The City of Holly Hill is home to gnomes.
Lots of them.
The gnomes that live in and around a tree on Riverside Drive bring smiles to faces of people from around the world.
“It’s such a cool little hidden gem here in the City of Holly Hill,” Mayor Chris Via said. “I know personally that it brings a lot of joy to people. People visit it from all over the world and it’s truly unique that we have it. It’s a hidden treasure.”
The mayor also plays tourist, he said. “My two girls, we go down and visit it from time to time and they absolutely love it. It’s a really neat community thing. I know a lot of people stop there. It’s a beautiful location. It’s a beautiful tree. And then it’s just whimsical to look down and let your imagination run wild, let your children’s imagination run wild thinking about these gnomes.”
The gnome home all started in 2003 when Virginia Morris, 70, who takes pride in being the “Ambassador of the Holly Hill Gnomes,” decided the tree along the Halifax River near their home was the perfect place for such adorable creatures.
Along with her husband Dewey, 76, they bought the first three gnomes (Hall, Lee and Hill) and took them to the spot and got permission from the city to add more. The gnome population exploded over time and expanded to include a notepad at the site where people could leave notes for dreams, memorials, any thoughts the wide variety of gnomes inspired.
The idea came to her after seeing a story of a man who left papers and pencils out where he walked where children could get them. Ms. Morris said. “I thought to myself, I could do that in Holly Hill, but I am not just going to do it for the children. I am going to do it for anyone that would walk by and I am going to make it even better because gnomes are starting to become such a fad.”
She said initially it was just children stopping by the tree, but people started dropping off more gnomes and she started getting letters and other items, such as painted rocks, dropped off by people at the tree.
One such letter she read stated, “If it weren’t for the gnomes and our father, we never would have gotten inspiration. If it wasn’t for him always coming home and sitting around the dinner table talking about that gnome thing.”
Another letter left at the tree from their own daughter Heather stated, “This is my mother Ginny Morris. She is the Ambassador of the Holly Hill Gnomes. My husband passed away Nov. 21, 2019. We loved taking care of the gnome tree for my mom. He passed suddenly due to brain cancer. I’m heartbroken and so lost without him. Please make sure he is at peace now. I love you Christopher.”
Yet another letter left at the tree stated, “I left a heart here in honor and memory of my mom, Deborah Welsh. She would have loved this tree. Love you mom. You are never out of our thoughts. Love, Becky.”
Ms. Morris delivers the notes and letters to the Holly Hill History Museum where they are logged and stored.
Mr. Morris said, “The idea was to get something done so the kids can enjoy it. Some of them have a picnic down there.”
When hurricanes or bad storms come, the gnomes are forced to evacuate and he goes down to the tree and collects them with his wheelbarrow to keep them safe until the storm passes.
Besides their duty as caretakers of the Gnomes of Holly Hill, Virginia and Dewey Morris created a Lost “Sole” Tree in their backyard where old soles/shoes that have been abandoned along the river near them have been picked up and placed on the tree.
The Gnomes of Holly Hill have their own Facebook site. There is also an International Gnome Society. People have stolen gnomes from the site, but luckily other gnomes have found their way to the tree to live there happily ever after.