Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture

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Lowthorpe School: cover of early 1920s brochure
Lowthorpe School main building in the 1920s

Lowthorpe School of Architecture in Groton, Massachusetts was founded in 1901 for women to be trained in landscape architecture and horticulture. The college was one of the first in the world to open the profession to women.


The school was founded in 1901 as Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture, Gardening, and Horticulture for Women by Judith Eleanor Motley Low, a Groton native who was either the granddaughter or great granddaughter of Benjamin Bussey. Low had spent time in her youth at the Bussey Institute at Arnold Arboretum, studying agriculture, gardening, and botany. A one-page brochure announcing the establishment of the school offered instruction in the subjects of "landscape gardening, elementary architecture, horticulture, botany and allied subjects," starting in October 1901. The Groton campus included 17 acres (69,000 m2) of meadow, orchards gardens, greenhouses, and an administration building.[1][2]

Lowthorpe was incorporated in 1909 and placed under direction of a board of directors at that time. Patrons included Charles W. Eliot, President Emeritus of Harvard University, Professor Charles Sprague Sargent of the Arnold Arboretum and Professor James Sturgis Pray, Chairman of the Department of Landscape Architecture at Harvard, among others. [3] The course curriculum was changed in 1915 from two to three years, diplomas were awarded, and the name changed to the Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture for Women, dropping the words Gardening and Horticulture from the title. In 1917, Lowthorpe fielded a baseball team called the Farmerettes.

Under John Parker, Lowthorpe's director from 1934-1945, winter classes were taught in Boston at 491 Boylston Street.[4] In 1945, Lowthorpe was absorbed into the Rhode Island School of Design and became known as the Lowthorpe Department of Landscape Architecture. The Groton campus was adapted into a convent and the Country Day School of the Holy Union.[5]

The stature of the school was raised when Ellen Shipman (named in 1933 by the magazine House & Garden as the "Dean of women landscape architects"), in a 40-year career, reportedly would only hire graduates from Lowthorpe School. According to Catharine Filene, writing in Careers for Women in 1920, schools offering training similar to Lowthorpe included Cornell University, The University of Illinois, Cambridge School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture for Women, and The University of California.

Notable Alumni[edit]

  • Jane Silverstein Reis (Class of 1932) practiced in Denver for more than 50 years
  • Elizabeth Lord (Class of 1929) and Edith Schryver (Class of 1923) formed the Oregon firm of Lord and Schryver
  • Gertrude Kuh (Class of 1917) practiced many years in Chicago