Wing Haven Garden & Bird Sanctuary
Wing Haven Garden & Bird Sanctuary has been a special part of Charlotte since its creation by Elizabeth and Edwin O. “Eddie” Clarkson in 1927. Nestled in a quiet residential neighborhood just three miles from Charlotte’s bustling center city, it’s hard to imagine this was once a wide open field of red clay. Between 1927 and 1937, Eddie Clarkson purchased a total of eleven parcels as they could be afforded, and the gardens grew to nearly three acres. Certainly, the Clarksons were visionaries.
The Clarksons skillfully designed their gardens with beauty and birds in mind. Throughout, plantings offer interest in all seasons as well as cover, nesting sites, and food for feathered friends. Pools, fountains, and numerous birdbaths provide fresh water. There are formal areas, an herb garden, and woodlands with meandering paths. The gardens are enclosed on all sides by brick walls, and brick paths anchor vistas throughout. Building the walls and paths was slow-going. Over many years, on anniversaries, birthdays, or any old occasion, the Clarksons gifted each other with a thousand bricks at a time (350,000 bricks in total) to complete their vision. Plaques and statuary, integrated into the garden walls and paths, were carefully chosen over 44 years by Elizabeth Clarkson, and reflect the spirit, beauty, dedication, and passion of Wing Haven and its creators.
In 1940, Elizabeth Clarkson helped found the Mecklenburg Audubon Society, an organization still involved with Wing Haven today. For years, Elizabeth Clarkson kept a journal, noting every species of bird she nursed back to health or saw in her garden. In 1944, she compiled these observations in the self-published Birds of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, a comprehensive guide to local and migratory birds. To date, including those noted by Elizabeth Clarkson in her journals, over 150 bird species have been spotted here.
Wing Haven Foundation
To ensure the preservation and maintenance of their gardens indefinitely, the Clarksons formed the Wing Haven Foundation in 1970. In 1971, they generously gifted their gardens to the Foundation. Since that time, our Board of Directors has been responsible for maintaining the property in keeping with the Clarksons’ spirit and intent.
Today, the Wing Haven Foundation is a non-profit organization that owns and operates Wing Haven Garden & Bird Sanctuary and the Elizabeth Lawrence House & Garden.
Edwin Osborne is born to Justice Heriot and Mary Osborne (Mamie) Clarkson in Charlotte, NC
Mary Elizabeth is born to David W. and Mary Lee Crisp Barnhill in Uvalde, TX
Edwin Clarkson receives a BS in Engineering from NC State College of Agriculture.
While working for Wellington, Sears and Company of Boston, Eddie Clarkson meets Elizabeth Barnhill, a student at the New England Conservatory of music.
Elizabeth Barnhill completes her studies at the New England Conservatory and begins performing as a concert pianist.
Edwin Clarkson purchases a small lot (75’ x 225’) on Ridgewood Avenue and drives to Uvalde, TX to propose to Elizabeth Barnhill. (Within 10 years Clarkson purchases all of the vacant adjoining property, almost 3 acres.)
The Clarksons marry and settle into their new home at 248 Ridgewood Avenue.
While recuperating from undulant fever Elizabeth Clarkson begins to study ornithology.
The Clarksons rescue a family of baby bluebirds: Tommy, Lady, Little Fellow and Snuggler. Tommy will live in the Clarkson home for 8 years.
Elizabeth Clarkson forms the Mecklenburg Audubon Society.
Elizabeth Clarkson documents the effects of DDT on birds and succeeds in having the spray halted in Charlotte.
Arguing that the value of DDT exceeds its potential harm, the City of Charlotte resumes spraying DDT but agrees not to spray along Ridgewood Avenue.
Rachel Carson publishes A Silent Spring.(EPA bans the widespread use of DDT in 1972.)
The Clarksons form the Wing Haven Foundation, Inc. to preserve and protect their garden.
Elizabeth Clarkson receives an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from Queens College.
The Wing Haven Nursery Shop opens for business.
Wing Haven hires its first Director/Curator.
The 6oth Anniversary Campaign, Wing Haven’s first capital funds drive, raises the funds for the construction of an Education Center (formerly called the Willow Oak Room and now the Education Building) and the completion of much-needed repairs to the Clarkson home and garden.
Elizabeth Clarkson dies in her home on Ridgewood Avenue.
Hurricane Hugo downs over 75 trees in the garden.
Wing Haven hosts its first biennial symposium.
A Bird in the House: The Story of Wing Haven Garden by Mary Norton Kratt is published.
Edwin Clarkson dies.
The Gardeners’ Garden Tour is established to celebrate the work and dedication of ‘hands-on’ gardeners
The Wing Haven Foundation purchases a parcel of property behind the parking lot to increase the acreage available as a natural habitat for birds and wildlife.
The 1998 Capital Campaign provides funding for new facilities for our children’s educational programs, nursery shop and offices as well as an endowment.
Wing Haven hosts its first biennial Garden Gala, a black-tie event held to raise critical operating support for the garden.
The Campaign for the Elizabeth Gardens of Wing Haven funds the purchase of the Elizabeth Lawrence House and Garden as well as many much-needed improvements and repairs for the Clarkson and Lawrence properties.