Marin Cruger Coffin, First Female Landscape Architect

Posted on: March 20th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

Gibralter Gardens, Wilmington, Delaware (Credit: Trent Margrif, Wisconsin Field Office)

Gibralter Gardens, Wilmington, Delaware (Credit: Trent Margrif, Wisconsin Field Office)

It was perfect timing for an important collaboration.

Marin Cruger Coffin, 1876-1957, one of the first female landscape architects to practice in the United States, was receiving her degree from MIT and learning from the father of America landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmstead.  Mr. & Mrs. H. Rodney Sharp had just taken over the Gibraltar (former Brinckle) estate in Wilmington, Delaware and were looking for someone to design their dream landscape, likely following a suggestion from Henry Francis DuPont.

Recalling images from their frequent European travels, the Sharps hired landscape architect Coffin to design Gibraltar's formal gardens. One of the most accomplished female landscape architects in the United States; she designed gardens and landscapes along the East Coast, including Winterthur's formal gardens and the University of Delaware's mall among others.

Gibralter Gardens, Wilmington, Delaware (Credit: Trent Margrif, Wisconsin Field Office)

Gibralter Gardens, Wilmington, Delaware (Credit: Trent Margrif, Wisconsin Field Office)

When Coffin arrived at Gibraltar, she was presented with a "blank slate": a Brandywine Blue Granite blockhouse above a rolling open field. The topography of the site lent itself to the terraced garden she created between 1916 and 1923.  Gibraltar's garden consists of a series of garden "rooms," each with a unique character and purpose.  Hand-forged iron gates and railings and the Sharp's collection of statuary, urns, and fountains complete the design. I personally enjoy the Bald Cypress Allee that culminates in a simple teahouse structure for the greatest solitude and appreciation of Coffin’s work when visiting the gardens. Often called the “secret garden” in the city, with the accompanying mansion and outbuildings, this landscape is reflective of America's "Country Place Era," which spanned the time between the rise of the Beaux Arts in the late 1800s and the outbreak of World War II.

With threat of demolition, Preservation Delaware, Inc. purchased the Gibraltar site with the assistance of Open Space funding through the State of Delaware. An authentic restoration of the Gibraltar Gardens following Coffin’s design was the first priority and was accomplished. The garden continues to retain its design intent, including its forms and textures, free and open to the public and beautifully maintained by Preservation Delaware’s current Garden Manager Wendy Gentry.

Repairs to the sculptures within the formal Gardens have also benefited from the Save Outdoor Sculpture program and increased awareness through the Landslide program of the Cultural Landscape Foundation. Preservation Delaware is committed to preserving the legacy of Marian Cruger Coffin through its operation of Gibraltar Gardens.  For more information or to help in these efforts go to: http://www.preservationde.org/.

-Trent Margrif

Trent Margrif is director of the Wisconsin field office of National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Wilderness National Battlefield: Take a Minute to Make a Difference

Posted on: March 20th, 2009 by Jason Clement

 

Washington, D.C. is a fast-talking town.

If you've got a point to prove, sometimes all you get is a minute. Literally.

A tradition in the U.S. House of Representatives, one-minutes are an opportunity for members to address their colleagues on any topic they wish at the start of the legislative day. The Speaker of the House decides how much time can be granted for one-minutes each day, and members must ask for unanimous consent before launching into their remarks.

Yesterday, Representatives Peter Welch of Vermont and Ted Poe of Texas used their one-minutes to support the ongoing work by preservationists and historians to save Virginia's Wilderness National Battlefield from getting paved over by Wal-Mart. The Wilderness Battlefield - which was just named by the Civil War Preservation Trust as one of this year's most endangered battlefields - is the Civil War site where Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant launched his bloody Overland Campaign.

Representative Peter Welch:

Mr. Speaker, 164 years ago, brave Texans and brave Vermonters fought on a historical battlefield about 60 miles south of here, the Battle of the Wilderness. There were 165,000 troops amassed there, including Vermonters from the 1st Brigade; 1,200 from Vermont's ranks died. Among them was Daniel Lilly, a teacher in Barnard, Vermont. His funeral is still today remembered as the largest funeral in the history of that town. Another, Ed Holden, fought and survived, but saw his brother with his head shot off die on the battlefield.

