The flowers, trees and foliage will keep their names but the garden’s name is going to change.
McIntire Botanical Garden officials say changing the future nature space’s name will help make it welcoming for all members of the community. They invite new name recommendations, be they silly or serious.
“It’s been an ongoing conversation that the board [of directors] has been having,” said Jill Trischman-Marks, who was a board member prior to being hired as executive director. “We want the community to feel comfortable and the garden to be inclusive. Receiving community input about the name is important.”
In deciding to change its name, the garden will join national products, local schools and the University of Virginia in shuffling names and iconography to be more inclusive of a variety of races, religions and heritages.
That, officials say, will make the garden more appealing.
“It was originally envisioned that the garden would be a place of education and research, but that changed after August 2017,” Trischman-Marks said, referring to the events surround the Aug. 12 Unite the Right rally that pitted Nazis and white supremacists against anti-fascists and local residents turned violent and deadly.
“We began to see the garden as a safe place where people could go and come together and get to know each other,” Trischman-Marks said. “We saw how the garden could be a place of healing. We still plan to provide education, but helping bring the community together is the key.”
The garden’s name, however, turned out to be an impediment. The garden currently is fundraising for a future space by John W. Warner Parkway.
“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. “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.”
For the garden, the problem is the moniker ‘McIntire.’
Paul Goodloe McIntire, the millionaire philanthropist who donated McIntire Park in 1926, was a Charlottesville native and son of the town’s mayor who, during the Civil War, surrendered the city to Union troops.
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 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.
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 Jackson, Robert Edward Lee, and Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.
Garden officials found that McIntire’s association with segregation and the Confederate statuary made many area residents feel that the garden was not a place they would be welcome. That led to the name change decision.
“We’re reaching out the community as much as possible so it will be a place they feel comfortable and a place they want to come back to, often,” Trischman-Marks said.
It’s happening a lot. Albemarle County has changed one elementary school name and is now changing the name of a middle school after studying the history of those for whom the schools were named.
UVa officials said a name commission is continuing to review names on UVa buildings and schools.
UVa is considering changing the name of its education school and recently changed the name of one of the buildings associated with the school.
The school was named after Virginia educator J.L.M. Curry by John D. Rockefeller when he gave money to UVa to create the school asked it be named for Curry. Educator William Henry Ruffner’s name was placed on the school building.
A UVa president’s committee reviewed the names and found that, while Curry “showed real vision in advocating free public education for the South’s Black children” he had “overclouding blindness in refusing to recognize African Americans as having the same potentialities as whites.”
Ruffner, the committee found, supported free public education for all children but on a segregated basis and believed Blacks “existed on a lower intellectual and moral plane than whites.”
The committee also noted that neither had served with UVa or had connections to the school.
Ruffner Hall earlier this month was changed to Ridley Hall in honor of Walter Ridley, the first African American to earn a doctoral degree back in 1963.
“This is about looking forward and there is no better way than to reach out to the community. We want the crazy names, the serious names and all the input we can get from the community,” Trischman-Marks said. “We will prepare a short list for the board and the board will make a decision on a new name.”
Name submissions will be accepted through the Facebook page, email at email@example.com or postcards sent to the office.