The Rocks, on North Street in Chapel Hill, is a garden display and community amenity that was created through the efforts of Preston Fox, in cooperation with the University, as a remembrance of Louise Venable Coker, wife of renowned botanist William Chambers Coker, and daughter of University of North Carolina President Frances Preston Venable. Louise Venable Coker, an avid gardener, was influential in Chapel Hill's garden club movement in Chapel Hill.
William Coker had built his home on this property in 1908. He named the property "The Rocks" for the rock outcropping on the lot's south side. William married Louise Venable in 1935. He died in 1953, and after the death of Louise in 1983, a portion of the original property was developed for the public in the area now called The Rocks.
The connection between the Cokers and the North Carolina Botanical Garden runs deep. Through his estate, William C. Coker left the University the land that was to become the display gardens of the North Carolina Botanical Garden and the wooded area known as the Coker Pinetum along Manning Drive. Also, it was Louise's father, President Venable, who had asked Dr. Coker, in 1903, to beautify a boggy pasture that was to become the Coker Arboretum—a beloved garden on the main University campus that is cared for today by the staff of the North Carolina Botanical Garden. Several University of North Carolina scholarships and awards are named for Louise and William Coker.
The Rocks property is maintained through the generous support of the University's Preston Fox Fund. One of the core values of the North Carolina Botanical Garden's strategic plan is "to honor the legacy of botany at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill," and the staff is proud to care for The Rocks and the legacy and memory of Louise Venable Coker.
Published on March 13, 2012 at 11:30:31 am.