VIRTUAL TOUR: The Elizabethan Gardens

Published 1:24 pm Wednesday, April 1, 2020

This video features The Elizabethan Gardens, one of the wonders of Roanoke Island, as spring makes it way into 2020.

In 1941, Roanoke Island started attracting the attention of visitors from all across the globe, with Fort Raleigh National Historical Site serving as an interesting spot, along with The Lost Colony outdoor drama.

Four imperative Lost Colony attendees – Mrs. Charles Cannon, married to a North Carolina philanthropist, Mrs. Inglis Fletcher, (also a distinguished North Carolina historian and author), and Lady and Sir Evelyn Wrench, founder of the English Speaking Union – found the grounds around the theatre to be the perfect site for a two-acre garden.

Not only would a garden draw in additional visitors, but they thought it would also serve as a physical reminder of the Lost Colonists and Sir Walter Raleigh.

After proposing the idea to the North Carolina Garden Club in 1951, a plan for a modest replica of a late 1500s colonist garden was set.

When assisting contractor E.W. Reinecke came to the Garden Club with his dismantled estate in Georgia, plans changed. The ornate pieces such as fountains and statues on the estate were originally to be donated to the Metropolitan Museum of New York. Reinecke suggested the Garden Club contact the landscape architects involved, Innocenti & Webel, and change arrangements.

Eventually, the historic statues were donated to the site of England’s first American colony. The original plans for the gardens were revised from a simple style to a more ornate one featuring Italian fountain, stone sundials, bird baths and benches.

Using the donated items as a guide, Webel landscapers designed a lush Elizabethan-era garden. Interestingly, construction began on the exact date that Elizabeth II was crowned queen on June 2, 1953.

On August 18, 1960, the Gardens were officially open to the public. It was Virginia Dare’s 373rd birthday.

The gardens now hold bright greenery, prolific flowers and a wide array of unique animal species amongst the historic statues and water fountains that are embedded within the gardens. For more information, visit www.elizabethangardens.org.

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