Farrand, Beatrix Jones (1872–1959)
Farrand, Beatrix Jones (1872–1959)
One of the finest landscape architects of her time, internationally known for her knowledge of plants and her keen sense of design, who was the only woman founder of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Name variations: Beatrix Jones. Born Beatrix Cadwalader Jones on June 19, 1872, in New York City; died in Bar Harbor, Maine, on February 27, 1959; daughter of Frederic Rhinelander Jones and Mary Cadwalader Rawle Jones; paternal niece of Edith Wharton; tutored at home; married Max Farrand, on December 17, 1913; no children.
Apprenticed at Arnold Arboretum under Charles Sprague Sargent (1892); opened first office (1895); given first important commission (1896); was the only woman to help co-found the American Society of Landscape Architects (1899); discharged last commission, a guesthouse for David Rockefeller at Seal Harbor, Maine (1949).
Princeton University, Princeton New Jersey (1913–41); Grove Point, the estate of S. Vernon Mann in Great Neck, New York (1918–30); Eolia, estate of Edward S. Harkness, in New London, Connecticut (1919–32, now Harkness Memorial State Park); Dumbarton Oaks, residence of Mildred and Robert Bliss, Washington, D.C. (1921–47); Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut (1922–45); The Haven, estate of Gerrish H. Milliken in Northeast Harbor, Maine (1925–45); The Eyrie, garden of Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (Abby Aldrich Rockefeller), in Seal Harbor, Maine (1926–50); Dartington Hall, Ltd., Totnes, Devonshire, England (1933–38).
In the words of her aunt, Edith Wharton , Beatrix Jones Farrand was born into "a life of leisure and amiable hospitality," in the highly structured environment of polite society of New York City in 1870s. Farrand described herself as having descended from five generations of garden lovers, and remembered one of the first espaliered fruit gardens in Newport, which was owned by her paternal grandmother Lucretia Rhinelander Jones , as well as the laying out of the roads and gardens at her family's summer place at Bar Harbor, Maine, when she was young.
Farrand came from a family of strong-willed women: she was very close to her mother Mary Cadwalader Jones , known as "Minnie" to her close friends, and her aunt, the well-known author Edith Wharton. She was also close to her mother's brother, John Cadwalader, with whom she frequently enjoyed shooting trips in Scotland. Cadwalader recognized her determination and her keen powers of observation, and predicted that whatever she did would be done well.
Beatrix's mother has been described as quick and energetic with an eager curiosity. Her father Frederic Rhinelander Jones was Wharton's older brother, but the Joneses' marriage ended before Beatrix was 12. To help support herself after the divorce, Minnie acted as part-time literary agent for Wharton. She also managed the New York Assembly Ball for a number of years, organized the Charity Hospital on Blackwell's (now Roosevelt) Island, and became social director of the New York 400 Club. Minnie's house was described by her friend Margaret Chanler as combining "all creature comforts with a sense of civilized tradition and intellectual resource," and she was said to have kept one of the liveliest salons in New York City. Some of the best literary and artistic minds of the period—John La Farge, Marion Crawford, and Henry and Brooks Adams—were frequent guests; Henry James corresponded with Minnie and stayed in her home on his visits to New York. Beatrix described her mother as "the best companion, wise, kindly, brave, witty and distinguished."
Farrand was tutored at home, as was common among women of her class; the boundaries imposed on women in the Victorian era caused many born to such privilege to lead primarily unproductive and self-indulgent lives, but Beatrix was encouraged to reach beyond. She had studied music and had a fine voice, but at 18, she decided against a career in that field. In her early 20s, she had the good fortune to be invited to the home of Mary Allen Sargent , in Brookline, Massachusetts, where she met the husband of her hostess, Professor Charles Sargent, who was the founder and first director of the Arnold Arboretum, then being established in Boston. When Charles Sargent suggested that she study landscape gardening, Farrand agreed to become his student in Boston.
