Farrand, Beatrix, 1872-1959

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1872-06-19
Death 1959-02-28
Americans

Biographical notes:

Beatrix Jones Farrand opened her landscape design office in New York in 1895. In 1899 she achieved the distinction of being the only female founding member of the American Society of Landscape Architecture. Farrand's career spanned the next five decades and included notable projects such as Dumbarton Oaks in Washington D.C., Dartington Hall in Devonshire, England, and Princeton University. In addition, Farrand wrote numerous articles for publication and gave talks on landscape architecture. Throughout her career she collected books, prints, and photographs documenting landscape architecture and related topics; these she assembled as a research library at her Reef Point estate in Maine.

From the description of Beatrix Jones Farrand collection, 1866-1959. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 80465563

Beatrix Jones Farrand was one of the most important American landscape architects of the twentieth century. She has the distinction of being the only woman among the eleven founding members of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Her work consisted primarily of the design of private estate gardens and of landscaping plans for university and college campuses. Her best known designs are of Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C., and Dartington Hall in England. From 1946 to about 1950, Farrand served as consulting landscape gardener at the Arnold Arboretum. She designed major renovations of Bussey Hill, Peters Hill, and the area of the administration building.

From the description of Papers of Beatrix Jones Farrand, 1938-1953. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 43343343

Biography

Beatrix Jones Farrand (1872-1959)

Beatrix Farrand, the first noted woman landscape architect of her generation, was born in New York City on June 19, 1872. Her father, Frederick Rhinelander Jones, came from a wealthy family of Dutch and English ancestry. Her mother, Mary Cadwalader (Rawle), was a Philadelphia debutante. Beatrix Farrand was, in her words, "the product of five generations of garden lovers." Her grandmother owned one of the first espaliered fruit gardens in Newport, Rhode Island. As a child, Beatrix observed the laying out of the grounds of Reef Point, her parents' summer home at Bar Harbor, Maine. Reef Point was later the site of one of the most ambitious projects of her career.

Tutored at home, Farrand frequently traveled abroad with her mother and with her father's sister, the writer Edith Wharton. The novelist aided her niece and sister-in-law financially after the Joneses were divorced (sometime before Beatrix was twelve). Mary Cadwalader Jones acted as a part-time literary agent for Wharton, and managed the New York assembly balls for a number of years. She was a close friend of writer Henry James and often entertained other distinguished writers and artists.

As a young adult, Farrand was invited to study horticulture and live for several months at Holm Lea, the estate of Charles Sprague Sargent, near Brookline, Massachusetts. Sargent, the founder and first director of the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, introduced Jones to the principles of landscape design. Although she developed her own philosophy of design, she always followed Sargent's early advice "to make the plan fit the ground and not twist the ground to fit a plan."

Furthering her education, Farrand traveled to England and continental Europe to study traditional gardens. Her studies with Sargent and her travels through Europe were the extent of Farrand's landscape training. There were no formal schools of landscape architecture prior to 1900, when Harvard opened a program that was limited to men.

Farrand returned to New York in 1895 and opened a landscape design office. Within a short time she established a distinguished list of clients and could count among her patrons on Long Island and in Maine Edward Whitney, Willard Straight, and J. P. Morgan. For nearly fifty years, she was consulting landscape architect for Abby Aldrich Rockefeller's garden at Seal Harbor, Maine. In 1899 Farrand joined Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles Eliot, and others in founding the American Society of Landscape Architects.

An early influence on Farrand was William Robinson, the English landscape architect and author of The Wild Garden. She also admired the work of the celebrated English landscape gardener Gertrude Jekyll who, like Robinson, advocated the use of wild and native materials. Her lifelong associate, the landscape architect Robert Patterson, later wrote that Farrand's work had a "freedom of scale," "a subtle softness of line and an unobtrusive asymmetry."

Farrand's reputation for thoroughness and certainty of approach gained her a wide assortment of private and public landscape commissions. Among her major projects were Dartington Hall, an English estate of more than 2,000 acres, and the Graduate College gardens at Princeton University. At Yale, beginning in 1923, Beatrix Farrand designed the Memorial Quadrangle gardens and, in cooperation with the departments of botany and forestry, established a maintenance program that long remained in effect. She designed the West Rose Garden of the White House for Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, and served as landscape consultant to Vassar College, the University of Chicago, Oberlin College, the California Institute of Technology, and Occidental, among other universities.

Dumbarton Oaks, in Washington, D.C., is among Farrand's most acclaimed projects. Working closely with her friend Mildred Bliss, who was herself an imaginative gardener, she transformed what had once been a farm into a unique garden that incorporated characteristics of traditional French, English, and Italian garden designs. Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, a diplomat, purchased the property in 1920, and the gardens evolved under Farrand's direction over the next twenty years. "Never...did Beatrix Farrand impose on the land an arbitrary concept," wrote Mildred Bliss. "She 'listened' to the light and wind and grade of each area." Of all her designs, only the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks survive essentially unchanged.

Keeping a small office in New York, Farrand traveled constantly among assignments in Maine, New York, and Washington, supervising the planting and construction of her garden designs. Over her fifty-year career, Farrand designed approximately 200 gardens. She received many awards, including the Garden Club of America Medal of Achievement (1947) and the New York Botanical Garden Distinguished Service Award (1952).

In 1913, Beatrix Jones married Max Farrand, a noted authority on Benjamin Franklin, the author of several books on American constitutional law, and chairman of the Yale University History Department. In 1927 her husband became director of research at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, but the Farrands made their home principally at Bar Harbor. Beatrix Farrand devoted the last years of her life to Reef Point Gardens, a project she and her husband had begun in the early 1920s. Designed for both scholarly and experimental purposes, Reef Point ultimately included a test garden of native flora, a library (which included the original garden plans of Gertrude Jekyll), and an herbarium. By 1945, the year that Farrand's husband died, the library was regarded as one of the best sources on the history of garden design.

In 1955, concerned about the survival of Reef Point Gardens following Bar Harbor's refusal to grant it tax-exempt status, Farrand transferred the contents of her large collection of fine art prints and horticulture books, the herbarium, and her own correspondence to UC Berkeley's Department of Landscape Architecture.

Beatrix Farrand died at Bar Harbor in 1959.

Sources: Balmori, Diana; McGuire, Diane Kostial; and McPeck, Eleanor M. "Beatrix Farrand's American Landscapes: Her Gardens and Campuses" (Sagaponack, NY: Sagapress, 1985).

Brown, Jane. "Beatrix: The Gardening Life of Beatrix Jones Farrand, 1872-1959" (New York : Viking, 1995).

Iovine, Julie V. "The Impeccable Gardener," American Heritage, June-July 1986, pp. 67-77.

Salon, Marlene. "Beatrix Jones Farrand: Pioneer in Gilt-Edged Gardens," Landscape Architecture, Jan. 1977, 69-77

From the guide to the Beatrix Jones Farrand Collection, 1866-1959, (Environmental Design Archives.)

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Subjects:

  • Landscape architecture--Northeastern States
  • Garden structures
  • Gardens--Europe--Pictorial works
  • Landscape gardening
  • Gardens--Pictorial works
  • Landscape architects--Archives
  • Landscape architects
  • Landscape architects--Northeastern States
  • Landscape architecture
  • Women landscape architects--Archives
  • Women landscape architects

Occupations:

not available for this record

Places:

  • Peters Hill (Suffolk County, Mass.) (as recorded)
  • Northeastern States (as recorded)
  • Europe (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)