Outdoor Spaces

Dominion Gardens and Arboretum

Pat and John Horner's stroll garden on Historic Walnut Street is a labor of love that they share with the public.

by Tessa Cooper

Mar 2023

Statue in southwest Missouri garden
Photo by Brandon AlmsThis bronze statue titled Summer Dancer by acclaimed Tulsa-based artist Rosalind Cook waves hello to guests right when they enter this garden. Pat and John Horner purchased it in honor of their three daughters, Tracy, Amy and Cindy. Purchase Photo

A century-old home with a double lot near the center of Springfield is a rarity, but Pat and John Horner are the fortunate owners of one.

When the couple purchased their home and its adjoining parcel of land in 2016, they had several choices on what to make of their lot. They could have kept this precious piece of real estate to themselves or built another home to turn a profit. Instead, they transformed it into Dominion Gardens, a 1.25-acre park that is open to the public.

Pat and John got the idea to create this strolling garden within their neighborhood after visiting Seattle, where small public parks nestled in neighborhoods are a common sight. “We thought that to just keep it to ourselves and try to keep people out would be kind of selfish,” says John. “If you get something like this, why not let other people enjoy it?”

An iron gate with ornate scrollwork and a sign that says “Visitors Welcome” are some of the first visions that greet guests as they enter from historic Walnut Street. Beyond the gate, a paved strolling path that spans ⅛ of a mile wraps around a patinaed bronze fountain imported from Europe, and 85 trees, 35 shrubs and 125 perennials are there for your viewing pleasure.

Aside from just seven of the 85 trees, none of these touches of beauty were there prior to Pat and John’s ownership of the lot. They had room to work with after doing some necessary clearing, so they asked Tulsa-based landscapers at R.L. Shears Company, P.C. to prepare the initial conceptual landscape plan. The couple hired local landscapers to plant many of the trees and shrubs, but they have added several with their own two hands as well.

John’s brother owns Ozark Custom Engravers, so John commissioned him to make signage throughout the garden. Some of the signs are educational, and some contain inspiring scripture verses and quotes. One of the signs displays a Robert Breault quote: “I sit in my garden, gazing upon a beauty that cannot gaze upon itself. And I find sufficient purpose for my day.” Pat and John placed benches throughout the park for that very reason. “People will come out here and sit around that fountain and just ponder,” John says. 

Walking path at Dominion Gardens & Arboretum
Photos by Brandon AlmsGuests from all around the 417 region use Dominion Gardens for dog walking, picnicking, reading and small gatherings. “Once, this lady was out there, and I started talking to her,” says Pat. “I asked, ‘So where do you live?’ You know, thinking she lived in the neighborhood. She said, ‘Willard. A friend told me about this place.’ I guess word gets around.” Purchase Photo
Fountain at Dominion Gardens & Arboretum
Photos by Brandon AlmsThe bronze fountain at the center of Dominion Gardens is a major focal point of the property. The European-made fountain has a time-worn patina and incredible detail. The Horners found the fountain through an online listing from a merchant in Florida. Purchase Photo
Gate of Dominion Gardens & Arboretum
Photos by Brandon AlmsA previous owner demolished the home that once sat at this site in the 1950s. However, the original masonry work on either side of the gate remained. The Horners drew up a design for the gate and commissioned Advanced Welding & Ornamental Iron to fabricate it. Purchase Photo
Bench in Dominion Gardens & Arboretum
Photos by Brandon AlmsA total of five benches on the property make perfect places to sit a spell while a swing beckons kids. Purchase Photo
Pat and John Horner
Photos by Brandon AlmsPat and John Horner bought the garden’s neighboring home on historic Walnut Street and moved there in the late summer of 2016. They began working on their stroll garden the next fall. Purchase Photo