Jasmine Hill, a 20-acre botanical garden and outdoor museum in Wetumpka, a town outside of Montgomery, Alabama, has closed. The gardens contained an extensive variety of classical Greek sculpture — both original and replicas — that depicted Olympic gods and ancient architecture.
Jasmine Hill was most famous for its full-scale replica of the Temple of Hera ruins found in Olympia, Greece.
The non-profit organization announced they would not be reopening on May 23, 2020. Although they did not disclose the reason behind the closure, it came amidst the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit many parks, museums and restaurants especially hard due to the inability for visitors to congregate at such spaces together.
The pandemic led to nearly 200,000 more business closures than usual last year, with major corporations being much less affected than small, individual companies.
Alongside its collection of ancient Greek replicas, the property was known for being an extraordinarily scenic site with many blooming camellias, bees and butterflies, a fish pond, and an ancient meteor crater. It attracted visitors from all across Alabama and the rest of the country. The grounds were a popular destination for weddings and gatherings.
During the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the Olympic torch, which originates from the Temple of Hera ruins in Olympia, Greece, made a stop at the gardens. It was lit at the cauldron of Jasmine Hill’s reproduction of the Temple, before continuing forward to the centennial games. The ’96 games are famous for being one of the most outsized events in the history of the Olympics, costing upwards of 1.7 billion dollars.
Jasmine Hill was known as “A little corner of Ancient Greece”
The Gardens were established in the early 1930s by Philhellenes Benjamin and Mary Fitzpatrick, who had a passion for Greece and wanted to share it with others.
The couple spent their early married life busily establishing a chain of stores in the South and then retired to their hilltop haven to create a living memorial to ancient Greece.
Getting a jump on the Depression, the Fitzpatricks sold their store holdings in 1927, just before the crash. After the Depression came, they were reluctant to venture into business again, so they came to Jasmine Hill to stay and make their home in the 1830-era cottage within the Gardens.
A garden of this magnitude did not develop overnight. In fact, the Fitzpatricks made over twenty trips to Greece to purchase their art, to study at the American Classical School in Athens, and to simply enjoy Greek culture.
The Gardens featured a collection of nearly 40 pieces of Greek statuary, both original and copies.
The site included a separate restored temple facade at the museum entrance, as it would have appeared in ancient times. Other attractions included fountains, stairways, and hedges.