me festival.

The grounds of the garden have been spruced up, and the new Vernon Grant performance stage, named after Rock Hill's beloved illustrator, has been placed in the garden's center. Renovations of the former United Way headquarters on Edgemont Avenue are under way. That will house an environmental education classroom offices and a maintenance facility.

Plans include two new display gardens, a second pond, a memorial meadow, upgrades to the stream, a pavilion, a cascading water pool and new trails. 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, and four more major donations from local businesses could be finalized by the end of the summer.

Organizers hope the yearlong series of events will help focus attention on the project and keep the effort energized. We are confident, judging from the progress so far, that the revitalization of this beautiful and historic spot will maintain its momentum in the years ahead.

We are grateful to all those who devised and nurtured this campaign and we hope the success will continue as we celebrate Glencairn's 50th.