Landscape Series: Landscape Architect Arthur Shurcliff

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In 1928 Boston landscape architect Arthur A. Shurcliff began what became one of the most important examples of the American Colonial Revival landscape—Colonial Williamsburg, a project that stretched into the 1940s and included town and highway planning as well as residential and institutional gardens. A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1894, Shurcliff immediately went back to school at Harvard University where his mentor, Charles Eliot, helped him piece together a program in the Art History Department, the Lawrence Scientific School and the Bussey Institute. Upon graduation with a second Bachelor of Science, he worked in Frederick Law Olmsted’s office for eight years, acquiring a broad and sophisticated knowledge of the profession. When he opened his practice in 1904, Shurcliff emphasized his expertise in town planning. Two decades later, when he was tapped to be Chief Landscape Architect at Colonial Williamsburg, he was a seasoned professional whose commissions included his Boston work, campus design, town planning, and a robust practice in private domestic design.  How he utilized the skills he acquired over the years, and how his professional expertise intermingled with his avocational interests in history, craftsmanship, and design is the subject of Cushing’s biography—a story that inexorably sweeps him to his work in the restoration and recreation at Colonial Williamsburg.

Elizabeth Hope Cushing, Ph.D., is the author of a newly published book about Boston landscape architect Arthur A. Shurcliff (1870–1957), based on her doctoral dissertation for the American and New England Studies program at Boston University. She is also a coauthor, with Keith N. Morgan and Roger Reed, of  Community by Design, released in 2013.  Cushing is a practicing landscape historian who consults, writes, and lectures on landscape matters. She has written cultural landscape history reports for the Taft Art Museum in Cincinnati, The National Park Service, the Department of Conservation and Recreation of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and other institutions and agencies. Her contributor credits include Pioneers of American Landscape Design (McGraw Hill Companies, 2000), Design with Culture: Claiming America’s Landscape Heritage (University of Virginia Press, 2005), Shaping the American Landscape (University of Virginia Press, 2009), and Drawing Toward Home (Historic New England, 2010). She has received a grant from the Gill Family Foundation to write a biography of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., which she is currently researching.

The Landscape Architects series has been made possible by the generous underwriting of Stephen Stimson Associates Landscape Architects and is cosponsored by the Mount Auburn Cemetery and the Nichols House Museum.