Pioneer Landscape and Garden Designers Featured in Cultural Landscape Foundation Encyclopedia
Articles by Barbara Geiger, Arthur Miller, and Others Showcase Local Designs and Their Creators
It is widely known that almost all of Lake Forest’s landscape space including open space, parks, gardens, forecourts, terraces, and homes has been professionally designed by landscape gardeners, architects and designers. Several books of the last two decades have detailed this phenomenon.
The Cultural Landscape Foundation’s Charles Birnbaum, who edited Pioneers of American Landscape Design in 2000, produced in 2009 a second volume of shorter biographical sketches of pioneer landscape designers, Shaping the American Landscape: New Profiles from the Pioneers of American Landscape Design Project, ed. Charles A. Birnbaum and Stephanie S. Foell (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009), 446 pp. This is a second compendium of one hundred and sixty short biographies with bibliographies and locations of places to visit. The earlier book included biographical sketches on notables who created local gems, including Jens Jensen (about forty across the larger Lake Forest estate area), Warren Manning, Rose Standish Nichols, O. C. Simonds, Ellen Biddle Shipman, and Ferruccio Vitale. Fortunately, Birnbaum followed up with a second group of essays to continue the project of documenting these masters’ works and careers.
Barbara Geiger, author of the 2011 biography of landscape gardener O. C. Simonds, contributed an essay on James Roy West, a Simonds partner who also designed the grounds of Lake Forest High School. A University of Washington scholar of women landscape architects, Thaisa Way, contributed an article on Annette Hoyt Flanders. After attending the 1916 LF Garden Club study program here under Ralph R. Root, Flanders went on not only to create several local gardens but to have a New York-based career with Ferruccio Vitale and to have her own notable design firm. This writer, too, contributed articles on Almerin Hotchkiss, creator of the 1857 town plan of Lake Forest; Frank Calvert, by 1860 designing most estates here; U. of Illinois professor and formalist Ralph R. Root; Louise Stone Hubbard; and Jensen’s successor in his firm, Marshall Johnson. Other designers profiled who worked locally or had a marked influence include William C. Egan, Gertrude Kuh, Franz Lipp, and Charles Blair Macdonald (golf courses).
In addition, several area sites are listed at which the work of these designers can be observed. Hotchkiss’s 1857 town plan survives, of course, and is mostly well-respected. Marshall Johnson’s 1950s carefully informal subdivision of the very formal Villa Turicum managed to honor the original Charles A. Platt pool and terraced water course on one lot; and his rose garden in the Libertyville town square also still pleases visitors. A whole section at the end of the book details opportunities.
by Arthur H. Miller