It’s no secret that Rock Hill is home to history. But the ability to incorporate this former textile community’s past in symbolic representation in unique ways is particularly beautiful.
One profound example is located in the heart of Rock Hill and shines a spotlight on the city’s continuing economic development.
Nestled in a quiet corner of the White Home is a tall figure overlooking her arriving guests. Ann Hutchison White, “The Mother of Rock Hill” is embodied in the form of a steel sculpture, a representation of her character and work. She is poised with cross vines and Confederate jasmine growing up the base of her hoop skirt – common dress in the 1800s.
In the spirit of artist Kathy Bruce, Ann Evolving represents/explores the archetypal female form that interacts with the environment from which her roots grow. This environment is the vast acreage she owned, worked, sold, and donated to create the Rock hill we know today.
The sculpture’s material stands for the steel of the railroad that brought both tragedy and fortune to Ann’s life. With the death of her husband George, Ann persevered, finding within her a keen sense for business that allowed her to accumulate the land and wealth that would become known as Rock Hill.
The vines of Confederate jasmine that climb up the hoops of the statue’s skirt represent the family’s war effort of boarding Confederate soldiers and the enlistment of her sons, James and Andrew during the Civil War.
Intertwining cross vines, known for the cross-shaped pattern revealed when the stem is cut, speak for Ann’s religious dedication. She was known for housing any traveling ministers that passed through the area. Ann also fought to keep Rock Hill a dry town and helped to establish the current First Presbyterian Church. As the sculpture’s roots continue to grow far and wide, deep within the grounds of the White Home, Ann’s dedication to Rock Hill’s growth and prosperity of the 1800s are still seen today.
Ann herself sought ways to help Rock Hill grow with the use of her land; from which came many firsts. The first schoolhouse in Rock Hill was developed on her property in 1854. The Sunday school was started thanks to her donations. Ann’s son, James, supervised the first sidewalk installations and helped create Laurelwood Cemetery in 1872. He was come to be known as Reverend James Spratt White and founder of the Rock Hill Public Library and of the Rock Hill public schools.
With his service as Intendant, son Andrew was present when the title was changed to mayor, and Rock Hill became one of the first cities to adopt the newly developed council form of government.
Ann’s legacy guides the evolution of Rock Hill even today. Those first sidewalks are being developed into pedestrian and cyclist connectivity plans for Winthrop University, Fountain Park, and Knowledge Park. Ann’s business abilities live on through the spirit of entrepreneurship as exemplified by Collision Cowork and Knowledge Perk Coffee. The railroad George and Ann helped bring through has changed places like the Cotton Factory from the first steam-powered mill in South Carolina to a revitalized space providing major economic impacts by housing current businesses.
Ann Hutchison White’s role as one of Rock Hill’s pioneering women was, and is, instrumental in this community’s establishment and continued growth. Her image stands strong and feminine on the grounds of the White Home, continually paying tribute to the past, present, and future of Rock Hill.