Archive for November, 2011

The Cultural Landscape Foundation hosts an online resource called What’s Out There.  Supported in part by the National Center for Preservation Technology & Training, What’s Out There is a database recognizing significant cultural landscapes across the U.S.  A couple days ago they accepted an entry I submitted for Hodges Gardens.  Hodges Gardens will join more than one thousand other significant cultural landscapes in the online database, which will provide an additional route for people to discover and appreciate Hodges Gardens.  See Hodges Gardens in the archive here http://tclf.org/landscapes/hodges-garden-state-park.

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Centenary College Choir members pause at the historic Hodges Gardens entrance, circa 1967-69. Hodges Foundation Archive.

“Centenary College Choir; this VW courtesy of Moffitt Volkswagen, Inc.”  This undated photograph from the archive provides an exercise in dating older photographs–a useful tool for recognizing and documenting landscape change.  Where maps are unavailable or lack a specific focus or detail, clues about the historic landscape can often be found in older photos–even those that were intended for entirely different purposes, such as a highlight of this student choir trip as photographed above.  A visit to the landscape can then assist with comparing the historic with existing conditions.

In the above example, it is difficult to revisit the exact location in the landscape, because this entire entrance area has changed since its original design in the mid-1950’s.  When U.S. Highway 171 (the road from which these students just exited) was expanded to a divided highway, nearly all the additional land acquired by the highway department came from the Hodges Gardens (east) side of the road.  The entrance sign and fence were removed, and autos now travel on top of the land in the foreground above.

The shiny Type 2 (T2) Volkswagon pictured above dates the photo to no earlier than 1967.  Though similar to Volkswagon’s Type 2 (T1)–originally marketed in the U.S. from 1950-1967–the Type 2 (T2) was sold in the U.S. from 1967-1979.  On the other end of my timeframe estimate, I’m considering vegetation, the appearance of the students, and the fact that the vehicle is a courtesy car from a Volkswagon dealership.  Given only the latter clue, I’d say the photo is not much more recent than 1979, because the dealership was more likely to provide a new/recent model for courtesy vehicles–particularly for advertisement purposes.  Considering the height of the planted pines and the style of the students, I would estimate this photo was snapped between 1967 and ’70.  If you see any other helpful clues in the photograph, I’d love to hear from you in this post’s comment space.  Volkswagon fans: do you see anything else in the character of the van that helps pinpoint the manufacture year more precisely than ’67-’79?

Established in 1941, Shreveport’s Centenary College Choir has performed around the world, and plays an important role in the culture and community of the Shreveport / Ark-La-Tex region.  Through both performances and retreats, the Choir has been closely tied to Hodges Gardens for five (5) decades.

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Last week I traveled to Hodges Gardens to ground truth, or field-check, a map of the landscape.  The map is an undated and minimally labeled drawing I discovered a few months ago in the Hodges Foundation Archive.  Given a few clues on the early development of the Garden, it’s safe to conclude the drawing is not a site masterplan from the design phase.

The map covers all of the Main Gardens, Visitor Center/Parking areas, as well as Willow Point and over to the Butterfly Garden near the Lakeside Amphitheatre.  As part of the documentation process, a priority has been to compare this map to current conditions on the ground to assist in the process of analyzing the landscape’s recent change over time.

The coral colored rectangle in the above comprehensive map notes the area of interest expanded in the image below. Source: Hodges Foundation Archive.

Current and historic images, as well as historic drawings may help with dating the map.  For example:  when an item (or shape/form) whose known date of installation is identified on the map, it can generally be figured that the map was probably produced after the date of the given element’s establishment.  Similarly, if an item of known installation date is vacant from the map,  it is likely that the map was produced before that element was established in the landscape.  Given enough of these types of clues, a date can be estimated for the map/plan.

Exceptions and flaws to the method exist: suppose an existing item were purposefully omitted from a map.  Still, the simple process can be pretty accurate and very helpful in better understanding and using an unlabeled map.  [Along other lines, historic photographs can also be roughly dated using similar clues].  This kind of information is essential to historic landscape planning.

The arrow above marks the intersection where two (2) elements were recognized as being established in different time periods. Walkway 1, which is also noted in Figure B below, was recognized as a later addition to the landscape. In this case, Walkway 1 was absent from the map; I penciled it in to depict existing conditions, as shown above.

Much of the Hodges Gardens map held true to the shape of the landscape today.  However, I was able to update a few things–including the addition of a few current-day walkways.  The example in the image below was fairly easy to identify as a later addition to the landscape.  Notice both the change in material (similar but different) and also the angles connecting the paths in the intersection–both of which suggest the two paths were created at separate times.

Of course, a change in material doesn’t always suggest a different time period:  such changes can be design decisions on paper before initial installation even begins (say, a clear transition from concrete to stone).  In the case below though, it is pretty evident that the later addition is attempting to imitate the other material; an exercise that would usually and controversially be employed only with a later addition.

The arrow in this present-day photograph marks the intersection shown in plan view in the above map.

This photograph focuses on the intersection marked by arrows in the above images. Item 1 marks the later addition that I penciled in to the above map. Walkway 2 is the primary pedestrian circulation route at this intersection.

Another view of the intersection as discussed above. Note the lines/angle connecting the two walkways. This unique form in the landscape suggested that one element was a later addition.

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