A Janesville Treasure

Rotary's Formal Gardens
dwm photo
While growing up in Janesville, one of the last things anyone would have predicted was that someday the city would have a garden spot pretty enough to attract attention from around the state, let alone nationally.

Rotary Gardens is a true treasure now.  But in 1981, when I graduated, this area of the city was mostly piles of debris and left-over industrial relics from years past.  On one side was the city's swimming spot called Lions Beach; on the other a water-filled former quarry known as locally as Atlas Pit.

In 1988, a retired doctor approached the local Rotary Clubs about developing a botanical garden.

The story is quite a read of civic pride and determination.

Good soil replaced bad.

Actually, good soil had to be trucked in by 800 dump trucks (15,000 yards) to cover the sand and gravel.

The Fountain  (dwm)
It opened to the public in 1991.

The work continued and continues still.  On my visit I chatted awhile with a gentleman who gives hundreds of hours each year to the garden.  There are many like him and the results are on display around every turn.

The Japanese Bridge from
the north path.  (dwm)
The Gardens are amazing.

Ancient Bamboo sprouts like super-size Asparagus.

The  Japanese Bridge is a beautiful focal point from nearly any part of the park.  It leads from land on two sides, skims the water, and elegantly joins in the center.

Less impressive from a distance, but as beautiful is a stone arch.

This arch framed the front door of
the Parker Pen Headquarters. (dwm)
Parker Pen started in Janesville in 1888.  A new main office was built in 1919, it's entrance framed by a refined arch.  It welcomed the world for 60 years then renovations put it into storage at the local historical society.

Fittingly, it now stands in front of the Parker Sunken Garden, welcoming guests again from around the world.

Parker Pen, like General Motors, were big pieces of Janesville during my youth.  The idea of them disappearing someday would have sounded like a cruel joke.

Or,  as likely as a dead stretch of land becoming the Janesville's Garden and attraction.