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Local florist donating rare piece of local history to Airlie Gardens

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WILMINGTON, NC (NEWS RELEASE) - When Dana Cook bought and took over Julia’s Florist – and subsequently Rehder’s Florist – two years ago, she knew a box of Rehder relics existed in the shop’s attic. It remained untouched as she immersed herself in learning the ins and outs of her new Wilmington business. Now, however, that once overlooked box is about to become an official chapter in the region’s rich history.

“I just never seemed to have the time to go through it,” said Cook, who recently announced plans to donate the nostalgic piece of state history to Airlie Gardens, a well-recognized landmark in the Southeast. “This is too interesting not to share with the rest of the community. It’s really all of ours.”

Cook will officially turn over the Rehder documents, photographs and other items to Airlie Gardens at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 20 at the main building. Cape Fear Museum staff will help record and accept the artifacts. The pieces will then be housed in the North Carolina Room at the downtown branch of the New Hanover County Library. Airlie Gardens will make copies of photographs and other documents to display on-site.

These historical pieces have a special meaning for the entire Wilmington and Cape Fear region, said Jim McDaniel, director of Parks, Gardens and Senior Resources for New Hanover County.

“They provide a rare glimpse of local history and all beauty the area has shown over the years,” McDaniel continued. “Too often history finds its way to the trash, never to be seen again, but the generous gift to Airlie Gardens, and the community as a whole, will insure an important piece remains.”

In late 2010, Cook decided to put some time aside and open the treasure chest – of sorts. It contained photos, yellowed newspaper clippings and other historical objects that chronicle one of the best-known names in North Carolina’s gardening world.

On making her decision to donate the box of artifacts for the entire area to experience, Cook said the Rehder name is synonymous with flowers and gardening even beyond Wilmington. She explained that it only make sense the findings be showcased at Airlie Gardens, as the Rehder family had strong ties to the floral haven as well as to the Azalea Festival.

“Airlie is a good home for these memories,” she explained.

McDaniel agreed. “[These artifacts] also capture the rich details of Henry Rehder’s important contributions to past Azalea Festivals,” he said. “This is key for Airlie as well since we were the location of one of the first outdoor celebrations of this grand festival.”

A few things will remain in Cook’s possession, including the Rehder Florist sign and an original brochure from the shop's opening. She said they’ll serve as reminders of the past and aspirations for the future of Julia’s flower shop.

“Rehder’s was started by a woman in the 1800s,” Cook marveled. “She was a trailblazer and someone to be admired. I hope we can continue that tradition.”

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