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Remembering Heroes and Empowering the Future
Freedom Walkway, City of Rock Hill

by Laurel Holtzapple, PLA, ASLA

Remembering Heroes and Empowering the Future

Artist Juan Logan and landscape architect Laurel Holtzapple, of groundworks studio, designed the Freedom Walkway project, located in the city of Rock Hill, S.C. The walkway was designed to commemorate a sit-in by college students during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Boulders provide additional seating for pedestrians and symbolize the many obstacles of the movement. Logan points out that the new paint over the existing layers of paint represent the "layers of history."
Photo Credit: Matthew Benham


When a new development was being proposed at the site of the former Woolworth Building in Rock Hill, South Carolina, the city's Quality of Life Committee recommended that a space be reserved for a civil rights public walkway within the project. This critical pedestrian connection links a main parking lot with Main Street and honors the Friendship 9 (see sidebar page 41) and those striving for equality and justice. The team of artist Juan Logan of Belmont, N.C., and Laurel Holtzapple, landscape architect and artist, of Charlotte, N.C. was awarded the project in 2014. The project became known as "Freedom Walkway."

Introducing the Artist and Landscape Architect
Juan Logan is an American artist from Nashville, Tenn., whose artwork addresses the interconnections of race, place, and power. The art makes visible how hierarchical relations and social stereotypes shape individuals, institutions, and the material and mental landscapes of contemporary life. Logan's works can be found in the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Gibbes Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. Laurel Holtzapple is the owner of groundworks studio, an award-winning landscape architecture, urban design, and public art studio. Laurel spent a decade practicing at the landscape architecture firms of Olin Partnership and Andropogon Associates in Philadelphia before founding groundworks studio. The studio's work often deals with the threads and fragments within urban historic contexts - the spaces between, the environmentally degraded or the neglected, and seeks to infuse an ecological and cultural vitality, uplifting the human spirit.

Art Inspired by the Community
The team led civil rights art workshops with teachers and students as part of the community engagement process. Members of the community were invited to give the artists feedback and ideas during the conceptual design process. Celebrating the plants of Rock Hill emerged as an important theme during these sessions. They were so inspired by the art project of a group of fifth grade boys that it was developed into one of the mosaics within the walkway. The design showcases the native and cultural plants of Rock Hill in both painted and living forms. Dogwood blooms are painted to evoke the understory of a springtime South Carolina forest. The endangered Schweinitz sunflower is intertwined with the Heads of Humanity section at Main Street, with a shared story of perseverance through harsh conditions.



Remembering Heroes and Empowering the Future

Dogwood blooms are painted high on the wall. The Heads of Humanity images represent the long struggle for freedom that a variety of people endured, thus the heads vary in scale and color.
Photo: Credit: Matthew Benham


Remembering Heroes and Empowering the Future

Remembering Heroes and Empowering the Future

Blooming spider lilies and their sphinx moth pollinators connect to the textile mosaic threads.
Photo Credit: Lauren Doran


Weaving Through the Pathways of History
The overall design references the reopening of the court docket book in 2015, vacating the Friendship 9's trespassing convictions. Blue curve patterns flow through the space, inspired by the nearby Catawba River. The pattern transitions to a basketweave at gathering areas. Basketweave patterning recalls the basket making tradition of the local Catawba Indian Tribe. Nine granite cylinders represent the Friendship 9. The cylinders, boulders, and seatwalls that were created from salvaged granite street curbs and bricks from the demolished Woolworth Building offer plentiful seating areas.

Preserving History
Ideas of hope, freedom, change, turbulence, and obstacles are integrated within the walkway. The civil rights slogan "Liberty and Justice For All" is marked on the adjacent brick wall. Historic advertisements from the wall were preserved and integrated with the new designs. The soot on the wall from the fire of the Woolworth Building in 1935 was maintained, because it was important to preserve this story of the site. The intent is for the design to become yet another layer of the site's rich history. Heads of humanity at the Main Street end symbolizes the diverse coalition of people making positive change during the civil rights movement to the present day. Turbulence, depicted in the mosaics and the mural, reflects the stormy time period of the Civil Rights era. Boulders symbolize the many obstacles to the movement.