Today a different battle is taking place on that hallowed ground. It is a conflict between a great American corporation, Wal-Mart, and a great American historic battlefield, the Wilderness. My friend from Texas and I have joined together to ask Wal-Mart to do the right thing and not build its facility, a 140,000-foot facility, on that battlefield where troops were massing.

The question for us is whether we can honor the fallen. And that, as my friend will tell you, is just the way it is.

Representative Ted Poe:

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the historical comments my friend from Vermont has said regarding Union troops from his home State. The Battle of the Wilderness took place in May 1864.

On the second day of the three-day battle with a statement made by General Lee, "Texans always move them,'' the Texas Brigade successfully forced back Grant's Union troops. However, the Texans sustained 60% casualties.

There were 165,000 troops, Union and Confederate, in this Battle of the Wilderness. That is the number of troops that we have in Afghanistan and Iraq put together on one battlefield. There were 29,000 casualties. The fighting was so fierce in the dense woods it caught fire, and hundreds of wounded on both sides burned to death. Their graves are only known by God.

Mr. Speaker, those troops from the North and South were all Americans. Mr. Speaker, here is the battlefield. It is outlined in this black line. On this hallowed ground right here, you can see this X is where Wal-Mart wants to build one of their beautiful stores. There are other locations available for Wal-Mart. So we from the North and South in a bipartisan way want Wal-Mart to build someplace else.

And that's just the way it is.

The good news is that you can join Representatives Welch and Poe in support of the Wilderness Battlefield, and you don't even have to stress out about giving a speech. In much less than one minute, you can sign our online petition urging Wal-Mart executives to find an alternate location for their proposed Supercenter. And if you're one of the 5,000+ preservationists who have already done so, please take a moment to forward the petition to your friends and family. The more signatures we get, the stronger our voice will be.

Hey, it only takes a minute.

Sign Our Petition to Save the Wilderness National Battlefield

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

Lobbying is Like a Box of Chocolates

Posted on: March 20th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Preservation Lobby Day comes full circle when you share your experiences and enthusiasm with your friends and neighbors back home, which is why I always prepare a long and short version of my tips, take-aways and observations. In the interest of time (I know you have other blogs to read this morning), I’ll share the latter.

First of all, everything you’ve heard on this blog and elsewhere about needing to have a canned elevator speech that you can rattle off at the drop of a hat is 100% true. Whether you’re on the Hill or in your mayor’s office, that quick, no-holds-barred appeal is one of the most important tools you can have in your back pocket. For instance, between our Hill visits this year, I happened to spy Congressman Dave Reichert (former King County sheriff and a lieutenant at the North Bend police precinct while I served as mayor) as he scurried across the walkway between the Capitol and the House office buildings. We had a great, spur-of-the-moment conversation about home and how historic preservation makes a real difference to the economy in his district. He pledged his support and said he would review our requests – all in about three minutes as other hurried staffers and lobbyists dodged us on the sidewalk!

Also, always anticipate setbacks and curveballs. One year, Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn was late for her appointment with our group, but she called requesting that we hang around for a while. Turns out, she had been unexpectedly called to the White House to meet with the president! She only kept us waiting for about half an hour, and we had a productive and enlightening conversation upon her return.

Most importantly, don’t leave a meeting without looking your elected officials (or their staffers) straight in the eye and telling them what you believe. Grab every opportunity you get, but don’t waste their time. As a former mayor, I can’t begin to tell you how effective this simple strategy can be.

And of course, be prepared for anything (and everything). After all, lobbying is like a box of chocolates…

Happy hunting.

- Joan Murray Simpson

Way Outside the Beltwayer Joan Murray Simpson is a preservation enthusiast and the former mayor of North Bend, Washington. Visit our Lobby Day 2009 website on PreservationNation.org to learn more about her recent trip to Capitol Hill.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

 

March Madness has reached fever pitch at Washington High School, but I’m not talking about basketball.

You see, as soon as the afternoon bell sounds tomorrow, I (and all of my fellow Research History classmates) will officially be on Spring Break. And, as if the recurring daydreams about a week of uninterrupted bliss (no offense, Mr. LaRue) weren’t distracting enough, we’re also dealing with the constant background noise of banging furniture and packing tape. Why? Because Washington High School is moving…next door.

