Harkness’s Landscape Architects
Beatrix Farrand, the United States’ first female landscape architect, was at age 27, one of the 11 founding members of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 1899. A niece and intimate of novelist Edith Wharton, Farrand secured her first commissions from well-heeled family connections. Her intellect, her self-confidence, her rejection of sex barriers, her drive to master every aspect of landscape design, including engineering, and an inborn painterly approach to garden composition pushed her to the top of her field in short order.
The Harkness Gardens are only a few of her major works still extant and thus of great importance in the historic landscape architecture universe. Her masterwork, Dumbarton Oaks, flourishes in Washington D.C.: her Eyrie or Abby Rockefeller Garden was recently restored in Rockport Maine. The heavily trafficked and elegant Carriage Roads of Acadia National Park in Maine were designed by Farrand . The grounds of Princeton, Yale, University of Chicago and Dartington Hall in Devonshire England contain much of her work.
Marion Coffin was hired in 1949 after Beatrix Farrand’s retirement to refresh the East Garden design. In her plan, she continued the use of heliotrope, but eliminated the gladioli and lilies used by Farrand. Although she still used Farrand’s color effects, her changes brought a softening of textures and a more cohesive design.
Like Beatrix Farrand, Coffin was one of the first women in the United States to work as a landscape architect. She studied at MIT and was one of only four women studying architecture and landscape design there in 1901. She set up her own practice in 1905 and by the 1920’s was one of the most sought after architects in the Eastern United States. She had commissions from the Fricks, the Vanderbilts, the Huttons and the du Ponts. Her most notable creations were the gardens of Gilbraltar in Wilmington, Delaware, the campus of University of Delaware, the Caumsett and Post estate gardens, and most famously, her work with Henry du Pont at Winterthur.