A History of the Memorial Garden
The Memorial Garden at 1919 Lincoln Street, Columbia, which adjoins the Governor’s Complex is the only property owned by The Garden Club of South Carolina, Inc. In 1945 Sarah Boylston ( pictured below with Mrs Bedford Moore, first Chairman of the Garden)deeded part of her personal garden t o GCSC to become the first Memorial Garden in the United States to honor World War II veterans. Elizabeth Guignard Guion (GCSC president 1944-46 from Camden) commissioned noted Landscape Architect, Loutrel Briggs of Charleston and Doylestown, Pennsylvania to draw a plan for the garden. With voluntary dues of $.15 per member per year and the support of the Veterans’ Committee, generous businesses, the city of Columbia and $2000 plus convict labor from the state, work began that same year. The garden continued to evolve over time. Benches and garden statuary were given by individual garden clubs and districts. The fountain was completed in 1950 (Pictured below in the 1950s) and the last major structure, the gate house, was completed in 1957.
A garden renovation was undertaken during the administration of Shirley LaGarde (1985-87). Much needed work was completed, but gardens, like all living things, have a finite life span and now many of the plants must be replaced. During the past 6 years many diseased plants and debris have been removed. The fountain has been repaired and the pump and electrical line replaced, the gate was sand blasted and painted, general repairs were done, and the tool house was re-roofed and painted. The generous gift of a brick wall and gate with views to the Boylston garden donated by Mr. Donald Dial adds a magnificent backdrop to the garden. On April 3, 2009 100% of the South Carolina State Board of Review recommended placing the Memorial Garden on the National Register of Historic Places under three criteria: 1. on the landscape design of a master (Loutrel Briggs), 2. on the fact it was the first Memorial Garden to World War II veterans, 3. on this outstanding accomplishment of women. The garden is now placed on the National Register.
In September of 2007 GCSC received a $50,000 grant from the State Budget and Control Commission to restore the garden. Jim Cothran LAI of Robert and Company redesigned the garden to the last point of Briggs’ influence. The discovery of the original Briggs’ plan and pictures from old scrapbooks and Books of Evidence were great aids in the restoration. 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 totally revamped to be more water wise with drip irrigation, less obvious emitters and better coverage for the lawn. Thicker blue slate with dwarf mondo set between the stones now paves the entrance terrace to conform to the original drawings. The old stone was reused under the benches and on the walk near the new side gate. Wavering Place of Eastover completed the work in the early summer of 2008. The garden has retained its initial design to give the impression of a cathedral with arching branches forming the ceiling and evergreen shrubs and trees sheltering the sides. It is a reminder of the winter and early spring gardens favored by Northerners who wintered in the Sandhills during the late 19th and early 20th century.
More than 200 members, veterans and friends joined to re-dedicate the Memorial Garden to all US military men and women on April 3, 2009 exactly 64 years to the day since Mr. Briggs presented the plan to the GCSC Convention. Two very special ladies were surprised by their families with gifts to the garden: Emily Stephens (GCSC president 1999-2001 and SAR Director 2005-07) was honored with two lead Four Seasons statues to replace the missing ones and Babs Barnette (GCSC president 1975-77 and NGC president, 1997-99) was honored with a lovely fern bench. Patriotic music by the Fort Jackson Band, the presentation of an American Flag from the USC Chapter of the DAR and presentations by District III Councilwoman Belinda Gergel, landscape architect Jim Cothran and John Sherrer of Historic Columbia Foundation and fabulous refreshments made this a memorable occasion.