Garden party brings together town, gown

Annual event at Barton-Graves House

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Preservation of Wilson will hold its 12th annual Garden Party & Art Show on Sunday, May 5, beginning at 4:30 p.m. in the Ladwig Garden of the Barton-Graves House, 800 Nash St. NE. This is the residence of Barton College president and his wife, Douglas and Beth Searcy.

The Garden Party & Art Show is an appreciation event to celebrate those who support Wilson’s rich history and value the importance of preserving our architecture, according to co-chairs of the event, Devon Stronach and Bill Hamilton.

Music will be provided by MoonLight Swing Band Jazz Quintet.

The Barton-Graves House, built in 1923, was given to Barton College by the William W. Graves family for use as the presidential residence. The National Register of Historic Places credits the property as a contributing structure in the West Nash Historic District as one of the finest examples of Georgian Revival architecture in North Carolina.

The Ladwig Garden spans from the rear of the carriage house to Vance Street and was made possible by the generosity of Dr. and Mrs. Harold Ladwig. A key feature is the Connor Fountain Garden made possible by Linda and Neill Connor.

“The Garden Party is one of my favorite events in Wilson," said Stephanie Batten, president of Preservation of Wilson. “I love everything about it ... seersucker suits, cotton dresses, spring hats, the most delicious Southern finger foods, sweet tea and sweeter personalities.”


The popular art show held during the 12th Annual Garden Party is expected to be better than ever this year. Art show co-chairs, Betsy Peters Rascoe and Anne Sauerborn Joyner, have embraced this year’s location in the Ladwig Garden with Rascoe painting a watercolor of the garden used as the invitation.

Stroll through the gardens and enjoy art from local artists in and across North Carolina. Art will be available for sale during the garden party.

Besides hosting this year’s Preservation of Wilson Garden Party, Beth Searcy is president of the Arts Council of Wilson Board of Directors and has served on the Barton College Friends of the Visual Arts Executive Board. Beth Searcy adds that “artists connected to Barton College or works featuring campus symbols and icons are particularly encouraged in celebration of this campus venue.”

In addition to campus art, inspiration for work is also drawn from the artists’ own North Carolina experiences. As a benefit to the artists, no commission will be taken by Preservation of Wilson.

A strong community arts partner of the art show is the Arts Council of Wilson and the Wilson Active Artists. “With the Arts Council’s mission to improve the quality of life for all citizens of Wilson County by providing cultural leadership and opportunities in the arts, I cannot think of a better arts partner. We at Preservation of Wilson, are proud to call Wilson a special place where the arts and preservation intersect,” says Kathy Bethune, executive director of Preservation of Wilson.

Batten will share the welcome stage with partners who truly understand the value of historic preservation, Bethune said. Stephenson Millwork Company will be the lead sponsor of the event, and Myrick Howard, Preservation North Carolina, will be a guest and part of the program.

“We at Preservation of Wilson are delighted, and very appreciative, that Stephenson Millwork Company will sponsor this year’s event. We look forward to working with Lee and his group and cannot think of a better partner in preservation.” Bethune said.

Since 1978, Myrick Howard has been president of Preservation North Carolina, one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious statewide preservation organizations.

Through the years, Myrick has received a number of statewide awards. He has twice been named Tar Heel of the Week by the News and Observer and has appeared twice as a guest on “North Carolina People,” a statewide public television program. He works in a restored 1874 downtown hardware store and lives in a 1939 historic duplex in Raleigh, his eighth renovation.


The Garden Party & Art Show is an appreciation event for the supporters of Preservation of Wilson and a time to welcome new guests to celebrate the growth of the preservation spirit, Bethune said. Preservation of Wilson is a nonprofit corporation that provides leadership in the revitalization efforts of Wilson County’s unique architectural properties. It actively promotes historically, architecturally and culturally significant properties.

Entrance to the garden party will be on Vance Street, and the event is in the Ladwig Garden. The Barton-Graves House will not be open for tours. Parking will be available at the lot closest to the bell tower, and golf cart shuttle service will be available. For more information about the Garden Party and how to get purchase tickets, visit www.preservationofwilson.com, call 252-234-7694 or email questions to kfb@preservationofwilson.com. Your only ticket for the Garden Party is a donation of at least $25 to be a member of Preservation of Wilson prior to the event. Ticket sales on the day of the occasion increase to $35.