National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior

National Register of Historic Places Program:
South Carolina Memorial Garden, Columbia, Richland County, South Carolina

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.

 

It took almost a decade, but the preservation efforts to repair the South Carolina Memorial Garden, in Columbia, Richland County, South Carolina, paid off.

[Photo]
South Carolina Memorial Garden
Photograph courtesy of the South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office

In 2000 an ice storm in South Carolina inflicted heavy damage on the trees and shrubs that were the living history of American landscape architect Loutrel W. Briggs’ vision for the landscape of the South Carolina Memorial Garden which he designed. Briggs (1893-1977) was one of the leading 20th century American landscape architects. He is credited with establishing the nationally-recognized “Charleston Garden” as a garden type during his time in South Carolina’s port city from 1929 until 1977. Over two generations’ worth of efforts suffered a devastating setback from the ice storm, and the members of the Garden Club of South Carolina initiated an extensive restoration of the garden’s plantings, structures, and hardscapes (hardscaping consists of the inanimate elements of landscaping, especially the masonry woodwork) in 2003 under the guidance of Atlanta landscape architect James R. Cothran (an expert on Briggs' work) of Robert and Company. Cothran’s efforts during a restoration undertaken in 2007-2008 and dedicated in April 2009 have adhered to Briggs’ original scheme in order to maintain the property’s historic integrity.

The South Carolina Memorial Garden, owned and maintained by the Garden Club of South Carolina, is located at 1919 Lincoln Street, Columbia, in the Arsenal Hill neighborhood.  This quarter-acre site was created from a portion of the lot originally belonging to the Caldwell-Hampton-Boylston House, a ca. 1830 Greek Revival house listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. Located within the two city blocks that comprise the South Carolina Governor’s Mansion Complex, the garden is on a rectangular parcel measuring 220’ x 56’.

[photo]South Carolina Memorial Garden
Photograph courtesy of the South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office

The money to restore the garden came from a $50,000 grant from the South Carolina State Budget and Control Commission. Aiding in the restoration efforts were the discovery of the original Briggs’ plan and pictures from old scrapbooks. According to the Garden Club of South Carolina, Inc. website, “Some of the Carolina cherries, a black locust, wisteria vines, a jungle of elaeagnus and diseased plants and trees were removed to prepare for the restoration.” The irrigation system was revamped, and thicker blue slate with dwarf mondo set between the stones now paves the entrance terrace to conform to the original drawings.

This garden is representative of Brigg’s influential designs, with its imaginative use of limited space by utilizing a variety of ornamental plants and complimentary design elements such as a gate house and tool house, walls, gates, walks, terraces, a fountain, sculpture, and garden furniture. Its plan and characteristics are similar to many of Brigg’s residential city gardens in Charleston and elsewhere, but the garden is distinctive among his designs as being designed for the Garden Club of South Carolina as a public space rather than a private one.

[Photo]
South Carolina Memorial Garden
Photograph courtesy of the South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office

The South Carolina Memorial Garden, established in 1944-45 by the Garden Club of South Carolina, Inc. (GCSC) was envisioned by the club as the first memorial garden sponsored by a state garden club in the United States that recognized veterans of World War II for their military service. The National Council of State Garden Clubs awarded the Garden Club of South Carolina its White Ribbon Award for Achievement of Exceptional Merit for the Memorial Garden at its annual convention in New Orleans on April 9, 1946, describing the garden in the award as “expressed in beauty, a place apart, where one may go as to a sanctuary, and undisturbed, arrange one’s thoughts, and where all South Carolinians who served their country well in World War II-may be offered grateful remembrance.”

The South Carolina Memorial Garden is characteristic of the design philosophy of Loutrel Briggs, in which open spaces and enclosures worked together to create “outdoor garden rooms,” using terraces, fountains or pools, and settings to achieve that goal. The South Carolina Memorial Garden is an excellent illustration of an Briggs' vision with different levels, boundaries, and well defined open spaces and enclosures. Briggs like using old bricks and stone for walls, walks, steps, terraces, and similar elements, and the use of historic brick in the South Carolina Memorial Garden was enhanced and emphasized by its proximity to the historic brick wall, antebellum house, and established garden at the Caldwell-Hampton-Boylston House, from which this garden was created. Pools and fountains were also significant elements of Briggs’ gardens, and can be found in the South Carolina Memorial Garden. The use of furniture and sculpture, also common sights in the gardens Briggs designed, were represented by five statues and several benches in the South Carolina Memorial Garden.

The Garden Club of South Carolina represents an early 20th-century manifestation of social activism that trace sits roots back to 19th-century Victorian mores that assigned women the task of ensuring the physical, religious, and moral well being of their families. From this position of power, women gradually assumed a greater voice in addressing issues with broader, more public impact during the later stages of the 19th-century. Civic improvement measures rose to the challenge—one of the more thoughtful and nationally widespread movements that arose from this was the “City Beautiful Movement”, which came about during the 1890s and called for public green spaces in urban areas. This took the form in Charleston of a united association of garden-clubs whose representatives gathered at the home of Mrs. Sheffield Phelps in April 1930 and created what became the South Carolina Garden Club. Under the leadership of its seventh president, Mrs. Louis I. Guion, the Garden Club of South Carolina at its annual meeting on November 2, 1944 voted to establish what would prove to be the first landscape of its kind-a memorial garden sponsored by a statewide garden club and dedicated to the memory of the dead and the honor of the living who served in World War II. Prison labor was used during the landscaping.

[photo]South Carolina Memorial Garden
Photograph courtesy of the South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office

For more than 60 years the garden Club of South Carolina’s Memorial Garden has played a significant role in the state’s social, cultural, and landscape history. The preservation efforts to repair the damage caused by the ice-storm in 2000 were honored on April 3, 2009. On this day more than 200 members, veterans and friends joined to re-dedicate the Memorial Garden to all US military men and women 64 years to the day since Mr. Briggs presented the plan to the Garden Club of South Carolina Convention. New gifts to the garden included two lead Four Seasons statues to replace the missing ones, honoring Emily Stephens (GCSC president 1999-2001 and SAR Director 2005-07) and a fern bench honored Babs Barnette (GCSC president 1975-77 and NGC president, 1997-99). Patriotic music was provided by the Fort Jackson Band, and presentations by District III Councilwoman Belinda Gergel, landscape architect Jim Cothran and John Sherrer of Historic Columbia Foundation marked the occasion. The presentation of an American Flag from the USC Chapter of the DAR also marked the occasion.

The South Carolina Memorial Garden was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on April 2, 2012.

Excerpted from
1 . John M. Sherrer, III, J. Tracy Power & Andrew W. Chandler, South Carolina Memorial Garden South Carolina SHPO 3/12/2012
2. The Garden Club of South Carolina, Inc. , A History of the Memorial Garden http://gardenclubofsc.org/projects/memorialgarden/default.htm

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