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Archive for the ‘Historic Maps & Plans’ 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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The process of reaching the Shreveport area historic preservation planner and consultant is unfolding slowly.  After hearing no reply from my voice mail late last week, I checked back late this morning as well.  If my voice mail reached the correct telephone number, this individual might be able to share some clues on Lambert’s contribution to the Garden design; if this not the correct number, I’ll look for a different route.  I asked that he let me know either way… so that I can progress one way or another.

As mentioned earlier, I have discovered several Hodges Gardens plans which do not credit a designer.  I wonder if the landscape architect from Lambert’s would have known who is responsible for these.  I have documentation of his involvement with Mr. Hodges, but have yet to see his name on any other drawings.  These plans were found rolled in a tube titled ‘Garden Layout’.  Again, established in Shreveport in 1919, Lambert Landscape Company specialized–as they do today–in garden design.  These individually unlabeled Garden Layout drawings are detail plans of a larger, comprehensive garden master plan.   Below are some examples of what I’ve discovered.

Garden Layout drawings container. Several uncredited drawings found in here are detail drawings of a larger, comprehensive garden plan. Hodges Foundation archives.

Example of a Garden Layout detail plan. Hodges Foundation archives.

Comprehensive Garden Plan, undated and uncredited. I have discovered a handful of detail drawings as exhibited in the previous image, which zoom in on specific areas on this map. For reference, the main loop road is highlighted in grey, and passes by the mainland boat dock on the far right side of the image. The Gift Shop and Lookout Tower are highlighted in salmon and appear as the larger and smaller circular areas, respectively. Hodges Foundation archives.

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Main Entrance, Hodges Gardens, 1960. This image is scanned from an original copy of the Hodges Gardens Magazet, Volume 1, Number 4. Published quarterly, the Magazet was a brief magazine showcasing literature and announcements related to the Garden, as well as articles on contextual themes and attractions. Note the pine cones topping the two entry gate posts and the entry road topping the low hill in the distance. The top of this hill is the location of the present day entrance station and area referred to as the Texas Overlook. Image credit: John Byrd.

Entrance elevation proposal, Walker & Walker Architects, Shreveport, LA. 1952. Image credit: Hodges Foundation archives.

Entrance gate proposal, plan view, Walker & Walker Architects, Shreveport, Louisiana. 1952. Image credit: Hodges Foundation archives.

Pine cone post detail. Note the pine cones topping the entry posts in the historic photo above. Hodges Foundation archive.

Hello, and thank you for visiting.  I am excited to be back at the National Center for Preservation Technology & Training and back on WordPress.  If you are new to this blog, I encourage you to check out earlier posts or the ‘About’ page if you want to learn more about the background of this project.  Essentially, Exploring Hodges Gardens is a blog in which I highlight challenges and discoveries of an historic landscape documentation at this site.  If you have been here before, thank you again for your continued interest in this work and your support of Hodges Gardens State Park.

The images above are proposals and a resulting view of the original entrance to Hodges Gardens.  The drawings are dated April 1952, and are original copies from the architects Walker & Walker of Shreveport, Louisiana.  The 1950s were the primary years of Garden construction.  When comparing the 1960 photograph with the earlier proposal, notice the differing character of the stone entry sign.

Though the location of the entrance is nearly the same today, the aesthetics of the area have changed significantly.  When U.S. Hwy 171 was expanded into a 4-lane divided highway, the entry was pushed further from the original road corridor.  The stone entry sign, gateway, and entrance office are no longer extant.  While the loss of these structures is unfortunate, today’s entry experience is impressive in its own right.  Pine trees have matured, and as soon as the visitor leaves the vastness of the excessively wide U.S. Highway corridor, she enters into the sanctuary of a pine tree canopy reaching well above the winding entry road, which is true to its original course.  Today’s experience between the entry area pine trees and the present day entrance station at Texas Overlook is one of the most majestic at Hodges Gardens.

Continuing this discovery of recent landscape evolution and documenting quantitative and qualitative characteristics of changed and unchanged features is part of what I look forward to continuing this autumn.  While elements and aesthetics have been altered at the Garden entrance, much of the remainder of Hodges Gardens maintains its historic integrity.  As mentioned near the beginning of the summer, documentation highlights that are shared here will form a foundation and provide case study excerpts for a how-to guide on documenting historic landscapes.  A goal is the production of an easily accessible, friendly document that may assist readers anywhere who are interested in recognizing significant historic landscapes–especially those in their own neighborhoods.

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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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Yesterday afternoon John Byrd brought a flash drive of Hodges Gardens images.  Several are of early construction years when his father C.B. Byrd consulted and managed park operations.  In anticipation of John’s arrival at the upcoming morning meeting, I transferred the files onto my computer here at the office.  John offered to sit down and chat about the history captured in the photos, so I look forward to our meeting again in a week or so.

