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Archive for the ‘Existing Conditions’ Category

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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HG 6-7-11 DL 61

I’ve yet to hear back from Shreveport’s Eric Brock.  However, the Brock with which I connected and left voice mails may not be the author/preservation advocate Eric Brock I’m seeking.   As mentioned in the About section of the blog, posts are expected to be a mix of both discoveries and hurdles.

In the meantime, I have updated the ExploringHodgesGardens Flickr page, and I would encourage you to check it out.  The above photo is taken from near a large Ginkgo biloba tree on the middle level of the main garden area.  I think it captures a good example of an important element of the main design philosophy employed throughout the Garden, which celebrated existing topographic and drainage patterns to create a rich garden experience.  While the above pool is a 1950s constructed element, it widens and sits realistically below the above slope, which was an element of the early site’s existing conditions.

On the Exploring Hodges Gardens Flickr page, site visit photos are categorized into different sets.  Currently, the sets are arranged by location, and cover the following Hodges Gardens subjects: Visitor Center Facilities, Garden Areas, Administrative Area, Historic Greenhouse Facility, and House Island.  The photos are not necessarily works of art, but rather, are intended to document and present current conditions.  I plan to add more photos and to think of the Flickr page as a Hodges Gardens landscape features collection.  In addition to viewing by individual sets/subjects, it’s also enjoyable to employ the slideshow option.  Just look for the Slideshow button near the Share option on the exploringhodgesgardens photostream.  That’s http://www.flickr.com/photos/exploringhodgesgardens/.

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Home sweet home. These colorful (note the hidden red one) birdhouses provide a covered resting space for birds in flight near the historic greenhouse complex at Hodges Gardens State Park.

Though this blog has taken a break for the past few weeks, I wanted to let you know that I am on schedule to resume posting by mid-September.  I am excited to have been offered a fall internship to continue research with NCPTT in Natchitoches.  In between summer and fall internships, I have enjoyed time at home in Arkansas.  Thanks again for reading, and I look forward to sharing more documentation highlights.

1950s Lord & Burnham greenhouse. Featuring original fixtures, interior stonework, and other features, the historic integrity of the Hodges Gardens greenhouse complex shines through the original craftsmanship of the facility.

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As mentioned earlier, Hodges Gardens holds opportunity for much future research–in architecture, landscape architecture, horticulture, 1950s/1960s tourism, adaptive reuse of architecture/landscapes,  archival and collections planning/management, sustainable site development/management, Louisiana history, and other areas.

The potential for these opportunities has further come to light with me upon some recent archival discoveries.  In addition to an impressive scrapbook collection of newspaper articles and on-site photos, several other items have been preserved by the Hodges Foundation.  Below are some outstanding House Island discoveries.

Studying site layout plan for House Island. The contour lines note that the elevation at the top of House Island sits a little more than 27 feet above the water's edge.

Architectural model, Hodges residence. This is our photograph of an image capturing this model. Construction of the residence was completed in 1956; the pool was not implemented. Credit: Hodges Foundation.

Hodges Residence, downstairs floor plan, Walker & Walker Architects. Note four primary wings with a plan view of the tunnel bending out of the western wing. Credit: Hodges Foundation.

Hodges Residence, downstairs floor plan, tunnel area detail, Walker & Walker Architects. Credit: Hodges Foundation.

Connecting Tunnel, House Island. Looking west, toward boat landing. This stonework-constructed gently sloping tunnel connecting the House Island boat landing with the bottom level of the Hodges residence. The proposed master plan in the above image shows the tunnel in plan view.

Hodges Residence, upstairs floor plan, Walker & Walker Architects. The central living area occupies the south wing, master suites occupy the west wing, and the dining room and porch/porch kitchen occupy the east wing. Restrooms are located near the intersection of the four wings while additional bedrooms/baths occupy the north wing. Hodges Foundation.

Central living area, Hodges residence. As noted in the floor plan above, the central living area occupies the majority of the south wing of the residence. Photo credit: Jennifer Mui.

Tiled bathroom wall, Hodges Residence. The good overall condition and craftsmanship visible at the residence today is proof of the quality of construction of this building in the 1950s.

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Last Wednesday, July 27, I posted to the NCPTT website and shared a summary of this Hodges Gardens research.  The National Center for Preservation Technology & Training progresses preservation research, and it partners with the private and public sector through education, training, and grants.  I provided a link on the NCPTT post to encourage more readers to visit this Exploring Hodges Gardens blog.   You can check out the post, and learn more about NCPTT and the Historic Landscapes program here at http://ncptt.nps.gov/category/historic-landscapes/

I hope you enjoyed the House Island photos shared in the previous post.  I have several more photos I would like to share, and am working on making images available on Flickr.com.  This will help keep blog posts at a reasonable length and provide an exciting atmosphere to continue expanding the online Hodges Gardens community through this historic landscape research.  View the Exploring Hodges Gardens Flickr photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/exploringhodgesgardens/   Many of the House Island photos I uploaded in Flickr were taken by Jennifer Mui, NCPTT Architecture & Engineering intern.

