Total Solar Eclipse in South Carolina

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We were all amazed at the total solar eclipse that made its historic path over South Carolina this past Monday. Thanks to everyone who joined us from near and far to witness history in the making #OnThisSpot in Columbia, S.C.

There were a few pieces published at the end of last week that we want to highlight, just in case you missed them. The following article was published initially in The Columbia Star on August 17.

In the Path of Totality

By John Sherrer, director of cultural resources, Historic Columbia

Have you ever been in the path of something that you cannot escape? Have you ever been faced with an event that cannot be avoided? Such situations often elicit anxiety or even dread. What if you knew exactly when and where such an event was to occur? What would you do? How would you prepare?

Rather than with anxiety and dread, it has been with rapt anticipation that Columbians have readied themselves for an astronomical event noteworthy of history books. We, and the anticipated hundreds of thousands of visitors to the capital city, stand in path of totality. On Monday, August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will cast us in darkness. Day will become night, as this breathtaking phenomenon impacts the city like no other has in generations.

Stories of earlier solar eclipses, recorded by The State newspaper reveal the concerns, preparations and observations of our forebears while providing us with intriguing glimpses into the capital city they knew. For instance, the total solar eclipse of June 8, 1918 found Columbia lying far northeast from its path of totality. Leading up to the event, which would ultimately cast a modest shadow on the city, writers offered that, “The moon and sun in their glory cannot greatly eclipse Columbia.” Looking forward, on June 12, a correspondent concluded, “We ought to be able to pay some attention to the next eclipse, which is scheduled for 2017. The [First World] War should be over by that time, even according to . . . some of our own choicest pessimists.”

A little less than two decades earlier, on May 29, 1900, Columbians and other South Carolinians witnessed an eclipse of greater local impact, as they found themselves just outside of the path of totality for an event that engrossed most citizens but particularly “scientists, professors, students, ministers and ladies galore,” who traveled to the town of Little Mountain for a better view. Their journey involved rising early, making their respective ways to various electric streetcar stops and congregating at the train station where they boarded eight cars for the 30-mile trek.

They carried with them window panes and broken bottles caked in smoke from “lightwood splinter,” or fat wood to protect themselves from the eclipse’s harmful light. Following the event, in which animals were said to bed down for the night and birds ceased their songs, the 450-strong crowd returned to Columbia, many with “sooty nose or blackened cheek” from their protective “glasses” and several suffering from “barked shoes [and] torn dresses.” These inconveniences aside, their brush with the path of totality left many of them with an incomparable lifetime memory.

Soon, we, too, will experience an event of our lives. Unlike those of our predecessors’ our solar eclipse experience places us directly in the path of totality. But, while Columbia will be bathed in total darkness, albeit briefly, the sun and the moon will not truly eclipse the excitement and celebration citizens of and visitors to the capital city will enjoy during this once-in-a-lifetime event #OnThisSpot where #HistoryIsCool.


And this article was part of our #ThrowbackThursday collaboration with Cola Today.

Total Eclipses #OnThisSpot

The last total eclipse to cross the US was in 1918, but on the eastern seaboard, it only crossed through Orlando.

The last time the path of totality touched South Carolina was on May 28, 1900.

The very edge of the path skirted the City of Columbia creating a dusky haze for a few moments, according to eye witness accounts.

USC’s Garnet and Black noted that a total solar eclipse would be visible in Columbia on May 28, 1900 in their annual school calendar (they made it a holiday).

South Carolinian Oscar Montgomery Lieber (eldest son of Francis Lieber, who lived at South Carolina College and is the namesake of the admissions building) traveled to Labrador in 1860 on an “Eclipse Expedition” and recorded his findings in an attempt to have them published (it never was).

During the 1900 eclipse, some folks were not too impressed with the spectacle. John Coleman Feaster, a native of Fairfield County was a farmer who wrote in his diary on May 28, 1900: “We all saw the total eclipse of the Sun this AM, i.e. Gussie, Wife, Self, and Pen James. I plowed some corn and watermelons this A.M. Wife and Gussie gone to Pelt’s.” (But were they Bradford watermelons, tho?)

