Women helped pioneer landscape architecture – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

“Elizabeth gladly took up her mother’s interest in gardening, helping her with events for the Salem Floral Society (later the Salem Garden Club), founded by her mother in 1915, which was the first garden club in Oregon.” – Valencia Libby, “The Northwest Gardens of Lord & Schryver,” 2021

Elizabeth Lord (1887-1974) was one-half of Lord & Schryver, the first female-owned and operated landscape architecture firm in Oregon. Lord’s business and life partner was Edith Schryver (1901-1984), who grew up in New York before attending the Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture for Women in Massachusetts during the early 1920s.

Lord also attended Lowthorpe, but the two women did not meet until they participated in a three-month European travel course, during which they visited and studied many beautiful estates and gardens in England, France, Germany and Italy. By the end of the course, the two women had made plans to start their own landscape architecture business in Lord’s hometown of Salem, Oregon, where both her parents were pillars of the community (her father, William Lord, was governor of Oregon from 1895-1899).

Lord & Schryver officially opened for business Jan. 1, 1929. Over the next 40 years, the two women completed more than 200 landscaping projects for private residences, businesses and public parks in Oregon and Washington. Schryver’s “delicate and sophisticated” design skills set their landscape plans apart from competitors, and Lord’s personal contacts helped keep the fledgling company afloat during the severe economic depression of the early 1930s.

“The Northwest Gardens of Lord & Schryver” is an interesting read for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of professional landscaping, particularly in Oregon. Valencia Libby’s account of the two women includes slim details about their personal lives, but she specifically describes Lord & Schryver’s major landscaping projects and provides many examples of their site and garden plans. (Use a magnifying glass to read the tiny text with plant names.)

Libby also introduces readers to some fascinating women who were pioneers in the landscape architecture field:

Judith Eleanor Motley Low (1841-1933) was a wealthy widow from Boston who founded Lowthorpe in 1901 “to prepare women for professional lives and economic independence.” Low attended Swanley Horticulture College in England, one of several “gardening colleges” for women in Europe during the late 1800s and early 1900s, and she patterned the rigorous curriculum at Lowthorpe on her alma mater.

Beatrix Ferrand (1872-1959) was one of the earliest women to enter the landscape architecture profession. She pieced together her education by studying under the botanist Charles Sprague Sargent, a professor of horticulture at Harvard University, and also studying drafting, surveying and engineering under professor William Ware at Columbia School of Mines. Ferrand is well-known for creating gardens at the White House during Woodrow Wilson’s presidency, the Dumbarton Oaks estate in Georgetown, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and Rockefeller’s estate garden in Seal Harbor, Maine.

Ellen Shipman ((1869-1960) was not only a prolific landscape architect, but she was also an advocate for other women landscape architects by hiring only women to work in her Cornish, New Hampshire, office. Shipman started out by creating her own home gardens but turned her hobby into a lucrative profession after her husband left her and their three small children in 1910. Schryver worked for Shipman before enrolling at Lowthorpe in 1920.

Elizabeth Leonard Strang (1886-1948) became the first woman to graduate from Cornell University’s landscape architecture program in 1910. She taught at Lowthorpe and made the curriculum more challenging by adding courses in history, design theory, engineering and planting design. She worked as an assistant to Ellen Shipman and practiced landscape architecture out of her home office in Massachusetts.

Florence Holmes Gerke (1896-1964) practiced landscape architecture with her husband, Walter, in Portland, Oregon. She served as the landscape architect for the city of Portland in the 1920s and, in that capacity, designed the International Rose Garden and the Shakespeare Garden in Washington Park and landscaped Grant, Irving and Dawson parks.

Reading about these early women landscape architects made me wonder how many women are in the field today. Currently, there are 14 licensed landscape architects in Jackson County who are registered with the Oregon State Landscape Architect Board; six of the principal architects at these firms are women.

It’s nice to know forerunners like Lord & Schryver and the other female landscape architects I’ve mentioned paved the way for women to have an opportunity to earn successful careers in this historically male-dominated profession.

Fortunately, a few of Lord & Schryver’s gardens are still accessible to the public. In 2015, the Lord & Schryver Conservancy bought Gaiety Hollow, the house and garden in Salem that Lord & Schryver designed in the early 1930s and shared until Lord’s death in 1974. Schryver continued to live at Gaiety Hollow until she died in 1984. The restored home and garden are located at 545 Mission St. in Salem and are open to the public on designated Saturdays from April through September.

Two blocks from Gaiety Hollow is Deepwood Museum and Gardens, which features the gardens Lord & Schryver designed for their friend, Alice Brown, over a 10-year period. The gardens include the Great Room, Tea House Garden and Scroll Garden. Docent-led tours are offered Thursdays beginning in March.

For more information about Gaiety Hollow, Deepwood and the Lord & Schryver Conservancy, see lordschryver.org.

Rhonda Nowak is a Rogue Valley gardener, teacher and writer. See literarygardener.com or email her at Rnowak39@gmail.com.

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