The year was 1893, and Sargent was the dean of American horticulture, in the process of laying out the grounds of the Arnold Arboretum with perhaps America's most famous landscape artist, Frederick Law Olmsted. Beatrix lived with the Sargents for many months, studying botany, learning how to survey and stake out a plot of land, and other basic principles of her profession. Sargent advised her to study the tastes of the owner and to "make the plan fit the ground and not twist the ground to fit a plan." He also encouraged her to travel and view the great gardens of Europe, analyze natural beauty, and see the best of landscape paintings, endowing her with a sense that all the great arts are interrelated.
Under Sargent's guidance, Beatrix studied the works of Joseph Paxton, John and Jane Loudon , Jacob Bigelow, and Asa Gray. Through her studies, she grew to respect and understand the importance of botany and plants in creating beauty and improving public health. Learning horticulture first hand, she kept journals of her observations, making a study of plants that continued throughout her life.
With this grand art of mine I do not envy the greatest painter, or sculptor or poet that lived. It seems to me that all arts are combined in this.
—Beatrix Jones Farrand
Chanler, Margaret (b. 1862)
American author. Name variations: Mrs. Winthrop Chanler; Daisy Chanler or Daisy Terry. Born Margaret Terry in Rome, Italy, on August 6, 1862; daughter of Luther Terry and Louisa Cutler (Ward) Terry; privately educated; awarded diploma in music from St. Cecilia Conservatory, Rome; awarded D. Litt from Nazareth College, Rochester, New York; married Winthrop Chanler, on December 16, 1886; children: Laura Astor (Mrs. Lawrence Grant White); John Winthrop; Beatrice (Mrs. Pierre Francis Allegaert); Hester Marion (Mrs. Edward Motley Pickman); Marion Winthrop; Gabrielle (Mrs. Porter Ralph Chandler); Hubert Winthrop; Theodore Ward.
Born in Rome, Margaret Terry, known as Daisy, arrived in the United States in 1886; that December, she married socialite Winthrop "Winty" Chanler. The Chanlers, who had an estate in Newport, were great friends with Theodore Roosevelt and Edith Wharton ; Margaret often went on sojourns with Wharton, cruising the Aegean, following the abandoned trail of medieval pilgrims across the Pyrenees to the shrine of Compostela. "She was a striking rather than a beautiful woman; her strong features glinted intelligence and humor, and a readiness for affection," writes R.W.B. Lewis in Edith Wharton: A Biography (Harper and Row, 1975). Margaret Chanler's memoirs, Roman Spring (1934) and Autumn in the Valley (1936), contain observations on Wharton; Chanler also translated Gertrud von Le Fort 's Hymns to the Church (1937).
Auchincloss, Louis. Love Without Wings: Some Friendships in Literature and Politics (includes a chapter on Chanler and her friendship with Edith Wharton). Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991.
In October 1893, Beatrix attended the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, whose monumental design marked the triumph of the Beaux Arts and the end of an era of Romantic design. In the spring of 1895, following Sargent's advice, she went abroad, sailing to Gibraltar and then proceeding to Italy to visit many popular villas and gardens. That summer, she journeyed to England, where she made several visits to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, as well as to Hampton Court, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, and Penshurst, a Tudor garden that had been recently rejuvenated.
In July, Beatrix visited the home of Gertrude Jekyll , the leading proponent of the cottage garden in England and known for her use of wild and native materials as well as her harmonious and subtle use of color in garden plantings. Jekyll's approach had a large impact on Beatrix, and several features seen at Penshurst, as well as the use of plants in an architectural manner learned from European gardens, were later incorporated in her work.
In September 1895, Beatrix returned to New York, where she opened a small office in the top floor of her mother's house at 21 East 11th Street. Beginning with small residential garden designs for close friends, she built a reputation as one of the top landscape architects in the country, opening an office with a small staff at 124 East 40th Street within three years. In the 1920s, her employees were graduates of the Cambridge and Lowthrope schools of landscape architecture, which provided an education for women in the field, still denied at the time at all-male Harvard.
By 1899, landscape architects had become successful enough to recognize the need for a professional organization. On January 4, at age 27, Beatrix Jones met with Samuel Parsons Jr., John C. Olmsted and eight others in New York to found the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the first professional landscape architecture association in America.
