As an advocate for garden preservation, the Garden Conservancy takes a public stand to protect at-risk gardens. Listed below are some examples of how we are speaking out for gardens:
The Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, National Mall, Washington, DC
The Garden Conservancy joined several other cultural and preservation organizations in raising concerns about the redesign of the sunken sculpture garden at the Hirshhorn Museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC. As currently proposed, the redesign destroys key features of the postwar landscape design, a masterwork of Modernist landscape architecture by Lester Collins. Read our letter to the National Capital Planning Committee.
Garden Conservancy President and CEO comments in the letter that "this sculpture garden by Lester Collins one of the most important examples of Modernist landscape design. It is in complete harmony with the Brutalist architecture of the Hirshhorn Museum."
The McGinley Garden, 582 Blue Hill Avenue, Milton, MA
The McGinley Garden in Milton, MA, was designed by renowned landscape architect Ellen Shipman in 1925 and is a stunning example of her garden design philosophy: the close integration of house and garden. The site is an example of living history, representing the work of several significant figures in American architecture and landscape architecture. The Garden Conservancy had the honor of opening the McGinley Garden to the public through our Open Days program several times between 2016 and 2018, drawing keen visitors from all over the world.
Both the house and garden, which are privately owned, are currently threatened by an application to raze the site and build 120 multi-family rental units and 180 parking spaces. On April 22, 2020, the Garden Conservancy joined scholars, the Cultural Landscape Foundation, and other cultural organizations in opposing the development proposal, sending a letter to the Mass Finance Housing Agency. Similar letters of opposition were also sumitted by Michael D. Dennehy, town administrator for the Town of Milton, and by preeminent landscape historian Judith B. Tankard.
UPDATE - September 2020: The developer has been given site approval by Mass Housing for the project and must now go before the local Milton, MA, Zoning Board of Appeals for a Comprehensive Permit. At this time, however, due to the Governor's State of Emergency guidelines concerning the novel coronavirus, the Milton Zoning Board of Appeals has decided not to hold any hearings until they can do so in person. They have up to 60 days after the State of Emergency has been lifted. This can be an incredibly lengthy process, and given current conditions, is being extended.
How you can help: Members of the public can express their concerns in writing to the following individuals: Mr. Michael Busby, Mass Housing Finance Agency, One Beacon Street, Boston MA 02186 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (Note the following at the beginning of your correspondence: 582 Blue Hill Avenue; Chapter 40B Application—MH ID no. 1071); Mr. Michael Dennehy, Town Administrator, Town of Milton Select Board, Town Office Building, 525 Canton Avenue, Milton, MA 02186, (617) 898-4800, E-mail: email@example.com (Note: 582 Blue Hill Avenue; Chapter 40B Application)
Plaza sculpture garden at the National Geographic Headquarters, Washington, DC
"Marabar," a significant work of art by renowned artist Elyn Zimmerman that was commissioned by National Geographic in 1984 for the entry plaza at their Washington, DC, headquarters, is threatened by the proposed redesign of the headquarters. On May 27, 2020, the Garden Conservancy joined other preservation and cultural groups in urging the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) for the District of Columbia to reconsider its previous approval for the renovation plans. Read our letter.
UPDATE: The May 28, 2020, issue of the New York Times reported that the Historic Preservation Review Board asked National Geographic to suspend its current campus redesign plan pending further review of the proposed removal of an acclaimed sculptural installation on the site.
The Russell Page courtyard garden at the Frick Collection, New York, NY
The courtyard garden designed by Russell Page at the Frick Collection in New York City made news in 2018 because of 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 proposed a new design, announced in May 2018, which promised 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.
On June 26, 2018, the Landmark Preservation Commission approved the Frick’s new proposal. On January 23, 2020, the Garden Conservancy sent a letter to the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals, commending the Frick's decision to acknowledge the significance of this garden in its current plans for expansion. Read the letter. Learn more about this garden.
The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, NY
On October 29, 2019, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission approved plans to re-vamp the Charles McKim-designed Morgan Library & Museum exteriors for the first time in the landmark's 112-year history. Read the Garden Conservancy's letter in support of this project. Learn more about the Morgan Library & Museum.
Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn, NY
On July 23, 2019, the Garden Conservancy sent a letter opposing the redesign of Fort Greene Park, in Brooklyn, NY. The proposed plan would destroy multipurpose cobblestone-and-grass relief mounds designed by pioneer American landscape architect Arthur Edwin Bye, Jr. in the 1970s. Read the letter. Learn more about Fort Greene Park.
Brooklyn Botanical Garden, Brooklyn, NY
A proposed high-rise development at 960 Franklin Avenue would block sunlight and harm the Brooklyn Botanical Garden's unparalleled plant collections. Learn more about this threat and how to oppose this rezoning to protect the integrity and beauty of the garden.
Powell Gardens, Kansas City, MO
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.
On July 26, 2018, Missouri's Administrative Hearing Commission placed a stay on the expansion of Valley Oaks Steak Company's factory farm. The Valley Oak Steak Company closed in August 2019 due to opposition to the proposed expansion of their factory farm. Learn more about Powell Gardens.
The Juliette Gordon Low House, Savannah, GA
In 2018, proposed renovation of the Juliette Gordon Low House in Savannah, GA, threatened 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.
On March 10, 2020, the Garden Conservancy sent another letter, this time to the Metropolitan Planning Commission, in Savannah, GA, imploring them to carefully consider the importance of preserving the cultural legacy of Claremont Lee when reviewing the new plans submitted by the Girl Scouts, USA, in November 2019, which threaten Lee's original design intent. Read the letter. Learn more about the Juliette Low Birthplace.
UPDATE MARCH 2020: Despite efforts by the Garden Conservancy and other organizations to reconsider the importance of preserving this garden, it was reported that original renovation plans, which would destroy the garden, are proceding.
Stoneleigh Garden, Villanova, PA
Stoneleigh Garden was designed by the Olmsted Brothers firm and is a historically and culturally significant garden in the Philadelphia area. Shortly after opening in 2018, Stoneleigh was 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 progress to derail the proposed taking, this important cultural landscape is still in danger. As of January 2020, the Lower Merion School District is considering several options for the construction of new playing fields. Learn more about Stoneleigh.
RUSSELL PAGE, THE EDUCATION OF A GARDENER:
"There are few gardens that can be left alone. A few years of neglect and only the skeleton of a garden is left."
RICHARD MOE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION;
“Important gardens are an essential part of our irreplaceable heritage — as much a part of the historic preservation landscape as buildings, birth sites, and battlefields.”
A few personal perspectives