That’s right, when we return from vacation, we’ll report to an entirely new school building. Right now, we’re cramped in what has always felt like a makeshift home that was thrown together in 1968. Currently, you can find us fifth period Research History students held up in an upstairs math classroom vying for any unoccupied computers. During this particular period, Mr. LaRue teaches an overcrowded economics class, and has no real time or space for us. Rumor has it that, at the new school, there will be enough space in his room to house both the economic students and us Research History folks in harmony. And hey, more space and better technology means more blogging…

Earlier this week, I got to tour the new castle…I mean campus. Though I’m not a huge fan of graduating from a school that I’ve only attended for a few weeks, the new digs are pretty impressive when you consider how cramped we are now (see photos above from our updated Flickr photostream). However, there are rules about everything (stairs, doors, etc.), and there are surveillance cameras peeping out from everywhere. Oh, and no food either, which isn’t good news for Mr. LaRue and his animal crackers and banana bread.

Good or bad, all of this change (moving from a strange place to one that, in some ways, feels even stranger) has made my classmates and I look back at our middle school, which is a historic building across town that was built in 1913. We all (minus Marci, who joined us last year from a different school) love the beautiful and inspiring atmosphere of that building. We are so happy that it is being kept in use because that’s where we changed from little kids to teenagers.

I look back and remember in sixth grade when I basically broke my leg and had to wear an immobilizer. Between each and every class, I had to make my way up and down the three floors. In doing so, I definitely got to know the place, which is a good thing. Bryan really loves the band room there, and Brittney remembers sitting in the art room and drawing on those old, “artsy” desks. And we all loved kicking back in the auditorium for our reward movie days for not missing school.

Long story short, there are features of that school that you just won’t find anywhere else – including the shiny new castle. But change happens, and in addition to encouraging us to look back, it’s also prompting us to look forward. Graduation is not too far around the corner, and we’re all feeling excited, nervous and maybe even scared to death.

But whatever, that’s another topic for another blog. For now, it’s time for Spring Break.

- Sara S.

Sara S. is a senior at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. For the remainder of this semester, she'll be working with her Research History classmates on a variety of preservation projects, including documenting and preserving Good Hope Cemetery. Stay tuned as they share their experiences here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Lobby Day 2009: Bringing It Home

Posted on: March 19th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

A week and some change after returning from Preservation Lobby Day in D.C., the buzz of Capitol Hill continues to reverberate in the offices of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. Being a part of the collective effort to educate legislators and to advocate for historic resources in our nation’s capital was not only a rewarding experience, but a gratifying shot in the arm that others, elsewhere, share our vision and recognize the good work we all do.

But when the feel-good adrenalin dissipates, there is always the realization that D.C. is simply the first act in a preservation drama that unfolds annually - the need for more funding, better policies and increased attention on historic resources. The follow-up, then, is key for our future success. Fortunately, in Washington State (as is the case in all states), we have wonderful examples of how historic preservation is making a difference in our quality of life, in our environment and in the bottom-line for our budgets.

In pitching our case on Capitol Hill, the Washington Trust and our lobbying delegation provided legislators with specific examples from each of our congressional districts - preservation projects that are either currently underway or that have been recently completed. I look forward to inviting those same legislators and their in-district staffers to witness first hand the effects of preservation. Whether it’s donning a hard hat and touring a construction zone, spending a night in an old warehouse-turned-historic hotel, or sipping coffee in a café housed in a building that once served as a neighborhood drugstore (if caffeine is the twenty-first century cure-all, then Seattle is certainly the snake oil capital of the nation!), Washington’s legislators have ample opportunities to see preservation in action.

And so do yours.

With our recent visit to D.C. still fresh in the minds of our legislators and the debates over the FY10 federal budget beginning to swirl in the winds, the time is ripe for following-up at home. I remember how at one particular in-district meeting conducted last year, I was thrilled to point out to the legislator that the very building we were sitting in was a contributing structure within a National Register Historic District that had been rehabilitated using both state and federal incentive programs.

Now that is bringing preservation home.

- Chris Moore

Way Outside the Beltwayer Chris Moore is the field director for the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. Visit our Lobby Day 2009 website on PreservationNation.org to learn more about his recent trip to Capitol Hill.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.