Apparently nonplussed by the potential for cosmic event, the State only mentioned the total eclipse once in their May 28, 1900 issue. The next day? Almost every page was devoted to the event.

Why should you get pumped over this eclipse? Solar eclipses aren’t uncommon. Usually, however, you have to travel out of your way to see them—swim to the middle of the ocean, freeze in Labrador, etc. Never again in our lifetimes will the path of totality cross through our backyards. So while people from Texas and Maine and Nevada are scrambling to find a Columbia hotel room, we can post up in our lawn chairs for an early happy hour next Monday.


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The Herbemont at HC

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Guest blog by 2016 Garden Symposium keynote speaker, Dr. David Shields.

herbemont_dessinWhen Lief Erickson made landfall on the Western Hemisphere it was so overrun with Native grapes he called the country Vinland. When colonists from Spain, France, and England tried to transport their home grapes—the Vitis vinefera—they planted them in a territory occupied by a host of Native grapes, all of them loathe to surrender land to interlopers. The pathogens, that had developed to insure that only the strongest strains of Natives survived, attacked the cabernets, the pinot noirs, the reislings, and the Muscats. For two hundred years people attempted to plant French, German, and Italian grapes in American soil, and for 200 years they died. Black rot, brown rot, mildew, Phylloxera, Pierce’s disease would take them all in a year or two. Until that moment just after the turn of the 19th century when vignerons decided to cross a resistant Native variety with a tasty European variety to create a hybrid.

Nicholas Herbemont, a native of the Champagne in France and the first instructor of French in the College of South Carolina, would be the first to embrace hybrid grapes in the creation of fine wine. He would only be driven to this conclusion after witnessing over 120 Vitis vinefera varieties that he had imported in 1811 wither and die in the Carolina sun. The hybrid grape that he embraced was a cross between a Native borquiniana and a European vinefera, and had the refined flavor of the latter and the disease resistance of the Native. It was a fat brown grape, succulent and saccharine, that reminded him of the Sercial Madeira grape. Georgians called it the Warren grape. But because Nicholas Herbemont created the first annually available fine quality vintage wine from it in the 1820s, it came to be called after him.

Gardens Herbemont_10

Herbemont was one of the six grapes upon which the American grape industry was founded—the others were the Catawba, the Concord, the Norton, the Delaware, and the Isabella—none of them straight vineferas. Texas and Missouri became major centers of Herbemont wine production until the early 1870s when nearly every Herbemont grape vine in the United States was dug up and shipped to Europe, because it resisted the depredations of the phylloxera mite. The Herbemont grape saved the French noble vintages, but did so at the sacrifice of its central place in the ranks of American wine. A fine table grape and a historic wine grape, Herbemont is the signature grape of Southern viticulture. It is more classic and refined in taste than the Muscadine, more rich than later hybrids such as the Chambourcin, and more versatile than the Catawba or the Isabella. Historically is was made into a fortified Madeira-like wine, a light white wine, and a rose. It was often paired at meals with another local hybrid of the summer grape (Vitis vinefera) and a Vitis vinefera named the Lenoir. In Texas the pairing of these grapes in vineyards remains to the present day.

[Historic Columbia is proud to announce the homecoming of the Herbemont! HC Horticulturist Keith Mearns, pictured here, is preparing to propagate the historic grape in our gardens. Special thanks to Justin Scheiner at Texas A&M for sending us cuttings.] 

Gardens Herbemont_11


To learn more about horticulture and the history of Southern gardens, join us April 8 & 9 for Historic Columbia’s 2016 Gardening Symposium “Redefining the Southern Garden: Past, Present & Future.” Early registration for this event ends March 25th so please Register Today!

CLICK HERE to view more photos of the Herbemont at HC!


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Grow Your Gardening Skills at Historic Columbia’s 2014 Gardening Symposium This Weekend!

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This Friday and Saturday, celebrate the arrival of spring by “Growing Your Gardening Skills” at Historic Columbia’s 2014 Gardening Symposium!

