Wells Japanese Garden Offers Quiet Retreat in Downtown Newberry

By:Marie McAden

Date:8/27/2014

Tucked among the historic buildings and chic boutiques in downtown Newberry is a little slice of serenity one wouldn’t expect to find in a small Southern town: a Japanese garden.

The triangular parcel of land, located behind City Hall, features a variety of indigenous and exotic flora accented by traditional Japanese architectural elements, including a stone lantern, temple, torri gate, moon bridge and teahouse.

Many of the ornamental structures were crafted using local materials. The posts of the teahouse, for instance, held up a balcony in the Newberry Opera House before it was renovated in 1930.

It was in that same year that Newberry native and architecture graduate W. Fulmer Wells designed the gardens on family property at the base of a hill next to Scott's Creek. Wells, who studied in California, was reportedly influenced by the Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

Donated to the city for public use in 1971, Wells Japanese Garden remains a town landmark now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. From Main Street, it’s just a short two-block walk to the park.

The garden was created around two small ponds and embellished with Egyptian lotuses, Japanese irises, water lilies, crepe myrtles, and dogwood and cypress trees. Concrete footbridges, designed in a Japanese style, allow visitors to cross over the ponds for a closer look at the lush vegetation.

You’ll find benches and a table in the tile-roofed teahouse to meditate or enjoy a picnic lunch.

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