On December 17, 1913, at age 41, Beatrix Jones married Max Farrand, a distinguished constitutional historian and chair of the history department at Yale. From then on, she divided her time between New Haven, her office in New York, and Reef Point, the couple's summer residence in
Bar Harbor, Maine. After 1927, when Max was appointed director of the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery in San Marino, California, the couple's move to the West Coast led Beatrix Farrand to adapt a number of her ideas to the California climate, topography, and plants. That same year, she began her work as a consulting landscape gardener at Princeton, which continued for many years. She later performed similar duties at Yale, the University of Chicago, Oberlin, and other colleges and universities, while also developing a number of private estates.
At a time when women who were professionals generally worked for others, or alone if they had their own business, Farrand maintained offices employing from four to six people. She primarily hired women, several of whom went on to form their own practices; her three principle assistants were Anne Baker, Margaret Bailie , and after 1929, Ruth Havey . Farrand traveled constantly between her offices and visits to clients, working many hours on trains and in hotel rooms. Commuting became a way of life, and she used her travel time efficiently. Ruth Havey, who took over one of Farrand's largest commissions after she retired, the landscaping of Dumbarton Oaks, has recalled how they worked:
I would bring the drawings being developed at the office and get on the train in New York and meet her on the train. She was usually on her way to do field work in one of the jobs. We would review the plans, she would make suggestions and critiques or changes. As soon as the review was finished, I would get off at the next station, wherever that may be, and take a train back to New York.
In late spring, Farrand would move her practice to Bar Harbor, where her family had a summer home, and return to New York in the fall. The summer office in Bar Harbor handled all the commissions for gardens located in Maine, which was an important resort area in the 1920s. After the move to California, where she spent the winters, she set up a small practice there, but never enough to justify a full-fledged office, which she continued to maintain in New York.
Around the turn of the century, as a woman pioneering in a profession dominated by males, Farrand had found the large-scale public projects available to her well-known male contemporaries, such as Frederick Law Olmsted, unavailable to her. Another obstacle was her upper-class background, which caused some not to take her seriously as a professional; to avoid classification as an amateur or volunteer, she was always careful to bill according to her professional status.
Farrand had phenomenal energy and thoroughness, and inspired others to push themselves. She had a long list of private clients, many of whom were quite well known. She did not discuss her work often, but she did once admit that there was a time in her professional life when a garden done by her was "believed to open certain social doors to its owner." She preferred to attribute her success to demand exceeding supply, but acknowledged that it did enable her to choose the work she preferred. Among the many large private estates on Long Island that were part of her work was one owned by Dorothy (Dorothy Payne Whitney ) and Willard Straight, who were her clients from 1914 to 1932. In 1925, several years after the death of Willard, Dorothy remarried Leonard Elmhirst and the couple acquired Dartington Hall, in England, which became Farrand's only overseas commission. Work there lasted until the outbreak of World War II.
In 1926, Beatrix was asked by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and her husband John D.
Rockefeller, Jr., to design a garden at The Eyrie, their summer home at Seal Harbor on Mt. Desert Island, Maine. This remains the most famous of her many works on the island, and is rare in that it remains essentially intact and maintained according to her plans (as does Eolia, the estate of Edward S. Harkness, in New London, Connecticut, now Harkness Memorial State Park).
The gardens of Beatrix Farrand all required a high level of maintenance; without proper attention, the design concept could be lost. She was a perfectionist, who wrote extensive maintenance notes, and she or a member of her staff would supervise gardeners over a period of years to guarantee the implementation of her designs. In some cases, the hiring of gardeners, and payroll and maintenance costs of a project, were handled through her office.
Farrand felt that a landscaped garden should be a place of both beauty and restfulness where people are comfortable. She also strove to convince her clients that it could evolve into a work of art if constantly refined. This required the active intervention of the designer over an extended period of time. Her approach took into account the fact that plants are living organisms each involved in a unique cycle of seed, vegetative growth, and reproduction. Even in her most formal designs, if the plants were not properly maintained, the effect after a while would no longer be true to her original composition, like a painting modified by a lesser hand.
The works that Farrand found most satisfying were those in which long-term maintenance was possible. At Dumbarton Oaks, she worked intensively over a 26-year period; her work on Eyrie, the Rockefeller estate in Seal Harbor, Maine, lasted from 1926 to 1950; and she was involved with The Haven, the Milliken estate in Northeast Harbor, Maine, from 1925 to 1945. Her work on college campuses included 31 years at Princeton, from 1912 to 1943, and 23 at Yale, from 1922 to 1945.
