Preserving the Legacy of Oregon's Pioneering Female Landscape Architects

Posted on: March 10th, 2010 by Guest Writer

Written by Bobbie Dolp

Edith Schryver and Elizabeth Lord

Edith Schryver and Elizabeth Lord, two of the first professionally trained women landscape architects in the Northwest. (Photo: Lord and Schryver Conservancy)

In 1929 Elizabeth Lord (1887-1976) and Edith Schryver (1901-1984) founded the first professional, woman-owned landscape architecture practice in the Pacific Northwest. Their coming together in what was to be a lifelong personal and professional partnership marked an important milestone in the history of Northwest garden design.

Lord and Schryver met each other serendipitously on a 1927 European garden tour sponsored by their alma mater, the Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture, in Groton, MA, an institution devoted to training women in landscape design. Finding that they had a shared vision of garden design, Lord, an Oregon native, asked Schryver to join her in Salem to establish a business. Lord later observed that, “We joined forces, desiring to try out a new venture of real garden designing and planting, domestic and park planning.”

In their 40 years of practice, Lord and Schryver designed more than 250 gardens in the Pacific Northwest for individual, civic and institutional clients. As a design team, Lord and Schryver cultivated a style known as “informal formality,” using subtle, creative plantings and combining east coast and native Northwest species. The importance of their landscape design work is underscored by the honor of being the only Oregon firm recognized by the National Park Service in their publication Pioneers of American Landscape Design.

Lord and Schryver also worked tirelessly to raise the profile of landscape architecture in the public eye. Lord had a keen sense of Salem’s history, as well as its potential beauty, and advocated for preservation of historic landscapes and improvement in public spaces through her work with the Salem Parks Advisory Board, Salem Tree Committee, and the Capitol Planning Commission. Schryver taught landscape design at Oregon State College (now Oregon State University) throughout her career. Both women’s professional lives included speaking on a regional radio broadcast called The Garden Home Hour, writing for local and regional newspapers, and lecturing.

In 1932, Lord and Schryver collaborated with prominent Salem architect Clarence Smith on what was to be the center of their professional and domestic life for over thirty years: their personal home and garden at Gaiety Hollow. The garden they composed at Gaeity Hollow is the tour de force of their life’s work and an essential piece of the continuum of Northwest landscape design. Unfettered by client restraints, Lord and Schryver exhibited their individual skill and taste, designing their home garden in a remarkably refined and personal way. Since Edith Shryver’s death in 1984, the house and garden have been carefully tended by one family.

Deepwood Estate, designed by Lord & Schryver

Deepwood Estate, designed by Lord & Schryver (Photo: Lord & Schryver Conservancy)

Concern about the ultimate fate of Lord and Schryver’s masterwork was the catalyst for the formation of the Lord & Schryver Conservancy in 2005 with a mission to preserve and interpret the legacy of Lord and Schryver and to promote a greater understanding of their contributions to Northwest landscape architecture. The Conservancy has worked with the current owners of Gaiety Hollow to secure a right of first refusal on the property with the goal of restoring the garden and bringing it into the public domain. Our current project, a cultural landscape report on the home garden, has been generously supported by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Conservancy has also been active in the historic rehabilitation of the Lord and Schryver gardens at Deepwood Historic Estate, now a Salem city park, and collaborated with Friends of Deepwood and the City of Salem to develop an Interpretive Center in the Carriage House at Deepwod which tells, in part, the story of Lord and Schryver’s work. The Conservancy has also established an archive of oral histories, digitized and catalogued slides, and documentation of surviving gardens, developed an internship program for landscape architecture students, and published articles and monographs on Lord and Schryver’s work.

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Bobbie Dolp is president of the Lord & Schryver Conservancy.

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