Making History
This project has kicked off the city's public art program and it has been a catalyst for positive growth in the downtown. The Freedom Walkway is a placemaking project inspired by the events unique to Rock Hill. It is a dynamic space that offers interpretation of the past and hope for the future.



Remembering Heroes and Empowering the Future

This is an enlarged dimensioning plan of the mosaic design.v


Remembering Heroes and Empowering the Future

The 235' long by 12' wide walkway is located near the former Woolworth Building on Main Street, in downtown Rock Hill. People gather here to observe the artwork and honor local heroes.
Photo Credit: Matthew Benham


The project has contributed to historical and civil rights tourism and has been embraced by the people of Rock Hill, as well as having received numerous national and regional awards. It was awarded First Place in Clay Design - Commercial by Hardscapes North America in 2018, Silver in Brick Design, Landscape Architecture Category by the Brick Association in 2018, a Merit Design Award by the ASLA Southeast Region in 2017, and First Place for the Cultural Diversity Award by the National League of Cities.

Recognizing Heroes and Pursuing Equality
The city of Rock Hill has commemorated the importance of this project in the following passage:



Remembering Heroes and Empowering the Future

Trash receptacles and bollards used for the project were manufactured by Dumor, Inc.
Photo Credit: Matthew Benham


Remembering Heroes and Empowering the Future

The chimney, illuminated in blue at night, serves as a beacon of hope.
Photo Credit: Matthew Benham


Each year, the City of Rock Hill honors local heroes. The Freedom Walkway recognizes heroes of the past, present and future whose efforts helped to promote justice and equality for all. Freedom Walkway celebrates the efforts of the people of Rock Hill to achieve the promise of Liberty and Justice for All. At the birth of our nation, it was a founding principle that "all men are created equal" and that no person was to be deprived of "life, liberty or property without due process of law." Long after the Declaration of Independence, equality of rights and opportunities remained an unrealized ideal enjoyed by only the most privileged of our citizens. Many groups have felt the sting of injustice and marginalization while the country struggled to realize the promise of equality. Today we are closer than ever to achieving our founders' promise of equality through the heroic works of ordinary citizens. The project seeks to empower future generations to strive for equality and justice in their day and time.

Project Team
Co-Artists: Juan Logan and Laurel Holtzapple
Landscape Architect: groundworks studio (Laurel Holtzapple, PLA, ASLA, Lauren Doran, and Haoting Shi)
Landscape Contractor: The DLS Company, LLC
Civil and Structural Engineer: Kimley-Horn (Nathan Tidd, PLA, ASLA and Adam Cochran, PE)
Electrical Engineer and Lighting Designer: Elm Engineering (Kim Reitterer, PE, LEED AP)
General Contractor: Concorde Construction (Brian Ambrose and Jason Iles)
Paving Contractor: Unit Paving
Mosaic: Red Sheep Studio
Mural: Sharon Dowell Art
Electrician: Winters Electric

Specified Materials
Bollards: DuMor
Litter Receptacles: DuMor
Seatwalls: Comprised of salvaged bricks from the demolished Woolworth Building and salvaged granite curbs from the Main Street curbs removed as part of a previous city project





The Story of the Friendship 9
Main Street in Rock Hill was the center of civil rights demonstrations in the state of South Carolina in the early 1960s. The Woolworth's and McCrory's lunch counters did not allow African-Americans and were the site of many protests. A group of African-American Friendship College students took seats at the McCrory's lunch counter in early 1961 and were subsequently arrested. The nine members of the group refused to pay fines into an unjust system and were sentenced to 30 days hard labor at the York County Prison Camp. The "Jail, No Bail" strategy was started, and was soon adopted as the model for the Freedom Rides of 1961.



Remembering Heroes and Empowering the Future

This mosaic, inspired by the artwork of fifth grade boys, represents the nine Friendship College students who were arrested and sentenced to 30 days of hard labor for sitting in a restaurant that did not allow African Americans and for refusing to pay the fines.
Photo Credit: Matthew Benham




As seen in LASN magazine, February 2019.



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October 21, 2019, 8:52 am PDT

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