After nearly two years in Washington DC stewarding a beautiful Federal-era property in Georgetown, I’ve answered a calling to return to my roots in New England- where i first learned to grow plants, explore designed landscapes, research changes in land over time, and observe how humans interact with their environment. This calling led me to accept a role at Plimoth Patuxet (formerly Plantation) as Curator and Director of Museum Gardens and Landscapes. I started in April after a nearly month-long Covid-related delay, and am very excited to contribute my interests in historic landscapes, public horticulture, museum experience, and sustainability to further the mission of the organization.
The landscape here is rich and layered. Plimoth Patuxet is on the site of the former 20th c. Hornblower Mansion, which was demolished by the owners mid-century to create a permanent home and legacy for the museum. The 120 acre physical campus is diverse with forests, fields, marshes, and fronts the Eel River which empties in to the Cape Cod Bay just a few hundred yards away. Wampanoag Native American activity and early European settlement contributions also dot the site.
My personal interest in the landscape, apart from the incredible richness listed above, is the 20th c. contributions from significant designers that have gone relatively unrecognized. The Hornblower family, founders of the Museum, engaged in the services of the Olmsted firm numerous times over the years. Much of the grounds were shaped and influenced by the Olmsted firm with significant work undertaken around the mansion and other buildings. Many elements of the Olmsted layers are still intact, yet in decline from benign neglect. Preservation of these resources will be a very rewarding, yet challenging project.
Additionally, a gem of the designed landscape are the Hornblower Gardens surrounding the the old mansion’s cottage, which was kept as part of the museum. In the 1920’s the Hornblowers commissioned Mary P. Cunningham, a protege of Ellen Shipman, to design a pool garden and planting plan for the Olmsted terraced gardens. This garden has survived over the years and has stood the test of time, yet the legacy and life of Cunningham has been little recognized. There is a tremendous amount of work to do in this area for bringing light to this topic.
Plimoth Patuxet is a living history museum that offers powerful personal encounters with history built on thorough research about the Wampanoag People and the Colonial English community in the 1600s. There are four major permanent exhibits, all of which i’m excited to help care for: the Wampanoag Homesite; the English Village; the Plimoth Gristmill; and the Mayflower II at the Plymouth State Pier.
I’m excited to share my case studies, experiences, and lessons learned with this site over the coming years!