It’s All About the Dirt: A Special Evening with Amanda McNulty

The symposium kicks off with a reception and keynote presentation from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Friday, April 11 in a historic riverfront setting at Senate’s End. Amanda McNulty, host of SCETV’s Making It Grow, has all the information and tricks of the trade to help both novice and expert gardeners improve their spring garden beds and develop the garden of their dreams. Learn about soils—what’s in them, who’s in them, how to improve them and more—then take the opportunity to ask McNulty questions and mingle with other attendees while enjoying beer, wine and hors d’oeuvres after her presentation.

Wake Up with Gardening!

On Saturday, April 12, join HC at the Robert Mills Carriage House for a series of workshops that will provide a more hands-on approach to gardening skills, knowledge and information from local business owners and gardening professionals. The featured workshops are:

  • Discovering the Hidden Potential of Your Garden with Ronnie Dimig, local artist and professional gardener
  • Successful Container Gardening with Kevin Shaw, Hay Hill Garden Market
  • Choosing Plants that Thrive in the Midlands with Lori Watson, Mill Creek Greenhouses.

There will be vendors and garden professionals with educational resources onsite April 12, and the Gift Shop at Robert Mills will be open early at 7:30 a.m. for symposium attendees. Following the workshops, join Historic Columbia’s horticulture staff for a guided tour of our newest garden at the Woodrow Wilson Family Home.

Symposium registration is $40 for one day and $65 for both days for HC members, and $45 for one day and $75 for both days for non-members. Register for the symposium at, by calling 803-252-1770 ext. 27, or by emailing The Clarion Townhouse Hotel is offering a special rate for HC symposium attendees; call 803-771-8711 and mention “Gardening Symposium” when making your reservation to receive the discounted rate.

The 2014 Gardening Symposium presented by Sox and Freeman and Green Earth Services, Inc. Additional sponsors include Dupre Catering & Events, The Perfect Rose, Erth Products, LLC, AgFirst, Modern Turf, Fuss & O’Neill and ENVIRO AgScience.

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Woodrow Wilson Wednesday: The Lone Survivor

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Just how old are the magnolias in front of the Woodrow Wilson Family Home?

Camille Drie’s circa-1872 drawing Bird’s Eye View of the City of Columbia depicts a row of trees in front of the house, but drawing does not provide enough detail to determine the type of tree. Numerous early 20th-century images in our archives show a row of mature magnolia trees along the property’s southern border, and we’ve recently discovered a placard still in place under their canopy, installed by the Magnolia Garden Club in 1938, which celebrates the significance of their planting more than 60 years prior by the former president’s mother, Jesse Wilson. In 1983, Dr. David Rembert, botanist and now professor emeritus of USC’s A.C. Moore Herbarium, completed a tree ring analysis of the existing trees and determined two were indeed old enough to have been planted by the Wilsons during their time in Columbia from 1871 to 1874.

Of four magnolias originally planted on the property, only one still stands today- can you tell which from the picture above? Visit The Columbia Star to learn more about the magnolias and their long history at 1705 Hampton Street, then come enjoy the spring weather in their shade!

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What’s Happening at HC This January?

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Party Like a President at the Woodrow Wilson Family Home on Feb. 7!

The reopening of the Woodrow Wilson Family Home: A Museum of Reconstruction in Columbia and Richland County is a little over a month away, and Historic Columbia has a way for you to get a sneak peek and help us celebrate before it officially opens!

Party Like a President at the Woodrow Wilson Family Home
Friday, February 7 | 7 pm
$100 HC members | $125 non-members

We think this freshly-rehabilitated landmark property is the cat’s meow, so we’re celebrating its reopening with a Roaring 20s-themed party in the gardens of the Woodrow Wilson Family Home. So pull out your flapper fringe, top hats and tails and get ready to party like a president!

Purchase your tickets online, by calling 803.252.1770 x 23 or by emailing

Part II of the Early Columbia Lecture Series Runs Through February 18!

Reserve your spot now- Part II of the Early Columbia Lecture Series kicks off January 7 and runs through February 18!

