On a calm night in Germany, Roger Milliken relaxed in the biergarten at the Frankfurt airport. It was this night that Milliken made a decision that would change Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP) for the better.
Milliken decided to build an intimate garden in the heart of GSP.
He thought it was such a good idea, he insisted on it. Milliken wanted to garden, and the rest of the airport landscape, to become a place of beauty that people would enjoy visiting for years to come.
The original garden was 200 x 168 feet with a 60 x 25 foot reflecting pool in the center. It was surrounded by flowerbeds, English ivy, Japanese holly, azaleas, crepe myrtles, Chinese red berry holly and magnolia trees. With 5,000 total plantings, there was little room for anything else.
Unlike any other airport in the world, GSP has a formal garden between the terminal and runway, with its main view looking out on the runway, so visitors can watch planes as they take off.
The placement of the runway-facing garden surprised many people over the years, especially visiting airline and airport officials. However, Milliken believed it was one of the best features of the airport, and it was certainly the most unique and special.
By the end of 1988, the airport was undergoing extensive renovations—which included changes to the beloved garden. Although it was in the same place and the same size, the team had big plans in store for this iconic gathering place.
In the fall of 1989, the new garden was unveiled.
The new garden still had varieties of flowers, hedges, bushes and trees. The original reflection pool was expanded and a smaller pool was added. Each pool included various waterfalls and water features.
Best of all, there were finally places for people to sit, relax and enjoy the natural beauty around them. There was also one special, custom-designed sculpture that breathed new life into the space.
Commissioned by Dennis Smith, an artist from Colorado, the new sculpture displayed boys and girls dancing along the water. Smith hoped that this new piece would convey the vibrancy, freedom, passion and energy of youth.
Today, the garden is standing strong amidst the WINGSPAN renovations, and continues to pay tribute to Milliken’s vision and the idea that beauty can be found in the most unlikely of places. In fact, ticketed passengers will be able to enjoy bistro seating in the airside garden once WINGSPAN renovations are complete.
Stay tuned for our Flyer Fact Friday, and keep an eye out for more history highlights and construction updates.
– The Terminal