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- J. Henry McGill oral history interview, 2002 November 21
J. Henry McGill oral history interview, 2002 November 21
J. Henry McGill, a Charlotte businessman who with his wife Helen founded the McGill Rose Garden, recounts his life and the development of the garden. A native of York, South Carolina, Mr. McGill moved to Charlotte as financial instability began to afflict rural areas in the lead-up to the Great Depression. After a period working in Charlotte's fragile banking industry, McGill saw a better opportunity in the growing ice delivery business and took a position with the City Ice Delivery Company. In 1950 he purchased the Avast Fuel & Ice Company, along with the property that would one day become the McGill Rose Garden. Mr. McGill explains that the property was an old coal yard, located in a desolate and crime-ridden industrial area in the North Davidson neighborhood now known as NoDa, which galvanized his wife to plant roses in an attempt to clean up and beautify the property. He describes the positive impact the garden had on the community and its residents as it transformed industrial blight into livable green space and improved the reputation of the surrounding area. Mr. McGill discusses what it means to be an All-American Rose Selection public garden, and the work that goes into selecting and caring for the roses. He details the McGill Rose Garden's current community outreach programs, ranging from basic gardening programs for preschoolers to vocational training for low-risk prisoners. The interview concludes with Mr. McGill sharing his views on the importance of outreach, the need to build connections between the garden and the community, and his hopes that the community can be advocates for the garden when he's gone.