Exploring Hodges Gardens Flickr photo page. See more Hodges Gardens research photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/exploringhodgesgardens/

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House Island, historic residence of Hodges Gardens founders A.J. and Nona Trigg Hodges, hasn’t been regularly occupied since A.J.’s death in 1966.  While Nona Trigg passed away in 1959, A.J. continued to occupy the house, and also remarried.  After 66′, I understand that only temporary visits and occasions brought family back to the house.

Bordered by a stone retaining wall around the entire island perimeter, House Island is currently closed to the public.  No trespassin’, please.  The Island is eight (8) acres of sparsely wooded, sloping, grassy land within a 225 acre lake. (This lake is usually unnamed, but I have seen it referred to as ‘Forest Lake’).  Though neglected for years, the Hodges residence (completed in 1956) is largely in good shape, and only minimally disturbed by rodents and water damage.  Though the house must be at least 10,000 square feet in size, the well constructed building is not an obtrusive money mound on the landscape.  Rather, the two story structure was tastefully cited partially within the hillside, and is tucked amongst mature trees (many of which were planted in the 1950s).  Last Friday, July 22 Debbie and I arranged a visit to the island with both NCPTT and Hodges Gardens staff.  There are abundant opportunities for future research at Hodges Gardens, including that of mid-20th century architecture.  Some photos from our guided visit follow.

NCPTT group approaches A.J. and Nona Trigg Hodges House (circa mid 1950s), House Island, Hodges Gardens.

Retaining wall, House Island. This stone retaining wall circles the entire perimeter of the 8 acre island.

Boat dock, House Island. The island was connected to the mainland via a ferry that ran on an underwater cable.

A.J. and Nona Trigg Hodges residence (completed 1956). Looking NNW toward house wing that faces southeast. Photo credit: Jennifer Mui, NCPTT Architecture & Engineering intern.

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Landscape Literature. Photographing informative posts in the landscape (when available) is a quick way to capture information on specific elements or areas. I tend to do this on most of my trips now when my camera is with me.

Friday, June 17:  Jeff Guin (NCPTT’s Marketing & Public Affairs Manager), Debbie Smith, and I packed a video camera and a couple of digital cameras into the van, and headed to Hodges Garden State Park early Friday morning.

We started in the landscape while the morning was still relatively cool.  Not bad, actually: with a 9am temperature in the low 80’s, and mostly cloudy skies, this was some of the most pleasant daytime weather I had experienced here.  I’m a weather and weather data nerd/enthusiast (meteorology was my career path of choice in elementary school), so these conditions made the day great as soon as we hopped out of the van.  Jeff videoed some landscape elements and views while Debbie and I continued with landscape photography.  The videos were produced as .mts files, which most Windows programs I’m accessing don’t seem to want to manage.  I have been working on converting them to wmv’s, and I hope to share one or two soon here on the blog.

Jeff Guin, NCPTT Marketing & Public Affairs Manager, videoing a waterfall and hillside. Photo credit: Debbie Smith.

Winding path. Pedestrian path through the wood; at edge of hill northeast of the Gift Shop.

Approach to Lookout Tower.

Early morning, Main Gardens.

I worked with a wide angle lens, hoping to capture some more comprehensive shots of the landscape.   I was working with an good quality government camera, but as it was new to me, they turned out a little different than what I was seeing in the viewfinder.   A few are decent though.

After an hour or so in the field, we drove over to the group lodge where the board meeting was being held.  A recently constructed facility, the new lodge sits on the southern banks of the lake, near Flag Island.  Great views of the lake from the back porch.  We met John Byrd, and we were able to share the basics of this project with the group.  The Friends mentioned an individual or two who might be able to assist with the research, and they expressed interest in highlighting this project in the Gardens’ newsletter.

As we planned for the interview, we remembered the Lookout Tower was a pleasant spot on past visits.  We met Mr. Byrd at the Gift Shop and walked to the Tower from there.  Jeff was setting up the video camera and tripod, but we quickly came to the conclusion that the breeze was causing too much disturbance on our audio.  Mr. Byrd suggested a shady area beneath a large ginko tree below us, and this became home base for the next hour of our talk.  Mr. Byrd’s passion for the Garden shined through the entire interview as he shared a variety of topics on the development and cultural significance of the Gardens.  We asked him a few questions here and there, but John’s true love for the park carried the conversation.   I’d like to eventually share a few clips here, but the entire session will surely be an important piece of this garden’s archive material.

Interviewing John Byrd. Involved with Hodges Gardens since childhood, Byrd shared stories from the Gardens' years of development, and commented on the cultural significance of the Gardens. Byrd is a professor at Northwestern State University's Department of Biological Sciences, and he currently serves as president of the Friends of Hodges Gardens. Jeff Guin (NCPTT Marketing & Public Affairs Manager) is with the video camera. Photo credit: Debbie Smith.


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