Horace William Shaler Cleveland (1814-1900)
Horace William Shaler Cleveland was born in Lancaster, Massachusetts, and as a youth attended an innovative school there managed by his mother, Dorcas Hiller Cleveland. The school’s unique curriculum emphasized landscape study and observation. Horatio Greenough, another student at the school, developed a set of aesthetic ideas in concert with Ralph Waldo Emerson, which argued for an organic approach to art. These ideas later influenced Cleveland, as a landscape designer, leading him to believe that he should be as true as possible to the landscape in which he worked. As a consequence, throughout his career, he advocated a starkly simple and natural style of design and maintained great disdain for superfluous decoration.
In the late 1820’s, Cleveland moved with his family to Cuba, where he learned about mulching techniques on the coffee plantations and healthful effects of tropical scenery. During the 1830’s, he surveyed in the wild landscape of Illinois and other western states for railroad entrepreneurs and real estate speculators. After returning to Massachusetts in the late 1830’s to stay with brother Henry in Jamaica Plain, Cleveland became involved with a literary organization call the Five of Clubs, where he met Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, whose ideas about social responsibility influenced Cleveland’s entire career. In the early 1840’s, Cleveland purchased “Oatlands”, a farm in Burlington, New Jersey, where he established himself as a scientific farmer. In that role, he considered both practical and aesthetic issues of landscape design and published articles about pomological techniques in journals such as Andrew Jackson Downing’s “The Horticulturist”.
In 1854, Cleveland again moved back to Massachusetts to begin a practice in landscape and ornamental gardening with Robert Morris Copeland. On of their first important commissions was the design of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts, for which Copeland and Cleveland were employed by Emerson and the other members of the Concord Cemetery Committee. Cleveland and Copeland designed the site to be sensitive to the existing landscape, and also as a park connected to various public open spaces in the Concord community. Their ideas about the connection of public spaces informed their suggestions for a Boston park system a year later. In 1856, as Back Bay was being filled, Cleveland and Copeland recommended that Commonwealth Avenue connect the center of Boston (the Common and Public Garden) to public spaces on the city’s periphery. In the following years, Cleveland contributed to a public campaign in support of a connected park system for Boston. His 1869 publication “The Public Grounds of Chicago: How to Give Them Character and Expression”, was as much about the public open space needs of Boston as it was about Chicago. Cleveland and Copeland dissolved their partnership sometime before the Civil War.
When Cleveland moved to Chicago in 1869, he used his connections with powerful railroad magnates to secure work. These men were convinced of their responsibility to help guide the advance of civilization by planning communities and planting trees in the prairie landscape. Cleveland also formed a loose partnership with William Merchant Richardson French, a civil engineer and later founding director of the Chicago Art Institute collaboration with him on cemetery and subdivision projects. During the 1870’s, Cleveland worked on Chicago’s Drexell Boulevard, the South Parks, and Graceland Cemetery. His office and prized library were destroyed in the great Fire of 1871. In 1873, he published “Landscape Architecture as Applied to the Wants of the West with an Essay on Forest Planting on the Great Plains”, one of the first books to define and develop the scope of the new profession of landscape architecture. Cleveland also corresponded extensively with colleagues such as Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.
In 1883, Cleveland began work on the Minneapolis Park System, the crowning achievement of his long career. He laid out a system of connected lakes, parks and parkways that were integral to the city’s development over the next several decades. After moving to Minneapolis in the mid-1880’s, he helped secure the area around Minnehaha Falls, known for its poetic associations with Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha. The Minneapolis park system is today considered on the most significant open space systems in the United States, and it stands as a testament to Cleveland’s vision.
ROBERT MORRIS COPELAND (1830 – 1874)
Robert Morris Copeland was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts. After trying his luck in California during the gold rush, he attended Harvard College, where he studied liberal arts and formed a lifelong association with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. After graduating in the early 1850’s, Copeland became a scientific farmer at Beaver Brook Falls near Lexington, Massachusetts. He met Horace Cleveland through scientific farming connections, and they established a partnership in “landscape and ornamental gardening” in 1854.
Copeland’s first commission, likely prepared with Cleveland, was the State Farm at Westborough, Massachusetts. In early 1855, Copeland delivered an address in the Concord Lyceum Series titled “The Useful and the Beautiful”. That address, coupled with personal connections, let to the selection of Copeland and Cleveland as designers of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts. Other notable projects they completed during the 1850’s included the Samuel Colt estate in Hartford, Connecticut (today part of Colt Park), the Oak Grove Cemetery, Gloucester and the Wyoming Cemetery, Melrose, both in Massachusetts. In 1856, failed attempts to obtain the commission for the design of Central Park, and toward that end, he and Cleveland laid out their thoughts in a pamphlet titled “A Few Words on the Central Park”. In 1857, Copeland submitted a formal entry in the Central Park design competition but won nothing (it is unclear whether he submitted the design alone or with Cleveland). Copeland also wrote a book, “Country Life: A Handbook of Agriculture, Horticulture and Landscape Gardening (1859), in which he offered practical and aesthetic advice to rural citizens and suggested that a managed rural landscape offered everything that might “expand the mind and ennoble the soul”. Copeland and Cleveland amicably dissolved their partnership at some point before the Civil War.
