Hoping to shake off a name that has been tied to segregation and racism as well as provide a strong identity, the botanical gardens on the edge of Charlottesville’s McIntire Park will be rebranded as the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont, officials announced Tuesday.
The gardens, previously known as the McIntire Botanical Garden, will make the change slowly due to it having operated for seven years under the McIntire name.
“Our board first recognized the need to change the name of the garden in 2017,” Jill Trischman-Marks, the garden’s executive director, said. “The 8.5 acres on which the Garden stands was not a part of the parcel originally given by Paul McIntire to the City of Charlottesville. Rather, it was bought by the city and added to the park in 1972.”
The park is named after Paul Goodloe McIntire, the millionaire philanthropist who donated McIntire Park in 1926. McIntire was a Charlottesville native. The property on which the gardens sit, however, was a later addition to the park funded by the city, garden officials said.
The board wanted a new name that would not be tied to any one person or corporation and began its search in June. Officials said they received hundreds of suggestions from the community, including Charlottesville Botanical Garden, which is in use by another organization.
“We were overwhelmed by the amount of time and thought that went into so many of the names suggested,” added Trischman-Marks. “We have long felt that the greater Charlottesville community supported the idea of our Garden. The engagement in the naming process showed that we are right.”
The botanical garden is designed to be inclusive place where community members can feel comfortable, officials said. After the events of Aug. 12, 2017, when the Unite the Right rally that pitted Nazis and white supremacists against anti-fascists and local residents turned violent and deadly, the board wanted to make sure the garden could serve as place of healing and community togetherness.
The McIntire name, however, was an impediment.
“The name McIntire Botanical Garden was chosen nearly a decade ago, reflecting our location in McIntire Park,” officials wrote on the garden’s Facebook page back in June. “Since then, many in our community have voiced their concerns that the name has the potential to cause some visitors to feel less welcome. This is clearly at odds with our vision, to be a place of inclusion and healing.”
McIntire made a fortune as a stock broker after leaving Charlottesville for the North. He came back to his home town and began a philanthropic streak in which he donated parks, built statues, contributed to education, created a business school at UVa and funded a variety of public projects from arts to libraries.
In 1926, he donated the land for McIntire Park for the use of Charlottesville’s ‘white population,’ according to original deeds. He also donated the land for Booker T. Washington Park to the city specifically for the city’s ‘colored’ population.
At the time of the donation, the 1924 Virginia Racial Integrity Act defined ‘white’ as any person “who has no trace whatsoever of any blood other than Caucasian” and classified all non-whites, including Blacks and members of American Indian tribes as colored.
The parks were donated a few months after the 1926 Virginia Public Assemblages Act that made segregated public spaces into a state law. The law made refusal to segregate, either on the part of an individual or a business, a misdemeanor.
McIntire also donated properties for the city’s Market Street Park and Court Square Park to showcase the statues he commissioned of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
Until 2017, both parks were named after the generals whose statues dominate the grounds. The parks and the statues played a prominent role in the staging of the 2017 rally.
McIntire spent most of his fortune on his community, giving the 1926 equivalent of $10.7 million to UVa alone.
His gifts include the McIntire Amphitheater at UVa; McIntire School of Commerce at UVa; McIntire Department of Music at UVa; McIntire Department of Art at UVa; McIntire Library, which is now the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society headquarters; McIntire Park; Booker T. Washington Park; Belmont Park; and statues of George Rogers Clark, Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, Robert Edward Lee, and Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.
UVa officials said the university’s name commission is continuing to review names on UVa buildings and schools.
The botanical garden was created in 2013 through a public-private partnership with the city of Charlottesville. It’s a nonprofit organization and will provide admission-free access to residents and visitors.
Its 8.5-acre site on the northeast section of McIntire Park is currently being designed by landscape architects Mikyoung Kim Design and Waterstreet Studio.
The Botanical Garden of the Piedmont board chose the new name because of the garden’s general location in the state. Piedmont, board members noted, refers to foothills near a mountain range.
“It is fitting that our Garden in Charlottesville is nestled at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains,” said Trischman-Marks. “We are thrilled with the final selection and believe it will lead us into our next phase.”