Clarence Steppe, Nurseryman, Founder of Wayside Nurseries

Balentine’s Cafeteria at Cameron Village in Raleigh in the 1960s. Image from the State Archives.On May 5, 1913, Clarence Steppe, noted landscape nurseryman, was born at Dana in Henderson County.

Known throughout his life as “Kit,” Steppe graduated from high school in McDowell County and attended Lenoir-Rhyne College before earning a diploma from the American Landscape School and working for the National Park Service through the 1930s.

Steppe earned degrees in nuclear engineering and political science from the University of Tennessee and served with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and with the Navy during World War II.  Between 1946 and 1951 he worked with the North Carolina Division of State Parks.

In 1951, Steppe founded Wayside Nurseries on U.S. 64 east of Raleigh, and in time he received 15 national awards for landscape engineering. He held a patent for the Pink Sachet, a flowering dogwood tree.

The North Carolina Farm Bureau headquarters, Balentine’s Cafeteria in Cameron Village and Quail Corners Shopping Center were among his commissions in Raleigh. He also landscaped portions of the Research Triangle Park, the campus of St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, Charlottetown Mall in Charlotte and the grounds of Reynolds Tobacco Company in Winston-Salem.

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