Posts Tagged ‘NCPTT’

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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The National Center for Preservation Technology & Training is hosting Preservation in Your Community, an annual research and project showcase, at the NCPTT headquarters in Natchitoches tonight, August 2.  Several NCPTT summer interns and other local partners will be sharing work, and I will be sharing the above poster on Hodges Gardens landscape research.  The event is sponsored by NCPTTCane River National Heritage Area, and Cane River Creole National Historical Park.  If you are in the area, I hope you will consider attending.  The come-and-go event happens from 5pm to 7pm.

Update: the evening was a success!  Numerous friendly, interested folks attended PIYC last night.  Appetizers and drinks were available as people gathered and conversed.  Interns and area partners shared research, projects, and other information.

Discussing Hodges Gardens research with Preservation in Your Community visitors. Photo credit: Debbie Smith.

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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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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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I continued north from the administration office along the loop road.  [The office is located along the road east of the lake and at the western edge of a large rectangular field].  A little more than a mile northwest of the Office, the roadway descended, and I caught my first glimpse of the lake.  [For a quicker view of the lake, I would recommend starting the loop road by veering straight/left just after the entrance booth].  From here the road travels along an earthen dam, and offers a beautiful view of the 225 acre lake, back to the south and east.  The pine-covered hills visible from this point undoubtedly hold in part of the special sense of place that has drawn visitors to this landscape for decades.  The earthen dam here holds back one (here, the White House Branch) of two small drainage ways that creates the lake around which this park is centered.

According to a history report written by Park Manager Kim Kelly (cited from hodgesgardens.net), the lake water is supplied by three (3) naturally flowing artesian springs and many other smaller springs.  These water sources certainly help keep the lake water relatively clear, and make this water body an attractive distant background, and sometimes focal point, from much of the northern and western designed areas of the park.

I drove over to the visitor center parking area, which is located on a high point on a broad peninsula above the northwestern shores of the lake.  Gathering my walnut halves and cheddar cheese, water bottle, notepad, and camera, I left the van to begin my pedestrian adventure.

While my primary goal was just to get an on-the-ground experience of the main gardens area, I went ahead and took several photographs with my camera—no shots in particular, but photos of things that simply interested me or seemed potentially useful with the documentation process.

As mentioned previously, scope and logistics of landscape documentation projects really help guide goals for site visits.  Though usually not ideal, sometimes a single site visit is all that is feasible for a documentation project.  Other times, many visits will be necessary.  The time frame and logistics of this summer project puts me somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.  Although I intend to be as sensible as possible with my resources at hand, I envision visiting Hodges Gardens at least a handful of times this summer.

Documentation Photography:  If you are working on a project where few site visits are possible, make the most efficient use out of your visit(s).   Photograph more than you think you will need.  Capture views; capture landscape features (buildings, structures, small elements); capture significant vegetation; capture major lines (hardscape or softscape) that create spatial organization; capture circulation (pedestrian and vehicular) routes.  The guide that accompanies this blog will expand on these points in more detail.  For now, check out the images that follow this post for a few examples of images I captured at Hodges Gardens.

Planning the Walk-through:  If the landscape of interest is large, you may want to roughly follow a map (if one doesn’t exist, see if any aerial imagery on Google or Bing Maps is helpful) to make sure high points are visited.  If you feel like the site is pretty easy to navigate, just start walking—and photographing, if that fits your plan/scope.

As the thermometer approached 100 degrees Fahrenheit near 1pm, my pedestrian excursion came to a close.  Starting field work early on days like this certainly pays.  I finished my visit with a drive back around the loop road, and checked out a trail head that lay down a sinuous side-road.

I had some good corn tortilla fajitas at a Mexican restaurant just up the road in Many, Louisiana.  Many is a roughly a halfway landmark between Hodges Gardens and the office back in Natchitoches.  Many is the parish seat and largest city in Sabine Parish—the home parish of Hodges Gardens.

Slowing to at least 5mph below the speed limit in Robeline, LA (hint), I arrived with a couple of work hours left for the day at NCPTT.  This provided a great time for me to glance over my small stack of Park literature I had gathered earlier in the day.  After a site visit, maps and other related information are more easily interpreted.

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