200 Block of South Gregg Street
Site of Rose Hill Greenhouses
Before becoming a suburb, Rose Hill was known for greenhouses established by the Stork family. From its 'glass-covered houses' the family sold 'cut flowers and plants' as early as 1900. During the 1910s, Mitsuo Tokunaga, a native of Nagasaki, Japan, became involved in the business. In 1918, he became an independent florist whose eventual success eclipsed that of his former employer. Today, the land on which the Stork family's early horticultural enterprise once stood is occupied by Hollywood Park and six 1960s-era apartment buildings.
An Eye-Witness Account of Rose Hill Greenhouses
Listing different plants including 'field grown' roses, chrysanthemums, carnations, privet hedges, ornamental plants, fruit trees, and even 'landscape gardening,' advertisements within the classified section of The State newspaper throughout 1900 reveal the Stork family's horticultural endeavors. In 1902, a representative of The State and 'an experienced florist and horticulturalist,' by the name of Price, visited the family's greenhouses at Rose Hill, then-owned by Martin and Abram Stork, Jr. Described as featuring 'various divisions of nurseries and flower gardens' and as having thousands of 'plants and roses of the hardier variety,' the site's 'glass-covered houses' covering 'thousands of square feet' held 'multitudes of sweet scented roses and carnations of the choicest varieties,' and 'innumerable' other types of flowers, palms, and ferns,' all superiorly irrigated by water 'supplied from an elevated tank, which is kept constantly filled from a near by stream, being forced up by a hydraulic engine, which is part of the plant.'
Rose Hill Greenhouses became a staple in Columbia, and the Stork family ventured further into the horticultural business by purchasing another greenhouse in 1911. Established opposite Hyatt Park by Miss Annie Wittvogel, who had operated the facility since at least 1903, the Stork family's acquisition was comprised of six large greenhouses that serviced the growing Eau Claire community north of Columbia and was accessed by the city's streetcar line.
The family's greenhouses prospered by supplying flowers for debutante balls and weddings, and offering seasonal specials such as Easter lilies in April, Christmas flowers in December, and bulbs, seed, and even lawn grass in the spring.
Born in Nagasaki, Japan in 1889, Mitsuo Tokunaga immigrated into the United States in 1909, briefly staying in Charleston. According to his descendants, with ambitions to go to New York, he traveled as far as Columbia on foot, and decided to stay. Shortly after arriving, Tokunaga began working for the Stork family at its greenhouses in Rose Hill. There, the aspiring businessman mastered the floral business.
Soon afterward, Tokunaga married Myrtle Wagstaff and entered into partnership with A.B. Warren, when the two fellow Stork family employees purchased two lots for $3,000 in early July of 1918 from developer William Davis Melton. Under new management, Rose Hill Greenhouses was renamed Wales Garden Greenhouses. Ultimately, the partnership proved short-lived. By 1920, Tokunaga had established his own floral business, known as Shandon Greenhouses, on Millwood Avenue. According to Columbia City Directories, Wales Garden Greenhouses remained in operation until 1967.
For the next four decades Tokunaga's business flourished, eventually growing to include 15 greenhouses that resulted in his enterprise becoming one of the largest floral wholesale companies in the Southeast. All of Tokunaga's eight children worked in some capacity in the family's diversified floral business that came to include the Art Flower Shop in Cayce; Wales Garden Greenhouses; Shandon Wholesale; Riverside Flower Shop; Tokunaga Wholesale; and Shandon Greenhouses. Upon his death in 1961, Tokunaga was remembered as an astute businessman and a respected Columbian. A tangible reminder of his family's floral legacy remains today with the Japanese pagoda-inspired building at 2827 Millwood Avenue, formerly home to Shandon Greenhouses. Tokunaga's business savvy resulted in his business becoming a Columbia institution and one of the Southeast's most successful wholesale florists.