Part II, “The Capital City Rebuilds,” explores Columbia’s history as it rebuilds and recovers from the Civil War from 1865 to 1914. Dr. Warner Montgomery, author of Columbia Revisited, leads the series. Lectures are held from 6 to 7:30 pm at the Seibels House & Garden and will cover the following topics:

  • Jan. 7: The Civil War Refuge and Disaster
  • Jan. 14: Reconstruction and Healing
  • Jan. 21: Transportation: Rivers, Roads, Railroads
  • Optional Bus Tour: Sunday, Jan. 26
  • Feb. 4: Economic Development: Textiles & Agriculture
  • Feb. 11: Public Education
  • Feb. 18: Higher Education: Colleges & Universities

The lecture series is $50 for HC members, $60 for non-members, $35 for students or $10 per class or tour. Registration is not required but space may be limited and allowed according to availability. Registration forms are available at

Reservations will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis by mail, by emailing, by calling 803.252.1770 x 23 or online.

Early Columbia Lecture Series
Tuesdays, January 7 – February 18 | 6 – 7:30 pm
HC members $50 | Non-members $60 | Students $35
Single lecture or tour $10

Take a Second Sunday Stroll through the Robert Mills District West!

This January, join us for our Second Sunday Stroll through the Robert Mills District West on January 12.

The guided walking tour will highlight the architecture and history of this historic neighborhood. Named after the nation’s first federal architect who designed the circa-1823 Robert Mills House and the circa-1828 Asylum, today’s Robert Mills District was listed in 1971 within the National Register of Historic Places as “Columbia Historic District II.” This district contains approximately 113 historic structures embodying more than three centuries of diverse residential and institutional architecture. The tour will meet at the Mann-Simons Site at 1403 Richland Street at 2 pm.

Walk-ins are welcome; to reserve tickets, call 803.252.1770 x 23 or email

Second Sunday Stroll | Robert Mills District West
Sunday, January 12 | 2 pm
Free for HC members | $8 adults | $5 youth

Save the Date: The Palladium Society’s 16th Annual Chili Cook-Off!

The Palladium Society’s 16th Annual Chili Cook-Off gets cooking on Saturday, March 1 at the Ellison Building at the State Fairgrounds.

The Cook-Off draws hundreds of chili-lovers every year, enjoying some of Columbia’s most creative recipes as they take in the sights, sounds and tastes of this signature event. Live music, beer and wine, and more than 20 varieties of chili are all included in the ticket price. Get your tickets online, by calling 803.252.7742 x 11 or by emailing

The Palladium Society’s 16th Annual Chili Cook-Off
Saturday, March 1 | 5 pm
Advance tickets: Palladium members $15, HC members $25 & Non-members $30
Door tickets: $30

Check out these upcoming events!

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Decorate for the Holidays & Support Historic Columbia with the Palmetto Garden Club!

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Support the restoration of Historic Columbia’s gardens and make getting ready for the holidays easy by buying decorations from the Palmetto Garden Club.

Choose from a wide assortment of wreaths, garlands, table runners, flowers, pecans and garden tools. For the first time, Palmetto Garden Club is offering an environmentally-friendly garden broom made of recycled coconut palms. The wreaths are handmade in the mountains of North Carolina using locally grown greens to ensure freshness.

The Palmetto Garden Club is a non-profit organization and has partnered with Historic Columbia Foundation for the restoration of the Hampton-Preston Mansion Gardens. Proceeds from this greenery sale will support the garden restoration and other HCF garden projects.

Orders may be placed through or by downloading the order form from the website and mailing it to Missy McIver at 2 Millpond, Columbia, S.C. 29205. All orders must be pre-paid, and checks should be made out to the Palmetto Garden Club. Wednesday, October 23 is the deadline to place an order.

Orders must be picked up at the Robert Mills Carriage House on Thursday, December 5 between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. For more information, please email or call 803.252.7742 ext. 15.

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Historic Columbia Celebrates Fall with Scarecrows in the Garden, A House in Mourning

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Fall is nearly here, and Historic Columbia is ready to celebrate the season with two popular annual exhibits, Scarecrows in the Garden and A House in Mourning.

Scarecrows in the Garden

Scarecrows in the Garden displays handcrafted scarecrows from local families, classrooms, businesses and organizations through the month of October. The free exhibit is open during regular touring hours and also includes a scavenger hunt and a search for the “Sneaky Steve” scarecrow.

