Gardens at Risk Update

A variety of threats—building renovation, financial solvency, encroachment by eminent domain, and nearby business development—cloud the future of several public gardens around the country. Below is a summary of recent advocacy positions taken by the Garden Conservancy and new developments in each case, where applicable. Updated August 1, 2018

The Juliette Gordon Low House, Savannah, GA

A proposed renovation of the Juliette Gordon Low House in Savannah, GA, threatens to destroy a garden designed by Clermont Lee in the 1950s. Gordon Low was the founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA.

Clermont Huger Lee was the first registered female landscape architect in Georgia. The Victorian parterre garden she designed at the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace comprises intricate geometric shapes and is an important example of her work.

On July 10, 2018, the Garden Conservancy sent a letter supporting the exploration of alternative renovation plans that would preserve the garden.

Photo by Amy Henschen, 2011

Stoneleigh Garden, Villanova, PA, designed by the Olmsted Brothers

Stoneleigh Garden, designed by the Olmsted Brothers firm and a historically and culturally significant garden in the Philadelphia area, opened to the public in May 2018 but is threatened by the possible expansion of a local school district. The Lower Merion School Board proposed taking all or part of the 42-acre site to create playing fields and other infrastructure for the school district. Although there is a conservation easement on the property, it does not protect it from the exercise of eminent domain. 

On June 5, 2018, the Garden Conservancy joined with numerous horticultural and conservation organizations to write a letter to the school district to protest their proposed action. Despite some recent progress to derail the proposed taking, however, this important cultural landscape is still in danger. Read the latest news or sign the petition to Save Stoneleigh Garden at this link. 

Photo by Mark Williams

Russell Page courtyand garden at the Frick Collection, New York City

The courtyard garden designed by Russell Page at the Frick Collection in New York City has been in the news again recently due to the museum’s revised renovation plans. After public criticism (including a press release from the Garden Conservancy in 2014) for disregarding the importance of the garden in earlier designs for remodeling their buildings and grounds, the Frick’s latest proposed design, announced in May 2018, promises to preserve the garden with relatively few changes.

The Garden Conservancy sent a letter on May 25, 2018, to New York City's Landmark Preservation Commission (which reviews such proposals), stating our support for the new design, which preserves the garden as it was designed by Page. Noted public garden designer Lynden Miller has been retained to oversee the preservation of the garden during construction and the re-installation of the garden afterwards. 

We are pleased that the importance of Russell Page’s only garden in New York City has been acknowledged. English landscape gardener Russell Page (1906-1985) is considered by many to be one of the fathers of landscape design. He created the garden at the Frick in 1977.

On June 26, 2018, the Landmark Preservation Commission approved the Frick’s new proposal that preserves the garden. However, that approval still faces resistance from local residents and preservationist groups, including an injunction hearing scheduled for this September that could slow the project down further.

Powell Gardens, Kansas City

In 1984, the Powell family partnered with the University of Missouri’s School of Agriculture to develop this site—originally a farm created in 1948 by a prominent Kansas City businessman—as a horticultural resource for the people of Kansas City and the surrounding region. Today, Powell Gardens is visited by more than 100,000 people annually. The garden is home to the nation’s largest edible landscape, more than 6,000 varieties of plants, and a series of significant buildings designed by the E. Fay Jones, a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright.

On May 15, 2018, the Garden Conservancy sent a letter opposing the siting of a “factory farm” just three miles from the garden. Factory farms produce air pollution in the form of particulates, odors, methane, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and ammonia, as well as polluted water run-off, all of which are toxic to people, animals, and plants up to six miles away. Sadly, despite vehement public opposition, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources has approved the permit and the Valley Oaks Steak Company began moving forward with the factory farm.

On July 26, 2018, Missouri's Administrative Hearling Commission placed a stay on the expansion of Valley Oaks Steak Company's factory farm. A final hearing on the permit is scheduled for August 27, 2018, in Jefferson City. 

Steepletop, Edna St. Vincent Millay’s garden, Austerlitz, NY

Steepletop, the home of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and now a garden and house museum in Austerlitz, NY, is at risk of closing its doors. The Millay Society owns and manages the unique site, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1972. In April 2018, they announced that  they cannot continue operating the property unless one million dollars are raised by the end of 2018.

You can learn more about the garden on our website’s Steepletop page and contribute to their appeal at In 2003, the Garden Conservancy began advising on planning for the garden’s future, including supporting the creation of a master plan in 2004. Steepletop has also participated in our Open Days program several times. 

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