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Bamboo Brook, Merchiston Farm


Bamboo Brook, Merchiston Farm
Morristown, New Jersey

The 100-acre Merchiston Farm, known today as Bamboo Brook, is the former home of Martha Brookes (Brown) Hutcheson, FASLA. Hutcheson is an important pioneer in the profession and holds a place among the first three women who pursued early training in landscape architecture in the United States. Applying the principles laid out in her book, The Spirit of the Garden, the farm became a physical manifestation of Hutcheson’s talent and design skill and an expression of her garden-making principles. Her five main principles include: selecting the garden size and type in relation to the style of house; emphasizing proper line of approach, treatment of the main axis, and integrating the house and garden; creating beautiful transitions between schemes; using the natural topography to create levels; and using plenty of green foliage to provide backgrounds, contrasts, proportions, perspective, and shadows with varying amounts of color.

The award-winning Bamboo Brook Historic Landscape Preservation and Maintenance Plan process involved Morris County staff and a diverse advisory committee in a series of planning work sessions. Revealing primary source documentary research findings from both text and graphic sources led to an understanding of this intricate designed landscape. The evolution of the garden landscape and broader farm was researched and communicated in detail as a continuum of embellishment over four decades from 1911 to the early 1950s. Historic period and existing conditions plans were developed. Assessment of change formed the basis for an exploration of preservation alternatives. The uniqueness and complexity of this important landscape suggested that restoration was the most appropriate preservation treatment. Specific implementation projects to help recapture the former historic landscape character were presented.  The complexity and significance of the water system of pools and a rock-edged stream and spillway, as designed and implemented by Hutcheson, stood out as one important focus of restoration efforts.  An approach to implementation was identified and construction documents created. Restoration of the Coffee Terrace and Armillary Sphere Garden with extensive masonry work and soil management was completed in 2004. Reconstruction of Hutcheson’s complex system of scenic pools, stream and swimming tank is underway.

Morris County Park Commission

Bamboo Brook Historic Landscape Preservation & Maintenance Plan, 2000; Bamboo Brook Historic Landscape Water System, Coffee Terrace & Garden Restoration, 2004-2008

Project Credits:
Heritage Landscapes, Preservation Landscape Architects & Planners, LRV Associates, and Landmark Facilities Group, Inc.