The Gardens of August: Wyndygoul

Lantern slide of Seton’s manor house at Wyndygoul, Cos Cob, Connecticut, circa 1900 image: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ggbain-01507

Lantern slide of Seton’s manor house at Wyndygoul, Cos Cob, Connecticut, circa 1900
image: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ggbain-01507

Part of a Research, Reachout & Restore series on historic and cultural landscapes

A century after the start of the First World War and 53 years since The Guns of August was published, the garden where Barbara Tuchman wrote her Pulitzer Prize-winning work reveals itself.

Barbara Tuchman’s daughter once mentioned the garden to me in passing, recalling a Japanese maple—or was it a weeping cherry, with layered limbs cascading over stone walls onto the smooth surface of the pond? It was her grandfather’s, Maurice Wertheim’s, garden. This frugal recollection, like a grudging haiku, conjured an elegant landscape. I couldn’t shake it.

Since our conversation many years ago, I pieced together the few threads and clues that I remembered. Earlier this spring, I finally found the elusive garden and learned about its storied past. It remains extant, albeit threadbare. Originally it was the property of Ernest Thompson Seton, a wealthy naturalist and Englishman who bought up six old farmsteads in the village of Cos Cob, Connecticut, creating his country estate in 1900 and naming it Wyndygoul, Scottish for windy glen.

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ASLA Marks Centenary of Rome Prize

The American Academy in Rome image: James O'Day

The American Academy in Rome
image: James O’Day

Centennials are occasions upon which to reflect and bestow honor. This year, the American Society of Landscape Architects has an important, historic event to observe—the centenary of Edward Lawson, FASLA, winning the prestigious Rome Prize in Landscape Architecture at the American Academy in Rome in 1915. Lawson was the first landscape architect to win the coveted prize, which was sponsored by ASLA. It was a turning point for the profession as well as for this newly-minted Cornell graduate.

At the July meeting of the Potomac Chapter of ASLA, Brett Wallace, ASLA, and Shawn Balon, ASLA, of the Executive Committee endorsed the proclamation submitted by James O’Day, ASLA, the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) Chapter Liaison, to recognize the achievements and historic importance of Lawson’s ASLA-sponsored fellowship at the American Academy in Rome.

The presence of Lawson at the academy was a coup de main for ASLA. After years of striving, the nascent and evolving profession would be accorded the same recognition that its “sister” arts—architecture, painting and sculpture—had enjoyed since the academy’s inception in 1894. The new fellowship in landscape architecture made it possible for young professionals to join the collaborative dialogue that was shaping city planning and urban design.

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Documenting Modernist Landscapes

One of Sunset Magazine's temporary demonstration gardens image: Chris Pattillo

One of Sunset Magazine’s temporary demonstration gardens
image: Chris Pattillo

The theme of the 6th annual Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) Challenge is to document a Modernist Landscape—preferably a site that reflects the unique landscape from the region you live in. Luckily for us Californians, we have much to choose from. Thomas Church, Garrett Eckbo, Lawrence Halprin, Robert Royston and Theodore Osmundson all lived and practiced in the San Francisco Bay Area and created memorable modernist designs. When an email went out announcing the theme of this year’s challenge, one of our HALS Northern California Chapter members responded promptly to alert us that one of Church’s most well known and most visited landscapes is potentially threatened.

If one posed the question, “what one thing has influenced California gardens more than anything?” myriad responses would result. Our varied and generally temperate climate would be one good answer. But upon reflection, I’m certain many would agree that Sunset Magazine has done more to influence how our gardens look, what plants we try, and how creatively we imagine our outdoor living spaces than anything else. Just to prove my point, try Googling Sunset Magazine—78 million hits pop up instantly.

In 1951, magazine owner Larry Lane commissioned local architect Cliff May to design the headquarters building for Sunset Magazine. At the same time, he looked to Thomas Church, the premier local Landscape Architect, to partner with May to design the setting. The result of their collaboration is a powerful representation of idealized California living. Visiting the property, one enters through oversized, wooden double doors into a high-ceilinged and spacious lobby and at the same time into Church’s landscape. Opposite the doors is a glass wall the full length of the lobby, so that upon entering the building one feels they are instantly in the garden.

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The 2015 HALS Challenge

Skyline Park, HALS CO-1, Denver, CO image: Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey Collection

Skyline Park, HALS CO-1, Denver, CO
image: Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey Collection

Documenting Modernist Landscapes

“How do you design an environment where man can grow intellectually…a total environment that encourages and develops the self expression of every individual in it?”
–Robert E. Marvin

The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) was created in 2000 to document our country’s dynamic landscapes. Much progress has been made in identifying cultural landscapes but more is needed to document these designed and vernacular places.