  • Scarecrows in the Garden Contest. Registration ends Sept. 27. Enter your ghoulish, traditional or historical scarecrows in our contest; prizes include cash, awards and tour passes. The cost is $10 for families, individuals and classrooms and $20 for businesses and organizations.
  • Sculpting Scarecrows Weekend Workshop: Sunday, Sept. 22 at 2 p.m. Take a lesson in scarecrow creation and take your scarecrow home or enter it in the contest. For $15, participants receive helpful instructions, assistance and a scarecrow kit.
  • Scarecrows in the Garden Opening Reception and Awards: Sunday, Sept. 29 at 2 p.m. The exhibit debuts as local celebrities and community leaders judge the best scarecrows. Admission for HCF members is $5 for adults and free for children and for non-members, $7 for adults and $4 for children ages 6 – 12, and free for kids 5 and under.
  • Scarecrows in the Garden Family Day: Saturday, Oct. 26 at 12 p.m. “People’s Choice Award” and “Best Class Crow” winning scarecrows will be announced as children enjoy a variety of activities and games that highlight the importance of the fall harvest and Halloween’s history. The event is $6 for the first child and $3 for each additional child or free for HCF members.

A House in Mourning

From Sept. 27 until Halloween, A House in Mourning at the Hampton-Preston Mansion will introduce visitors to 19th century mourning traditions and compare them to ones we observe today. Strict social customs required Victorian Americans to publicly demonstrate their sadness in specific ways, including stages of mourning clothing. Today, mourning the loss of a loved one is thought to be much more private than in the past- but is it really? The exhibit will show that our modern forms of public mourning, including Facebook pages, roadside memorials and tattoos are not so different than those of our Victorian ancestors. The exhibit will be incorporated into regularly scheduled tours of Hampton-Preston Mansion, and admission is $6 for adults, $3 for youth and free for Historic Columbia members.

Historic Columbia is inviting the public to contribute to A House in Mourning by collecting current pictures and stories of public mourning. Use the hashtag #HouseInMourning on Twitter and Facebook throughout the month to share photos and experiences with HCF. (Not all submissions will be used in the exhibit.)

Don’t miss our other upcoming events this fall!

Happy Hour History Tours: Main Street
5:30 pm on Fridays, September 20 & 27,  October 4 & 11 | 5:30 – 7 pm
$20 HCF members | $25 Non-members

Early Adventures: Pumpkin Patch
By reservations during October
$6 per child (ages 3 – 10)

Spirits Alive! Cemetery Tours
Thursday, October 10 | 6:30 pm – 9 pm
HCF Members: $5 adults, $3 youth | Non-members: $10 adults, $5 youth

Second Sunday Stroll: Melrose Heights
Sunday, October 13 | 2 pm
Free for HCF members | Non-members: $6 adults, $3 youth

Bluegrass, Bidding & BBQ
Thursday, October 17 | 7 pm
Palladium members $20 | HCF members $30 | Non-members $40

HCF Annual Meeting
Monday, October 21 | 5:30 – 7 pm
Members Only | Free

If you have any questions about any of our fall events, please call 803.252.1770 ext. 23 or email

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HCF Hosts Victorian Ladies Tea Party for Girl Scouts May 11 and 18!

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Girl Scouts are invited to take a step back in time with Historic Columbia Foundation at the annual Victorian Ladies Tea Party held at Seibels House, Columbia’s oldest remaining home, on Saturdays May 11 and May 18.

Girl Scouts will learn about Victorian customs like calling cards and the language of the fan as well as participate in Victorian-inspired crafts, including making herb sachets and paper dolls. The highlight of the day will be the Victorian tea where girls will learn table manners and etiquette.

“The Victorian Tea Party is a wonderful opportunity for girls to learn about etiquette, traditions and customs from the late 19th century. In addition to the tea party, girls will play games and make crafts similar to those in the Victorian Era,” said James Quint, Historic Columbia’s education coordinator.

This event is offered from 10 am to noon or 12:30 to 2:30 pm on both Saturday, May 11 and Saturday, May 18 at Seibels House & Gardens. Tickets are $8 per scout and $5 for adults and can be purchased by emailing or by calling 803.252.1770 ext. 36. Reservations are required. Group reservations are welcome.

