Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture
The Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture is the shorthand name for a school that was founded in Groton, Massachusetts in 1901 for women to be trained in landscape architecture and horticulture. Under its original name of Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture, Gardening, and Horticulture for Women, the college was one of the first in the world to open the profession to women. In 1915 it was renamed the Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture for Women, and in 1945 it was absorbed into the Rhode Island School of Design as the Lowthorpe Department of Landscape Architecture.
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." The brochure announced an October 1901 start date, but instruction did not actually begin until the following fall.
To be admitted, a prospective student was required to have a high school diploma and some knowledge of both drawing and botany. The school's population of students ranged from single digits in the early years up to 30 or 40 in the 1930s. Instruction focused on private residential design rather than public gardens, as such work was at the time considered most suitable for women.
The Groton campus included 17 acres (69,000 m2) of meadows, orchards, gardens, greenhouses, and an administration building. The gardens were largely the work of school students and were mostly laid out in geometrical arrangements; the herb garden, for example, was in the form of an Elizabethan knot. Although the naturalistic style of Edwardian-era English garden design (embracing both the English landscape garden and its later variant the cottage garden) was the prevailing aesthetic taught at the school, the more formal style of Italian landscape design was also taught and influenced how the gardens were organized.
Lowthorpe was incorporated in 1909 and placed under direction of a board of directors with Low as president of the board. 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. 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 to 1945, winter classes were taught in Boston at 491 Boylston Street. 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 a day school that is today named the Country Day School of the Holy Union.
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, the Cambridge School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, and the University of California.
Notable faculty and administrators
- Josef Albers
- Nellie B. Allen
- Mabel Keyes Babcock
- Henry Atherton Frost
- Elizabeth Greenleaf Pattee
- Bremer Whidden Pond (director)
- Robert Sturtevant (faculty and director)
- Edith Henderson (1911-2005, Class of 1934), practiced in Atlanta for over 60 years. Designed the landscaping for Techwood and Clark Howell Homes, the first public housing projects in the United States.
- Gertrude Kuh (Class of 1917) practiced many years in the Chicago area.
- Elizabeth Lord (Class of 1929) and Edith Schryver (Class of 1923) formed the Oregon firm of Lord and Schryver.
- Jane Silverstein Ries (Class of 1932) practiced in Denver for more than 50 years.
- "Form A: Country Day School of the Holy Union". Massachusetts Historical Commission.
- "Lowthorpe School". Harvard University Library Virtual Collection bibliographic record.
- "Lowthorpe School". Smithsonian Institution SIRIS archives website
- Knight, Jane Alison. "An Examination of the Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture for Women, Groton, Massachusetts, 1901-1945". Cornell University Master's thesis, 1986.
- Kirkham, Pat. Women Designers in the USA, 1900-2000.