For the 6th annual HALS Challenge, we invite you to document modernist landscapes unique to your region of the country. During the mid-20th century, landscape architects responded to the regional environment using design as an agent of social change, creating human scale space, modern forms, and sculptural compositions, which were intended to be experienced rather than simply viewed.

The designs of renowned modernist landscape architects like Church, Eckbo, Kiley, Halprin, and Rose face developmental threats despite growing national awareness. The lesser known works of many other regional designers must be documented to encourage their preservation.

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Here are the 2014 HALS Challenge Winners

CCC Camp Wickiup. Photocopy of historic photographs (original photograph on file at National Archives, Rocky Mountain Region, Denver, CO). Unknown USBR Photographer, December 9, 1938 - Wickiup Dam, Deschutes River, La Pine, Deschutes County, OR image: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HAER OR-112-10

CCC Camp Wickiup; December 9, 1938; Wickiup Dam, Deschutes River, La Pine, Deschutes County, OR
image: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HAER OR-112-10

The results of the 5th annual HALS Challenge, Documenting Landscapes of the New Deal, were announced at the HALS Meeting that took place during the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in Denver on Saturday, November 22, 2014. Congratulations to the winners!

1st Place:
Allegheny National Forest, CCC Camp ANF-1, Duhring, PA, HALS PA-25
by Ann E. Komara, ASLA, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, with assistance from Susan Martino, Jennifer L. Thomas, et al – MLA Students, College of Architecture and Planning, University of Colorado Denver

2nd Place:
Mount Tamalpais State Park, The Mountain Theater, Mill Valley, CA, HALS CA-107
by Douglas Nelson, ASLA, Principal, RHAA Landscape Architects

3rd Place:
Mount Greylock State Reservation, Lanesborough, MA, HALS MA-2
by Pamela Hartford, Jean Cavanaugh, Allison Crosbie, ASLA, & Marion Pressley, FASLA, Pressley Associates Landscape Architecture/Site Planning/Urban Design

Honorable Mentions:
The Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, and Ohio HALS reports listed below.

Sponsored by the National Park Service, cash prizes were awarded to the top 3 submissions. This challenge resulted in the donation of 47 impressive HALS short format historical reports, 6 drawing sheets, and 4 sets of large format photographs to the HALS collection.

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Gaiety Hollow, A HALS Challenge Winner

Gaiety Hollow's West Allee in 2010 image: Laurie Matthews

Gaiety Hollow’s West Allee in 2010
image: Laurie Matthews

Sponsored by the National Park Service, the HALS Challenge is an annual competition, open to everyone, that awards prizes for documentation of our nation’s cultural landscapes. The results are announced each year during the ASLA Annual Meeting—stay tuned for the announcement of the 2014 winners and the theme for the 2015 HALS Challenge here on The Field later this month!

In 2013, the Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) Challenge solicited entries that documented the cultural landscapes of women, which resulted in 30 submissions. As part of this effort, Gaiety Hollow, the home garden of landscape architects Elizabeth Lord and Edith Schryver in Salem, Oregon, was documented and received a first place prize at the ASLA Annual Meeting in Boston.

Submitting documentation for HALS was an easy process for Gaiety Hollow as the documentation was developed from an existing Cultural Landscape Report (CLR), and many of the elements required for HALS dovetailed nicely with the structure of the CLR. It was really a matter of editing sections to fit the submission requirements, and no additional research or documentation was necessary.

Though the goal for submitting Gaiety Hollow to HALS was to raise the profile of this lesser known landscape and have information about its history in the Library of Congress, winning the first place prize was a real honor for the garden and its supporters. In many cases, cultural landscape studies only benefit those who are familiar with the landscape and the project, but in this case the documentation will be available to a much wider audience and will help scholars understand Lord and Schryver’s contribution to the profession and how Gaiety Hollow reflects their vision. In addition, a good portion of the prize money was donated to the Lord & Schryver Conservancy, current stewards of the property.

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Historic Preservation Highlights in Denver

Denver's Civic Center image: © Scott Dressel-Martin

Denver’s Civic Center
image: © Scott Dressel-Martin

Let’s connect in Denver!

‘Resilience,’ the theme of the 2014 ASLA Annual Meeting, is particularly relevant to our PPN’s collective work in cultural resources and historic preservation. This meeting is a great opportunity to join colleagues and friends in the great ‘Queen City of the Plains’ for discussions, outings, and exploration of the most current issues and ideas in our design and planning for historic places.

Five field sessions offer opportunities to explore Denver’s history, from urban neighborhoods to CCC landscapes of the Denver Mountain Parks to works by Garrett Eckbo and Lawrence Halprin. Eight+ education sessions explore topics as diverse as social and cultural influences in design and planning to how-to’s for working with historic designed landscapes.

The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) booth will be located in ASLA Central on the EXPO floor, along with Meet the Editors—Martha McDonald, editor of Traditional Building magazine, is participating—and TCLF will launch the new What’s Out There Guide to Denver.

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