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27 October 2011

Gillette Forum On Landscape Design 
"Restoring Martha Brookes Hutcheson's Water Harvest System"
Patricia M. O'Donnell, FASLA, AICP, Heritage Landscapes
Louis Ginter Botanical Garden 
Richmond, VA

Martha Brookes Hutcheson, FASLA, is an important pioneer in the landscape architecture profession and is among the first three women who pursued early training in landscape architecture in the United States.  The 100-acre Merchiston Farm, known today as Bamboo Brook, is her former home.  Hutcheson stated that “to introduce water is to include the fantastic and the intangible, and a garden without it is robbed of poetry and romance.” Following this ideal, Hutcheson designed and implemented a complex rain water harvest system to feed pools connected by a rock-edged stream at her home.

In 2000, Heritage Landscapes developed the Bamboo Brook Historic Landscape Preservation & Maintenance Plan for the Morris County Park Commission, the current steward of the property. Hutcheson’s plans and handwritten notes conveyed the intricacy of the system of swales and  drainage elements used to collect and distribute rain water.  Field survey work revealed substantial deterioration of water system features. The complexity, significance, and deteriorated condition of the system stood out as one important focus of the landscape recapture. Today, Hutcheson’s unique water system at Bamboo Brook has been restored to its historic character and function, updated to address contemporary needs in a balance of sustainability and historic preservation.

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