There’s a new addition to Butler’s gardens. The Thomas E. Willey Memorial Rock Garden, added in memoriam for a former history professor, is just behind the bell tower that you hear ringing as you head off to your 9 a.m. class.
With this new addition, we wanted to explore just what is hiding behind Robertson Hall and the majestic Holcomb Observatory. It is, after all, the product of J. I. Holcomb, who set out in 1949 to make Butler a campus shining. He knew that Butler would not be the oldest, richest or biggest college, but, as he said in a Nov. 1953 Butler Collegian article, “…with Butler having so much natural beauty with the canal river, trees, ravines and large expanses of level ground, it can have the most beautiful campus.”
PHILOSOPHER’S BENCH: If you have an ethics class getting you down, stroll over to the philosopher’s bench and receive wisdom from the wise ones such as Socrates, Gandhi, Jesus, Thomas Jefferson and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Socrates gets the place of honor, with his face and quote placed on the back wall: “Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy…cities will never have rest from their evils.”
POET’S CORNER: If English is the subject causing you the most pain, visit the greats at the poet’s corner instead. Shakespeare starts the walk off, leading to Lord Alfred Tennyson, William Wordsworth, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Matthew Arnold and then William Cullen Bryant, surrounding a tall sassafras tree.
PERSEPHONE: Located right in the heart of the landscape, Persephone stares out at the gardens. Built in Paris in 1840 by Armand Toussant, she was a gift from Holcomb in 1950. Persephone was the mythological daughter of Zeus and Demeter and the spouse of Hades. She comes back from the underworld every spring and makes the earth bloom, which makes her a perfect guardian for the gardens.
GARDEN HOUSE: It started with a simple question: where are the restrooms? From there, Holcomb and his building partner Arthur “Art” F. Lindberg started the Garden House, which began as a gardenhouse, tool shed and meeting area, but is now currently used for Butler’s fine arts classes.
MEMORIALS: Walking around, you’ll see plenty of memorials to lost relatives. A bench dedicated to Cinni Burris Hankus reads, “Rinky Dinky Do, I Love You,” and the gazebo was the gift of the class of 1995.
ROCK GARDEN: It’s the newest addition to the already prospering gardens. An anonymous gift was recently given to honor former history professor Thomas Willey. The garden is located behind the Observatory, surrounding the small waterfall and pond close to the lake. The garden has native plants and close to 80,000 pounds of stone.
CARILLON: The bell tower stands as the highest point on campus at 130 feet. It was a memorial from Holcomb to his wife. He started construction on it one year after she died. The bells produce 366 different individual tones and tonal blends. Fun fact: there are 63 steps that lead up to the tower.