During the Civil War, Copeland attained the rank of major in the Union Army and likely helped establish the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the black brigade later depicted in the famous Augustus Saint-Gaudens sculpture. He was dishonorably discharged in 1862, apparently for leaking disparaging information about superior officers to the press, and spent the next several years clearing his name. In the process, he solicited character witnesses including Ralph Waldo Emerson and even met with President Abraham Lincoln. By the late1860’s, he had established a flourishing practice in Boston with projects in New York, Pennsylvania and several for the Frederick Billings estate in Woodstock, Vermont, where Billings engaged in forestry study and scientific farming experiments consistent with many of the ideas presented in Copeland’s Country Life.
Also, beginning in the 1860’s, Copeland began to promote his developing ideas for a Boston park system in articles and editorials published in the Boston Daly Advertiser (the newspaper was edited by his brother-in-law, Charles F. Dunbar). By 1872, Copeland had developed a grand plan for a system of public open spaces which he highlighted in his 1872 publication, “The Most Beautiful City in America: Essay and Plan for the Improvement of the City of Boston”. Many of his ideas foreshadowed Charles Eliot’s. Copeland designed hundreds of landscapes at all scales, including several fine community designs such as Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. He continued to refine his design philosophy and worked to position himself to design a system of parks for Boston until he died unexpectedly in 1874. After his death, his apprentice, Ernest Bowditch, continued to promote Copeland’s concept for a connected park system in Boston. According to an obituary, likely written by Dunbar, “Copeland had done much in the way of laying out and ornamenting private grounds, but his ambition was for work on a grander scale”.
ERNEST W. BOWDITCH (1850 – 1918)
William Ernestus Bowditch was born in Brookline, Massachusetts and educated in the Brookline public schools. In 1865, Bowditch, (who by this time had inverted his first and middle names and was known as Ernest W.), enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he studied chemistry and mining. He ended his studies in June 1869, leaving without a degree, and went to Nebraska, where for several months he had a construction job with the Chicago Burlington & Quincy Railroad.
After returning to Boston, Bowditch, through family connections, was appointed assistant mineralogist with the Darien Expedition, a canal survey expedition to the Isthmus of Darien (now the Isthmus of Panama). The route Bowditch’s team surveyed during the first half of 1870 proved not to be the best one for what was to become the Panama Canal. When he returned to Boston afterward, his career began to blossom. He worked in conjunction with architectural and engineering firms, as well as using his family connections to obtain independent commissions. His career is marked by associations with prominent Boston and New York architects, landscape architects and architectural firms: Robert Morris Copeland; McKim, Mead & Bigelow; Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.; Bruce Price; Peabody & Stearns; H. H. Richardson and Shedd & Sawyer.
In the fall of 1870, Bowditch was employed at the Boston office of Shedd & Sawyer, Civil Engineers. One of his first jobs for the firm was general maintenance of the grounds of Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, where he laid out driveways, paths, stone bounds for corners, curbing and gardens. This early exposure to America’s first romantic cemetery plan was a strong influence on Bowditch’s future design ideas.
In mid-1871, Bowditch set up his own office opposite Copeland’s and did survey work for him. A year later, he began to consult for Peabody && Stearns. He continued to work with the architectural firm through the mid-1880’s and also collaborated with architect H. H. Richardson on several projects, notably as structural engineer for Boston’s Trinity Church. From the mid-1880’s through late 1890’s, Bowditch shared office space with his landscape gardener brother, James H. Bowditch.
Bowditch also frequently worked with Olmsted Sr. and John Charles Olmsted, often as a surveyor or draftsman. But despite a long professional relationship with the Olmstead, he generally felt animosity for them because of their wide renown.
Bowditch was a talented designer, both creatively and technically, as well as an adept manager of project construction. He was involved in municipal surveys for sewer and water supply design and in many eastern communities, as well as structural engineering, land surveying, cemetery design, subdivision layout, and landscape design at summer resorts of the wealthy, especially Newport, Rhode Island. His projects there included Pierre Lorillard and Cornelius Vanderbilt’s Breakers, as well as the estates of Ogden Goelet, Catherine Lorillard Wolfe, and Charles Lanier, to name only a few. While much of Bowditch’s residential design was carried out in a picturesque style, his designs for the estates of the wealthy often utilized a formal layout. The estate of T. W. Pierce of Topsfield, Massachusetts, showed Bowditch’s mastery of a Beaux Arts approach.
Bowditch also designed many parks. Two notable surviving examples from the 1890’s are Rockefeller Park and the connecting Shaker Lakes Park on Cleveland’s Erie-oriented horseshoe park system, much like Boston’s “Emerald Necklace”. In the late 1880’s and 1890’s, Bowditch executed landscape designs for several subdivisions: Tuxedo Park in New York; Newton Terraces in Waban and Allston Park in Allston, Massachusetts; and Shoreby Hill in Jamestown, Rhode Island; as well as the suburban Cleveland communities of Clifton Park and Euclid Heights.