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Make Mother’s Day Special with Brunch and the Second Sunday Stroll at HCF!

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Treat mom to a delicious meal with a view of some of Columbia’s most beautiful gardens this Mother’s Day at Historic Columbia Foundation’s Mother’s Day Brunch, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 12 at Seibels House & Garden.

Seibels House GardenThis annual event provides a scenic backdrop for a Mother’s Day she’ll never forget. If weather permits, outdoor seating will be available just in time to enjoy our historic gardens in bloom. The brunch buffet includes classic breakfast foods and pastries, as well as salads and lighter fare, all served in the beautiful Seibels House, Columbia’s oldest house. After brunch, take a stroll through the gardens and either a tour of any of Historic Columbia Foundation’s historic house museums or a spot on the Second Sunday Stroll guided walking tour of Cottontown at 2 p.m. (meets at the North Columbia Fire Station No. 7, 2622 North Main Street).

Tickets for brunch are available for $25 for Historic Columbia members, $30 for non-members and $5 for children. Ticket price includes either a complimentary historic house museum tour or a spot on the Second Sunday Stroll of Cottontown. Reservations are required for Mother’s Day Brunch. To purchase tickets, call 803-252-1770 ext. 24 or email

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Visit Historic Columbia Foundation's Famously Green Gardens for Earth Day!

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Today is Earth Day and Historic Columbia Foundation wants to invite you to explore our beautiful gardens and see what’s in bloom at our properties this spring!

Sebiels House Garden at Historic Columbia Foundation
Spring is one of the best times to be outdoors, and what better excuse to get out of the house or office than Earth Day! Stroll through the Robert Mills House gardens to see the cherry and dogwood trees in bloom. Daffodil bulbs have sprung up and created a beautiful blanket of yellow throughout the Robert Mills House and Hampton-Preston Mansion grounds. Dianthus, snapdragons, and violas are lingering from last season, while the azaleas are in full display throughout our properties. Irises decorate the sidewalk of the Seibel’s House and the Cherokee rose adorns the fence of the Hampton Preston Mansion.

Hampton-Preston Garden at Historic Columbia Foundation
Historic Columbia strives to create a lush and inviting place for visitors to enjoy, while also representing and preserving the history of our properties’ landscapes with a sustainable approach. All of our gardens are FREE and open to the public anytime we are open! We invite you to visit, take a stroll, enjoy a picnic and if you’re really feeling green, join our garden volunteer group!

Historic Columbia would not be able to maintain our many green spaces without the support of our dedicated garden volunteers. Our volunteers work with our Director of Grounds, Horticulturist and Head Gardener getting their hands dirty on various projects including planting bulbs, flowers and vegetable gardens, plucking weeds, trimming bushes and so much more!

Robert Mills Founder's Garden at Historic Columbia Foundation
HCF has teamed up with United Way of the Midlands for Day of Action THIS Thursday! Volunteer in our gardens from 1:30 – 4:30 pm, Thursday, April 25 and lend a helping hand during National Volunteer Week. Can’t make it Thursday? Our garden volunteers meet every Thursday year-round. Starting May 2, the volunteers will meet at the front steps of the Robert Mills House and assist with garden projects from 9 am – noon.

Earth Day Inspired Merchandise from the
Gift Shop at Robert Mills!

HCF’s Gift Shop at the Robert Mills House has a plethora of gardening books ranging from $15 – $50. We also sell seed packets from various plants and flowers found throughout our grounds for just $1 per pack. Come shop with us!

The Gift Shop at Robert Mills is conveniently located at 1616 Blanding Street, with free parking. We’re open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 am – 4 pm and Sunday from 1 pm – 5 pm.

Don’t Miss the Woodrow Wilson Restoration
Workshop on Gardens, May 11

Join HCF for a workshop at 10:30 am on Saturday, May 11 featuring gardening and landscape techniques. Get a sneak peek of HCF’s newest garden at the Woodrow Wilson Family Home and chat with experts from John Milner Associates about the principles behind landscape design. Reservations required. $10/$15 per person

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