August 6, 2014
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v2.1 Reference

Arthur A. Shurcliff

Design, Preservation, and the Creation of the Colonial Williamsburg Landscape

In 1928 the landscape architect Arthur A. Shurcliff (1870–1957) 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. Shurcliff graduated from MIT with a degree in engineering in 1894 but was drawn to landscape architecture. Because no formal programs existed at the time, on the advice of Frederick Law Olmsted and with the aid of his mentor, Charles Eliot, he went on to piece together courses at Harvard College, the Lawrence Scientific School, and the Bussey Institute, earning a second B.S. two years later. He then spent eight years working in the Olmsted office, acquiring a broad and sophisticated knowledge of the profession.

Opening his own practice in 1904, Shurcliff emphasized his expertise in town planning, through the years preparing plans for towns surrounding Boston and for several industrial communities. He also designed recreational spaces in and around Boston, including significant aspects of the Franklin Park Zoo and the Charles River Esplanade, one of Shurcliff's major projects in the region.

In this richly illustrated biography, Elizabeth Hope Cushing shows how Shurcliff's early years in Boston, his training, his early design and planning work, and his experience creating an Arts and Crafts–style summer compound in Ipswich led to Colonial Williamsburg, the largest commission of his career and his most significant contribution to American landscape architecture.

Published in association with Library of American Landscape History: http://lalh.org/

About the Author

Elizabeth Hope Cushing is the author of numerous cultural landscape history reports and coauthor of Community by Design: The Olmsted Firm and the Development of Brookline, Massachusetts (University of Massachusetts Press / Library of American Landscape History, 2013).


"Arthur Shurcliff was a pivotal figure in both municipal park design and landscape preservation. In Boston he personally shaped the transition of the Olmsted park system to the twentieth-century public landscape. In historic preservation, he pioneered early landscape preservation efforts, culminating in his remarkable and profoundly influential work in Williamsburg, begun when he was in his sixties."—Ethan Carr, author of Mission 66: Modernism and the National Park Dilemma

"This is a very good piece of work and it will be a singularly important contribution to the literature concerning what I believe is still our least understood period of urban landscape architecture."—Gary R. Hilderbrand, author of Making a Landscape of Continuity: The Practice of Innocenti and Webel
University of Massachusetts Press
Designing the American Park

9781625340399 : arthur-a-shurcliff-cushing
416 Pages
$39.95 USD

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Community by Design

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