Gillette, Genevieve, 1898-

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Ann Arbor, Michigan, Landscape architect, speaker and lobbyist on behalf of conservation and beautification, president of the Michigan Parks Association, and member of the Citizens' Advisory Committee on Recreation and Natural Beauty during the Johnson Administration.

From the description of Genevieve Gillette papers, 1914-1987 (bulk 1951-1980). (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 34418340

Genevieve Gillette was instrumental in the development of Michigan's state park system. In 1959 her interest in developing outdoor recreation opportunities for the people of Michigan led her to help establish the Michigan Parks Association. Over the following decade Gillette led the association to fight for the establishment of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and other national and state parks, as well as to lobby for better funding for the state park system. As a result of her work, President Johnson appointed Gillette in 1966 to the Citizens' Advisory Committee on Recreation & Natural Beauty.

Emma Genevieve Gillette (she did not commonly use her first name), was born May 19, 1898 in Lansing, Michigan, the daughter of David Commodore and Kittie Beal Gillette. Gillette grew up on a farm near Dimondale, Michigan, and in 1916 entered the Michigan Agricultural College where she studied horticulture and landscape architecture. She graduated in 1920, the only woman graduate in the school's first landscape architecture class. One of her classmates, Percy J. Hoffmaster, became superintendent of Michigan's state parks and later director of the Michigan Department of Conservation.

After graduation Gillette worked with the Chicago landscape architect Jens Jensen for a time, then moved to Detroit in 1924 where she established her own practice. (She moved to Barton Hills, Michigan, in the 1940s.) Among the projects she worked on were Lakeland, Florida (1925); Westacres, a greenbelt-type development in Oakland County, Michigan (1932); Albion College (from the 1940s); and Big Rapids, Michigan (from 1955).

At the same time her architectural practice was developing, Gillette began assisting Hoffmaster as a volunteer, helping to select sites for Michigan state parks. Her volunteer work was done through a variety of organizations, many of which Gillette helped to found, including the Michigan Horticultural Society (1930), Detroit Rose Society (1930), Michigan Botanical Club (1937), Michigan Natural Areas Council (1940s), and Michigan Parks Association (1959). In addition to these voluntary organizations, Gillette worked through several government bodies, including the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority (early 1940s), White House Conference on Natural Beauty (1965), (Michigan) Governor's Conference on Natural Beauty (1965), Michigan Wilderness and Natural Areas Advisory Board (1972-1980), and Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission (beginning 1973) and its predecessor organizations beginning in the early 1960s.

After Hoffmaster's death in 1951, Gillette continued to support the development of Michigan's park system, and began to take on more of the leading role that she felt had been vacated by the death of her friend. Under the umbrella of the Michigan Parks Association, she lobbied for parks on three main fronts: First, for the acquisition of new parklands, using both state and federal funds. This work concentrated on Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Sylvania Recreation Area and McCormick Experimental Forest in the Ottawa National Forest, and Mill Creek Metropark west of Ann Arbor; Second, for the preservation of existing parks, especially Porcupine Mountains State Park, the Rouge River floodplain near the University of Michigan--Dearborn, and federal wilderness areas;Third, for development of new sources of funds for the state parks. In the 1960s this work concentrated on the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and a state recreational bond issue.

In addition to her work for Michigan state parks, Gillette's general interest in landscape architecture led her into the field of scenic roads and highway beautification, which she developed after being appointed to President Johnson's Citizens' Advisory Committee on Recreation & Natural Beauty in 1966.

During the 1970s and 1980s Gillette's work slowly declined even while she received more and more acclaim for her accomplishments. She died May 23, 1986.

From the guide to the Genevieve Gillette Papers, 1914-1987, 1951-1980, (Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Pierce, William J. William J. Pierce papers, 1930s-1990 (bulk 1950s-1960s) University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Gillette, Genevieve, 1898-. Genevieve Gillette papers, 1914-1987 (bulk 1951-1980). University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Genevieve Gillette Papers, 1914-1987, 1951-1980 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn William J. Pierce Papers, 1930s-1990, 1950s-1960s Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Jack Van Coevering Papers, 1928-1978 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Altman Miller Company (Lansing, Mich.) corporateBody
associatedWith Frank, Patricia M. person
associatedWith Freeman, Orville. person
associatedWith Freeman, Orville L. person
associatedWith Gillette family. family
associatedWith Hart, Philip A. (Philip Aloysius), 1912-1976. person
correspondedWith Jensen, Jens person
associatedWith Jensen, Jens, 1860-1951. person
associatedWith Michigan. Dept. of Conservation. corporateBody
associatedWith Michigan Parks Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Pierce, William J. person
associatedWith Pierce, William J. person
associatedWith Rockefeller, Laurance S., 1910- person
associatedWith Rockefeller, Laurance Spelman. person
associatedWith United States. Citizens' Advisory Committee on Recreation & Natural Beauty. corporateBody
associatedWith Van Coevering, Jack, 1900- person
associatedWith Walker Tavern (Cambridge Junction, Mich.) corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Sylvania Recreation Area (Mich.)
Porcupine Mountains State Park (Mich.)
Rouge, River (Mich. : River)
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Mich.)
Rouge River (Mich.)
P.J. Hoffmaster State Park (Mich.)
McCormick Experimental Forest (Mich.)
Mill Creek Metropark (Mich. : Proposed)
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Mich.)
Westacres (Mich.)
Mill Creek Metropark (Mich. : Proposed)
Cyrus H. McCormick Experimental Forest (Mich.)
Porcupine Mountains State Park (Mich.)
Lyndon, Park (Mich.)
Isle Royale National Park (Mich.)
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Mich.)
Sylvania Recreation Area (Mich.)
Cambridge Junction (Mich.)
Isle Royale National Park (Mich.)
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Mich.)
Westacres (Mich.)
Women in the professions
Business enterprises--Michigan--Lansing
Conservation of natural resources
Conservation of natural resources--United States
Oral History
Roads--United States
National parks and reserves
National parks and reserves--United States
Women conservationists--Michigan
Natural resources
Natural resources--United States


Birth 1898

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Ark ID: w6m93dpk

SNAC ID: 3689055