Tuesday, March 13, 2007

On McGill Rose Garden and Spirit Square

While I was researching the life story of Henry McGill, who with his wife co-founded the McGill Rose Garden, I stumbled across an article in the Observer's archives that I had nearly forgotten I wrote.

Back in 2001, the rose garden was threatened with closure due to insufficient funding. In a compromise vote, the Charlotte City Council gave it enough money to stay open to the public, and it has survived under the management of a private foundation since.

The article stirred memories of meeting Mr. McGill the night he spoke to the council. I remember being impressed by how spry and lucid he was, considering he was close to 100 at the time. (Newcomers: If you haven't visited this garden yet, you should stop by. It's fascinating to see how an old industrial rail yard became a place of such beauty).

Reading that article gave me hope for the current debate about the future of Spirit Square, another treasured center city attraction. I grew up in Charlotte and remember the days before the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center and Belk Theater existed. Spirit Square's McGlohon Theatre was the only major venue in uptown, and its events were one of very few things that gave life to the center city and brought people in after working hours. I remember going with my family to see The Amazing Kreskin, a hypnotist, perform there in the mid-1980s. (Perhaps one could argue the theater's lineup has improved considerably since those days).

So far, all proposals for the sale of the property would preserve the historic church structure that houses McGlohon Theatre on North Tryon Street. I'm also a fan of events in the neighboring classrooms and galleries in Spirit Square - I've attended several events there put on by the Light Factory, the museum devoted to film and photography, and visited Mike Collins' adjoining WFAE studio. Whatever happens to the property, I hope all parties involved will recognize its importance to our local cultural scene and keep an eye toward preserving the things that make our city unique.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Latest rumour I heard was Furman from BLVD. CENTRO was bidding to put a hirise condo in the back parking lot and preserve the McGlohon. Hopefully the rest of the building get preserved.
I have seen many Bare Bones shows at the Duke theater and loved them.
We really don't need anymoe condo towers for at least 5 more years though.
Why not step up some retail ? Something like the old CityFest. But only now it would survive since the city has developed.

1:25 PM  

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