History of Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve
In 1969 Josephine and Harold Hatcher decided to retire to Spartanburg, South Carolina, from Indianapolis, Indiana, where they had lived for over thirty years. They came south partly because of the warmer weather and the seasonal changes that make gardening a delightful endeavor and also because their daughter Alice and her family lived here.
The Hatchers purchased a home with a small lot on Briarwood Road on the west side of town. From their small back yard they could see that the wooded area behind their house was covered with tall pines, mature hardwoods, and even a stream. The land itself had once been home to cotton fields, was badly eroded, and had become a dumping ground for local trash, but even so, the Hatchers could see that it had great potential.
Soon after moving, Harold expanded his property by purchasing three acres behind his
lot for $2000 and he began to convert the old, worn-out cotton fields into usable land
for his gardening projects. The Hatchers then started spending all of their spare time
filling in the eroded gullies, amending the soil, building paths and ponds, and planting
over 10,000 trees, shrubs, and flowers.
As the garden continued to grow through the 1970s, members of the Spartanburg Men’s Garden Club, the Spartanburg Garden Club Council, Spartanburg Community College, and the Unitarian Universalist Church became intrigued with the Hatchers’ vision for their garden and began to volunteer their time and resources to support the garden’s development.
During this period of time the Hatchers obtained additional adjacent property, and,
along with their team of volunteers, established trails, built a series of ponds, and
planted many more trees. They also added a gazebo; a wildflower garden, which
was Josephine’s pet project; and new flower beds near the front of the garden.
Early in the 1980s the Hatchers’ garden began to attract attention as word spread
of the beautiful woodland sanctuary. No formal “opening” of the garden took place,
but visitation increased and the garden became a public haven for Spartanburg
families - a place for picnics and parties, as well as solitary walks.
The Hatchers’ work continued into the 1980s, and in 1987, when he was nearly
80 years old, Harold decided to give the garden more permanent protection by
donating the property to The Spartanburg County Foundation. Ownership was transferred, a board established, and 501(c)(3) non-profit status acquired, thus assuring the garden’s continuity. The garden was officially given the name Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve with the Hatchers’ blessings.
Although Josephine’s health became fragile, Harold continued to work in the garden every day and to direct its progress as more additions were made: a gardening shed, pavilion area, and a parking lot.
Josephine Hatcher succumbed to health problems in 1999 and Harold restored the wildflower area in her honor. Harold died in 2003 at the age of 96. The ashes of both Hatchers were scattered in the garden to which they had dedicated so much of their lives and themselves.
The Hatchers’ vision that culminated in a public garden in their back yard was not unique. Indeed, there are many public gardens and arboreta around the world that began as private family estates. However, what sets the Hatcher Garden apart from other private estates turned public gardens is the fact
that the Hatchers were not wealthy landowners. They were humble people dedicated to a rich spiritual and intellectual life and they were unconcerned
with material gain.
Thus, when the Hatchers embarked together upon the life that ultimately led to the creation of Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve, they were limited in resources but not in creative vision. And when they chose to donate the Garden to the community, the Hatchers also gave their life savings to endow the future of their dream project. The Garden now stands as a testament to the power of partnerships and to the integrity of the Hatchers’ vision and of the community that gathered around them.