Although part of McIntire Park, which has long been established, the currently named McIntire Botanical Garden doesn’t have a lengthy association with that name; the organization was founded only in 2008, and the gardens haven’t even been constructed yet.
So changing its name should be relatively uncomplicated, hopefully avoiding the angst currently accompanying so many other decisions about removing memorials or stripping donor names from buildings, parks and such.
The “McIntire” behind this name is, of course, the well-known philanthropist who made his money on the stock exchange in Chicago and New York and returned to his native Charlottesville to give his wealth to the city and the University of Virginia — so generously, in fact, that by the end of his life he was struggling to live on what he had left.
But among those gifts were four statues now viewed as degrading toward minorities. The two Confederate statues in the city are seen as symbolizing white supremacy, while two other statues — one on McIntire Road and one at UVa — are condemned as racist toward Native Americans.
The garden organization said it ran into difficulty obtaining participation from minorities while operating under the McIntire title. It is now requesting suggestions for a name change.
The organization has every right to change the name.
But — as we’ve seen recently with campaigns to change names of Albemarle County schools — finding alternatives isn’t always easy.
And as we’ve also seen in recent times, naming sites for people — however deserving those men and women might have seemed at the time — is a potential recipe for discord as cultural attitudes evolve.
And so, buildings and other locations really should no longer be named for individuals. Name them instead for nearby geographic features.
Schenk’s Branch runs along the property … but Schenk was a person.
Some people already have suggested Charlottesville or Charlottesville-Albemarle Botanical Garden, the most likely suggestions among several.
So far, we’d say Charlottesville Botanical Garden is the better option (a Facebook commenter points out that the other name would result in an acronym that sounds like “cabbage”).
Yes, Charlottesville is named for a person, too. But so far, that designation does not face legitimate criticism.
Charlottesville Botanical Garden tells you exactly where the site it, and what it is. Simple, safe, direct.
If you want to weigh in with your own name, submissions will be accepted through the organization’s Facebook page, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through postcards sent to 200 Garrett St., Suite H, Charlottesville, VA 22902.