The midlands of South Carolina would seem to be an unusual place to find a Japanese Garden. The town of Newberry has just such a hidden gem in the Wells Japanese Garden. The garden was once privately owned by the Wells family, but was donated to the city in 1970 and is now a Newberry city park.
The garden was designed in 1930 by W. Fulmer Wells. The young Newberry resident had been studying architecture in California. Fulmer was influenced by the design of the Japanese Tea Garden that he had visited at San Franciscos Golden Gate Park. The building of the garden was carried out by his father, Henry B. Wells, Sr. The small, triangular shaped garden was originally part of a larger residential property containing the Wells family home.
The Wells Japanese Garden has an exotic Asian character. The garden features many of the design elements that would typically be found in a traditional Japanese Garden. The entrance to the garden is through a Torii Gate, a traditional Japanese style gate often found at temple entrances. Torii literally means where birds reside. Most wooden Torii are painted red, as is the one in the Wells garden. A small creek flows through the garden, and a stone Moon Bridge crosses the creek. The half circle of this style of arched bridge is meant to reflect in the water below, creating a full circle between the bridge and its reflection. The garden also has two small ponds. A walking path leads to another ornamental structure, a Japanese Tea House, or Japanese style gazebo. A bench there provides a place for quiet reflection. The posts used in the Tea House were originally part of the historic Newberry Opera House, before its renovation in 1930. The garden also has a Japanese stone temple lantern, another design element typically found in Japanese gardens.
The garden contains both native and exotic plants. Visitors will find water lilies, lotus, Japanese iris, crepe myrtles, cypress, and dogwood trees among the garden plants. The Newberry Council of Garden Clubs maintains the garden as one of their on-going restoration projects. The Wells Japanese Garden is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Wells Japanese Garden is located on Lindsay Street in downtown Newberry, behind the Newberry City Hall. It is open from 7am-7pm. There are no restroom facilities in the garden. Visitors to Newberry should take time for a quiet stroll through this charming little garden oasis.