Photo credit: Anne and Edward Spencer, at far left, with friends in the garden. Photograph courtesy of The Anne Spencer Memorial Foundation.
For years the contributions of American female landscape architects have been recognized, but perhaps never so poignantly as now. During months of lockdown and pandemic-related upheaval, many people across our country have rediscovered the joys inherent in our landscapes, whether publicly (and socially distanced) or privately (safe at home).
The announced goal of The Cultural Landscape Foundation’s Landslide exhibition is to draw immediate and lasting attention to threatened cultural landscapes. With the announcement of Landslide 2020, this year’s thematic report features twelve places nationally known for their cultural significance and states that their associations with women may often go unrecognized. On TCLF’s website Landslide 2020: Women Take the Lead, these places are identified on a map with a report on each.
“Women who Shaped the American Landscape highlights cultural landscapes from around the nation that were designed by or are associated with women. Many of the places featured in this year’s thematic report are nationally known for their historical and cultural significance. However, their associations with women may be unrecognized, leaving these important legacies under threat. Taken together, these sites highlight the significant roles of women in designing the world around us. This year’s report emphasizes the importance of honoring women’s landscape architecture work so that these sites survive into the future for the enjoyment of the public.”
Four landscapes are located in the South and have long been familiar to members of the Southern Garden History Society. By clicking on “Landscapes of Clermont Lee Savannah, GA” one may hear an interview with Ced Dolder, current SGHS board member. Other public sites in the South are Thomas Polk Park in Charlotte, NC, and Dumbarton Oaks Park in Washington, DC, which includes an interview by SGHS member Judith Tankard, whose article on Beatrix Farrand is featured in the upcoming Magnolia.
In addition to professionally designed public landscapes, another site is the wonderful domestic landscape designed and gardened by Anne Spencer, poet of the Harlem Renaissance and avid gardener. Former SGHS Board Member Jane Baber White led the effort to save this garden, which became the first home and garden of an African American to be part of Historic Garden Week in Virginia.
On October 21, 2020, the New York Times published an article The Little-Known Women Behind Some Well-Known Landscapes interviewing Charles A. Birnbaum, president and chief executive of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, and highlighting this Landslide initiative.
The Times article points out that the initiative is timed to the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.
Landslide 2020: Women Take the Lead is brought to us by TCLF
Landslide states its goal is “to draw immediate and lasting attention to threatened cultural landscapes.”
“Landslide sparks debate, revealing the value of places we experience daily and encouraging informed community-based stewardship. Landslide monitors at-risk landscapes and produces annual thematic reports to help save our shared landscape legacy for future generations. Through web-based news stories, traveling exhibitions, technical assistance, and print publications, Landslide mobilizes and amplifies support for that legacy at the local, state, and national level.”
Landslide 2020 features the work of Clermont Lee in Savannah, including the recently demolished garden at the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace.
Please enjoy the following two short videos, one with Ced Dolder about Clermont Lee’s legacy, and the other with Carleigh Hessian about the Low Birthplace landscape, which she documented.
Ced Dolder, a Southern Garden History Society board member, recently published the following article to our website.
“In the fall of 2015, the Girl Scouts USA, now a corporate entity, sent out a letter asking for monetary gifts to redesign the garden area at the Birthplace. The corporate ideal was to remove the parterred garden, place bluestone pavers in the space, and line it with tropical plantings. This formula was preferred because they felt the space was not practical for disabled girls, was not practical for Girl Scout bridging ceremonies, and was no longer financially practical to maintain. To the GSUSA’s surprise, a loud push back was triggered, protesting the destruction of the garden.”