RALEIGH — A stately home known for its collection of camellias, exotic plants and native woodlands will become a public garden and environmental center fulfilling the vision of a family that has lived there since 1950.
The owners, Mary Coker Joslin and the late William Joslin, are donating the four-acre property on West Lake Drive, off St. Marys Street inside the Beltline.
Mayor Charles Meeker announced the gift this morning at the couples home.
For decades, the Joslins have held public garden tours a few times each year. The gift guarantees the home will be a permanent place of serenity and beauty, 87-year-old Mary Coker Joslin told guests.
Shortly before William Joslin died in January, the couple arranged the donation and established the City of Oaks Foundation to support the garden.
Mary Coker Joslin will continue living in the home. Upon her passing, the foundation will take ownership and allow the citys parks and recreation department to handle management and activities.
The city must provide free admission to the public and preserve the native plants under the terms of the gift.
With its plant life, hilly terrain and natural stream, the grounds have served as a botanical laboratory for students from N.C. State Universitys College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
The familys ranch-style home will become a meeting place and classroom. The Joslin Gardens Endowment Fund will provide money for maintenance costs.
You think about having to drive out into the country to experience such a setting, Meeker said. Here we are, right in the heart of the city. It couldnt be a more beautiful place.
The property has a rich history. In the early 1900s, the land was part of a farm owned by J. Bryan Grimes, former N.C. secretary of state. The farms terraces remain visible in the arboretum area of the garden.
The land was nicknamed Arrowhead Farm because of the number of arrowheads discovered on the property. An ancient stone pestle was found as well more evidence of Native American life.
When the Joslins arrived in the 1950s, they preserved many natural features while adding an arboretum of unusual trees and groupings of native and exotic plants.
William Joslin was a key figure in North Carolinas environmental movement. The attorney was also active in Democratic Party circles, serving as chairman of the state board of elections under Gov. Terry Sanford and chairman of the Wake County Democratic Party.
Mary Joslin taught French at Ravenscroft and St. Augustines College. Her interest in botany came from her father, David Coker, an agricultural reformer, and uncle, William Chambers Coker, a botanist and co-founder of Coker College in Hartsville, SC.
The Joslins led the restoration of the Coker Arboretum at UNC-Chapel Hill. In Raleigh, they rallied neighbors to create Charlotte Hilton Green Park by acquiring land on White Oak Road before it could be subdivided into lots.
The couple was inducted last month into the Raleigh Hall of Fame.
Staff Writer Richard Stradling contributed to this story.