A Forgotten Treasure: The Raleigh Water Garden | Goodnight, Raleigh!

Image: Dick Bell

I started out with only a Facebook status update and the vague directions “across from the Carmax on Glenwood” to go on. An hour and a half later, I found the Water Garden.

Walking along Glenwood Avenue after it leaves downtown Raleigh, one feels beyond doubt that this is not a place intended for human traffic. Furniture warehouses and car lots sit in misanthropic isolation off of a busy road with no sidewalk. You’re not supposed to walk around here, and if you do, you feel small and lost in a blinding, concrete commercial desert. On foot, you realize how far apart everything is, how much space there is that possibly no one has walked in years.

When I finally found the entrance to the Water Garden, I was surprised I had missed it. It looks like a sign for some vintage funland. Walking down the gravel path from the treeless light on the road, the light gains compassion, becomes photosynthetic, happily leafy. It was surreal, walking off of the hell of Glenwood into a place with such spiritual resonance. I had no idea what any of it meant. It was only after poking around for a while that I discovered:

  • It was the home base of Richard Bell for over 50 years
  • Richard Bell is one of Raleigh’s iconic landscape architects

I was able to meet with Kim Weiss, Bell’s biographer and close personal friend, and later with Bell himself, and this is what I learned…

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