After reviewing my knowledge on Hare & Hare, I was ready to meet with folks over the landscape architectural drawings.  It was a casual meeting, and our main goal was to facilitate everyone’s interest in viewing the scanned drawings.  Several of us gathered in the conference room here at NCPTT:

–          Raymond Berthelot, Chief of Interpretive Services, Office of State Parks (Louisiana) [ In Natchitoches today for a meeting as well, Ray brought the scanned drawings from his office in Baton Rouge ].
–          Kim Kelly, Manager of Hodges Gardens State Park
–          John Byrd, President of the Friends  of Hodges Gardens
–          Kirk Cordell, Executive Director, NCPTT
–          Kevin Ammons, Administrative Officer, NCPTT
–          Debbie Smith, Chief of Historic Landscapes Program, NCPTT
–          Addy Smith-Reiman, Intern at NCPTT
–          Derek Linn, Intern at NCPTT

After brief introductions, we gave a quick introduction to the summer research.  I shared a bit about Hare & Hare, as I believe this discovery of their involvement brings even more significance to this special place called Hodges Gardens.

Established in 1910, Hare & Hare are considered one of the pioneering firms that helped establish and bring to light the profession of landscape architecture in the United States (Birnbaum & Karson).  I was glancing at the Hare & Hare entry in Birnbaum & Karson’s Pioneers of American Landscape Design, and found this:  “Hare & Hare’s designs emphasized winding roads contoured to natural topography, the preservation of trees and valleys, and scenic vistas.”  As Kim Kelly and John Byrd suggested previously, the landscape design was sensitive to, and benefitted from, the natural and quarry-influence topography. This really rings true to much of what one sees at Hodges Gardens today.

Opening the first file from the My Computer menu was like unwrapping a birthday present 10 years ago.  The 20+ scanned drawings were both interesting and beautiful.  Notably, several of the drawings communicated elements and designs that are not present today.  Though our investigation will continue, it appears that many of these such examples were preliminary drawings—a couple offering two or three design alternatives.

The drawings were in plan, section, and perspective views; a few sheets focus on construction details. Some focused on the Old Fashioned Rose Garden, the present-day Willow Point Fountain area, and the triangular gift shop approach up the hill.

The first page that we viewed was a Hare & Hare planting list for the Old Fashioned Rose Garden.  The following note is included: ‘plant names in this list are in accordance with “Standardized Plant Names” Second Edition, 1942 – American Joint Committee on Horticultural Nomenclature.

Special thanks to Raymond Berthelot for stopping by and sharing the images.

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With the scans priced at $25 per drawing, it was worth some time to try to locate who might have purchased these previously.

David Boutros at the State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center–Kansas City was really helpful, and we learned that a Raymond Berthelot purchased and received the scanned drawings in 2007.  Ray Berthelot.  Debbie and I immediately recognized this name.  Berthelot was listed on our initial contacts page as Louisiana State Parks’ Chief of Interpretive Services.

Although we initially received Berthelot’s name from Hodges Gardens State Park, we were in the understanding that the only drawings that existed were architectural ones focused on the buildings, and that even these were not purchased due to the expense.   To our pleasant surprise, the drawings were landscape architectural, and were purchased (though still quite pricey).

A quick sketch from my notebook below visually summarizes the following process of discovery:

  1. Receive list of associated persons’ contact information from Hodges Gardens State Park (individuals who might be able to assist with our research).
  2. Search archives and quiz a few of the contact persons (with the exception of Ray Berthelot and two others) on the location of original landscape design drawings or of the landscape architect on record;
  3. Discover Hare & Hare Landscape Architects are credited through a newspaper clipping in the Park archives; contact Carol Grove, person we know currently doing Hare & Hare research.
  4. Carol checks her Hare & Hare database and connects us with a Kansas City research center that appears to house Hodges Gardens landscape drawings.
  5. David Boutros (State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center–Kansas City) informs us that Raymond Berthelot (who happens to be a state park official on our contacts list) purchased and received the scanned drawings in 2007.
  6. Ray Berthelot finds and offers to share the drawings with us.
  7. The drawings are ultimately shared (at an upcoming meeting Tuesday June 28) with Hodges Gardens State Park and us; our research continues, with further direction.

Process sketch. See numbered list above for written account.

Lesson learned through this landscape documentation research episode:  Call ALL persons on initial contact list before diving into research or attempting to chase surface or detailed information.  Although we contacted several folks who shared clues, Raymond Berthelot had the masterplan drawings in his office downriver in Baton Rouge.

Either way, this is very exciting.  These drawings will help immensely as we gain a better understanding of the original designed landscape, and as we form conclusions about the evolution of the recent history of the land.  Ray Berthelot, Kim Kelly, John Byrd, Debbie Smith, perhaps others at NCPTT, and I plan to meet over these scanned drawings Tuesday morning here at NCPTT.

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