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AN ACORN FALLS NOT FAR FROM THE TREE

Award-winning Santa Barbara-based landscape architecture firm of Isabelle Greene & Associates has developed a beautiful new design to enhance the Gamble House landscape in the area just west of the garage structure, under the canopy of a large Englemann oak. Early photos of the area from the Gamble family collection in the Greene and Greene Archives, show flower beds with low borders and a charming network of short paths around them. Now underused and planted to non-original roses, this area seemed the ideal place to create a contemplative garden where visitors might linger over a cup of tea or a good book.

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Isabelle Greene, F.A.S.L.A. (landscape architect), 2006 © Graham Bury Photography 2012

Some years ago I discussed this idea with Isabelle Greene, who is one of Henry Greene’s granddaughters. She loved the idea of such a garden, but here at 4 Westmoreland Place, neither the funds nor the timing seemed to converge for a long time. More recently, gifts have come in from generous sources to fund such a garden and to augment funds originally donated several years ago by the family of the late Nancy Glass, another of Henry Greene’s granddaughters (and a cousin to Isabelle and sister to longtime FoGH member Virginia Hales). With the project now near at hand, I thought you’d be interested to know a little about how the design philosophy of Isabelle Greene and her firm resonates with that of her grandfather. Her firm’s Founder’s Statement describes how she loves “the familiar geography of our western land, …the lofty and majestic mountains that shape our lives—our climate, our outdoor spaces, and our watershed, here at the edge of the continent.” This feels to me like something that could have easily been thought or said by the Henry Greene that I’ve come to know through the archival record as a man who was fully in tune with the land. His more inwardly focused brother, Charles, was a man primarily of the mind. Henry Greene loved the out of doors, and counted garden design among his passions, particularly after Charles move to the bohemian art colony of Carmel (see related article on page 10). Henry was able to spread his design wings more broadly once he was on his own. “Designing a garden,” Isabelle continues, “—it’s all about movement…walking through the garden, and the experienced enhanced by different kinds of movement all around: the fluttering of leaves and swaying of grasses in a breeze…”. Her grandfather’s design for Theodore Kramer’s garden in South Pasadena (1918) is full of wandering paths amid the oaks and flower beds, with all arranged in charming asymmetry. A comprehensive plant list shows his formidable knowledge of materials and consuming interest in the details, which Isabelle shares. Her inward-looking and contemplative side emerges in her philosophy, too: “Design is about holding a window up to the unknown and stepping through it. A well-designed garden gives glimpses into meanings far beneath the surface and far beyond our consciousness.”

I hope you are as excited as I am about having an Isabelle Greene garden at the Gamble House soon. You’ll learn more about it in coming issues of the Update, but if you’d like to contribute to the garden design and installation project now, please send your gift payable to The Gamble House, USC, and make a note that it is for the Greene Garden. Thank you again for your support.

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EARTH WORKS

I am delighted to share with you the progress made on our two landscape initiatives at The Gamble House—the Cultural Landscape Report underway with support from the Fidelity Foundation, and a contemplative garden designed by Isabelle Greene, planned for the area immediately behind the garage.

The Cultural Landscape Report for the Gamble House landscape is currently being developed by a team of consultants overseen by Historic Resources Group (HRG), who for more than 16 years have played a key role as preservation consultants to The Gamble House. Since last summer, HRG has worked with surveyors, landscape architects, preservation professionals and historians to more fully understand the evolution of The Gamble House site, including original positions of trees and shrubs, walkways, fences and other landscape features. In the course of this it’s been particularly exciting to find original brick and stone features, some hidden by plant growth for decades, which hold the promise of being conserved and ultimately interpreted to the public as part of the visitor experience. For me it has been fascinating to learn how dramatically the landscape at 4 Westmoreland Place has changed over time. As a point of departure we benefit tremendously from a 2011 thesis by Anna-Lisa Sharar, submitted for the Master of Landscape Architecture degree at Cal Poly Pomona. Along with Gamble House staff Ann Scheid and Anne Mallek, the project team includes Peyton Hall, Paul Travis and Heather Goers from Historic Resources Group, Pasadena; Matt Randolph and Anna-Lisa Sharar of Korn-Randolph Landscape Architects, Pasadena; Isabelle Greene of Isabelle Greene Associates, Santa Barbara; Kelly Sutherlin McLeod Architecture, Inc., Long Beach; and Griswold Conservation Associates LLC, Culver City. Together this group will be evaluating evidence of how the site has evolved into the landscape we know today, all with an ultimate objective of shaping the future of the site. The area behind the garage, for example, was originally open to the sky, with low shrubs and flowers planted in meandering beds surrounded by turf paths. In the late 1960s it was converted to geometrically laid-out beds of roses, which are now completely shaded by an oak canopy. And, while the parkway strip and grassy berm in front of the house originally contained numerous trees and shrubs, including a pair of enormous Italian cypresses, the area is now almost clear of plant material. This makes the house easier to photograph, but the park-like ambience intended for Westmoreland Place in the early days has been significantly altered. The Cultural Landscape Report promises to fill out knowledge of our site’s past while providing an exciting blueprint for the future, including potential recommendations to re-introduce selected landscape elements that have been lost over the last century.

A GIFT THAT PLANTS THE SEEDS OF OTHERS

I am also delighted to report that we have received a $25,000, one-for-one matching challenge grant from longtime Friends of The Gamble House Corinna Cotsen and Lee Rosenbaum to support the campaign for the Isabelle Greene-designed contemplative garden behind the garage. The idea for this garden originated in 2000 with a desire to honor the memory of the late Nancy Greene Glass, one of Henry Greene’s granddaughters (and a cousin of landscape architect Isabelle Greene), who was an active supporter of The Gamble House with her husband Bill Glass, who maintains an active connection to The Gamble House. At the time of her passing in 2000, Nancy’s family made several generous gifts to fund a memorial garden. These funds were used early on to build an original Henry Greene-designed bench (never before produced) as a memorial to Nancy, and additional gifts were set aside for the anticipated Isabelle Greene garden design. The Nancy Glass bench stood in the rose garden until a couple of years ago when it needed to be removed for conservation. When the Isabelle Greene garden design is installed the bench will be returned to the garden in its permanent location. I am deeply grateful to Corinna Cotsen and Lee Rosenbaum for establishing this $25,000 challenge grant, which we trust will encourage other gifts to this exciting and worthy project. And to make gifts to the Garden project easy, with help from University Advancement at USC we have instituted on-line giving, making it possible to make your tax-deductible gift to The Gamble House from the convenience of your computer. Just visit our web site, www.gamblehouse.org, and click on the “Donate Now” button, which will take you to a message from yours truly, and then to the USC donation site. If your gift is to help the contemplative garden project, just type “Garden” into the appropriate space when prompted. It’s that easy. Remember, too, that 100% of your gift goes directly to The Gamble House; no portion is withheld by the University. Thank you in advance for your support for these “earth works,” which will make a visit to The Gamble House even more beautiful and inspiring.

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