In the 1890s, campus landscaping received much more attention than in later years, and college campuses became an integral part of her work at an early stage. It was during this time that many of the most established American colleges and universities took on the gracious look we now associate with them. Sadly, lowered standards of maintenance over the ensuing decades have also resulted in the deterioration of some campuses.
Few of Farrand's private gardens, designed between 1896 and 1913, have survived to the present day, but drawings, plans and photographs give some indication of the nature and quality of these early works. These show a tendency toward classical lines in her designs, the use of architectural and sculptural details derived from classical models, and a strong sense of appropriateness in scale and materials.
Farrand's lifetime honors include the achievement medal of the Garden Club of America, the Gold Medal of the Massachusetts Horticulture Society, the Distinguished Service Award of the New York Botanic Garden, an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Smith College, and the rank of professor and an honorary Master of Arts from Yale. She believed that the professions of architecture and landscape architecture should function hand-in-hand from the beginning of a project to avoid working at odds with each other, and late in life her achievements in this area were recognized when she was made an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects.
The best example of Farrand's work intact to this day can be seen in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., at Dumbarton Oaks, an estate bought in the early 1920s by Robert and Mildred Barnes Bliss . Because of the rather dominating house that existed on the property and the very steep grades surrounding it, as well as the strong personal preferences of the owners, the landscaping offered Farrand one of her most difficult challenges. Farrand worked closely with Mildred Bliss, who was herself an imaginative designer, and over two decades the former farm land was transformed into one of the finest gardens in the country. The estate is now a research center for Byzantine art owned by Harvard University, the grounds receive the same meticulous care they did as a private estate, and they are open to the public.
Dumbarton Oaks and her own home, Reef Point, in Bar Harbor, were Farrand's favorite works. In addition to the designs she was able to bring to fruition there, she was free from society's bias against women in the professional realm. This expression is not always evident in her campus work, particularly at Princeton and Yale, where she was referred to by some as the "bush woman."
Dedicated to their separate lines of work, the Farrands appear to have had a happy and constructive marriage. During the last years of her life, Farrand became even more devoted to her project at Reef Point. The Bar Harbor home, which had been designed for her parents by Arthur Rotch, a Boston architect, had been left to her by her mother, and on seven acres resting against the rocky Atlantic coast, she pursued her horticultural interests with a passion. She planted an enormous variety of flowers, shrubs and ground cover interwoven with secluded paths and protected conifers; through particular attention to microclimate, she was able to grow plants that were native from Newfoundland to North Carolina. She and Max, who in 1940 was elected president of the American Historical Association, hoped to leave it behind as an institution for scholarly and experimental purposes. After his death in 1945, she continued her work there. The grounds ultimately included a test garden of native flora, a collection of single roses thought to be the most complete in the U.S., a herbarium, and a working library containing, among other things, the original garden plans of Gertrude Jekyll.
The difficulty of assuring that the estate would be competently maintained over the years eventually proved too big an obstacle, however. In 1955, at age 82, Farrand had the house torn down, sold the property, and moved many of the plants to a new home she had built several miles away. The contents of her library, the herbarium, her invaluable collection of Gertrude Jekyll's notes and papers, her office correspondence and garden plans were all donated to the landscape architecture department at the University of California at Berkeley, where they are preserved today. Beatrix Farrand lived at Bar Harbor until her death, on February 27, 1959.
Balmori, Diana, Diane Kostial McGuire, and Eleanor M. McPeck. Beatrix Farrand's American Landscapes. Sagaponack, NY: Sagapress, 1985.
Patterson, Robert W., Lanning Roper, and Mildred Bliss. Beatrix Jones Farrand, 1872-1959: An Appreciation of a Great Landscape Gardener. Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss, 1960.
Sicherman, Barbara, and Carol Hurd Green, ed. Notable American Women. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1980.
Whitehill, Walter Muir. Dumbarton Oaks. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967.
Blake Harper , graduate student, Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts