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.

Lord and Schryver’s design work is rooted in a Pacific Northwest planting palette, but derives its aesthetic and style from England, Spain and Italy. In many ways, Gaiety Hollow, the designers’ home and office, reflects the oft praised Pacific Northwest food movement, which deftly brings culinary traditions from across the ocean to mingle with an incredible bounty of local ingredients. It is a rare example of a landscape that reflects the pure realization of a designer’s hand and mirrors the Beaux Arts style they studied together during an influential tour of European landscapes. Its design is an expression of two well-trained and traveled artists who manifested their design principles in a living, breathing space.

Elizabeth Lord (1887-1976) and Edith Schryver (1901-1984), the first women landscape architects to open a practice in the Pacific Northwest, were trained in the Beaux Arts tradition that dominated the United States in the early 20th century. Both graduates of the Lowthorpe School in Massachusetts, they were educated by leading landscape architects and designers of the time, including Ellen Shipman, before opening their office in 1929.

Brick path axis, 2008 image: Laurie Matthews
Brick path axis, 2008
image: Laurie Matthews

Gaiety Hollow, designed in 1932, reflects the English and Spanish Colonial Revival styles with its classical forms, symmetry and rich ornamentation. These styles were considered the pinnacle of good taste during the era and reflected the country’s heightened appreciation, pride and awareness of America’s colonial past. Gaiety Hollow vividly reflects these styles and exemplifies how deft Lord and Schryver were in blending different styles into one holistic garden design. Architect Julia Morgan, who was designing Hearst Castle around the same time, is well known for this often underappreciated skill.

English Colonial Revival style elements present in Gaiety Hollow’s design include well-ordered geometric gardens, precisely laid walks, planting beds with crisp edges, and a parterre plan. This style fit well with the English Colonial Revival style house and office they were building at the same time and mirrored a lot of the work that Edith had done while working for Ellen Shipman. The Spanish Colonial Revival style elements in Gaiety Hollow’s landscape include its powerful axial organization, garden rooms with water features, and sharply-edged hedging. These design elements reflect many of the gardens, like the Alhambra, that Elizabeth and Edith visited while studying abroad in England, Spain and Mallorca.

Though Elizabeth and Edith didn’t attend Lowthorpe at the same time, their paths crossed in 1927 on a trip to Europe organized by the school. Seeing and studying the venerated Beaux Arts landscapes of Europe was critical for Lord and Schryver in developing a design vocabulary they would bring to Gaiety Hollow and their work in the Pacific Northwest. They traveled to England, France, Italy and Spain. Edith’s travel diaries and sketchbooks, which were only recently reviewed in depth, provide an intimate look at the details of their European trip. Sketches of landscape details from Son Marroig and Monestir de Miramar on Mallorca and Villa Petraia in Italy show how closely they were studying these gardens, including noting tread and riser dimensions of a fountain at Villa Petraia. Their travels in England took them to homes and gardens designed by Sir Edward Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll, as well as garden cities such as Hampsted and Welwyn.

Gaiety Hollow possesses shades of these landscapes—fountains and statuary forming focal points of garden spaces, lush planting designs that provide interest every season, and meticulously manicured evergreen hedges that border planting beds. They filled scrapbooks with design example, mainly photographs and sketches, they gathered during this trip—which they referenced throughout their careers, beginning with their design for Gaiety Hollow.

Gaiety Hollow is a true reflection of their own aesthetic and exemplifies how their design principles, which were incredibly well articulated, play out in a Pacific Northwest landscape. They served as both designer and client so the design isn’t filtered by another’s styles, tastes, budget constraints or desires. Few examples of landscape architects’ own gardens exist today, and fewer still have been preserved with such care.

Lord and Schryver’s skill at adapting the Beaux Arts style to the West is remarkable. They brought a formal established style to a perceptively more wild country. Like no one before them, they merged the style with an abundant array of plant materials that thrive in this climate. This is especially evident at Gaiety Hollow where they emphasized axial organization and designing garden rooms that extend the living space of the small house and office into a garden with Oregon white oak canopies, evergreen and herbaceous perennial borders, and boxwood edges. Lushly planted garden spaces extend the use of the landscape into intimate corners ripe for reflection and open lawn spaces perfect for gatherings.

Current Status

Gaiety Hollow is stewarded by the Lord & Schryver Conservancy. Their mission is to “preserve and interpret the legacy of Lord and Schryver to promote a greater understanding of their contribution to Northwest landscape architecture.” The Conservancy is currently raising funds to purchase the property and rehabilitate the garden to its period of significance which will allow them to open this former private property more widely to the public and develop programs and events that meet their mission.

Though already listed as a contributing resource in the Gaiety Hill/Bush’s Pasture Park Historic District in Marion County, Oregon, documentation for the property has been updated based on the research that informed the HALS documentation and is currently being reviewed by the National Park Service for listing as an individual resource.

by Laurie Matthews, ASLA, HALS Liaison, Oregon Chapter

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