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THE SOUTHERN GARDENER

Gardens of grace: St. Michael’s church is a rhapsody of stone and tree

St. Michael’s church

The massive bell tower stands watch over the trees and the worshipers.

On Anniston’s west side stands a cherished Episcopal house of worship built by a native son, John Ward Noble, as a gift to the city. This magnificent building, the Church of St. Michael and All Angels, sits on four acres. The grounds contain lush green spaces populated by towering trees. The sight of this unique church surrounded by stately trees and green as far as the eye can see is spectacular.

St. Michael’s church

John Ward Noble, a member of Anniston’s founding family, filled the landscape with willow oaks. It is said he purchased 100,000 willow oaks for the city of Anniston, many of which were planted on Quintard Avenue’s parkway. A mature willow oak can reach 60 to 75 feet tall, and its canopy can spread to 40 feet.

The founders laid the cornerstone in 1888; the church was consecrated in 1890. The trees in the landscape are closely connected to the history of the church, as the willow oaks were planted by the founder when the church was built. These mature trees may not reach to the top of the 95-foot-tall bell tower, but their trunks are certainly massive.

A unique stone wall circles this sacred place. This wall was constructed at the same time as the building. Stonemasons from England shaped and fitted every stone in this wall; the same procedure was used on the church’s exterior.

On the grounds is a large horse chestnut tree, lovingly referred to as “St. Michael’s buckeye,” a glorious sight in bloom. Gardeners have propagated the seeds; thus, this unique tree can be found in area gardens. Some have said that the original seeds for this tree came from France.

Nature and man have joined together at St. Michael’s to create a work of beauty, a unique and holy place.

St. Michael’s church

The solid stone walls provide a beautiful backdrop to the tall trees. The sandstone used to build this house of worship came from Rocky Hollow, on the other side of town. It was transported from there on a railroad built for that purpose.

St. Michael’s church

The spring blossoms of a snowball bush greet visitors as they enter the drive to the church. It spreads across one of St. Michael’s walls.

St. Michael’s church
St. Michael’s church

Willow oaks, dogwoods and a massive magnolia are among the many trees on the grounds.

St. Michael’s church

The green space is perfect for picnics and children running about in their Sunday best.

Sherry Blanton, “The Southern Gardener,” writes about gardening for The Anniston Star. Contact her at sblanton@annistonstar.com. Follow her on Facebook at Southern Gardener-Anniston Star.

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