Georgia's Historic Landscape Initiative
by James Cothran, FASLA

Georgia’s Historic Landscape Initiative is directed at supplementing the national HALS effort. While carried out on a smaller scale and following less stringent standards than those prescribed by the national HALS Program, Georgia’s Historic Landscape Initiative has, nevertheless, played an important role in creating greater awareness for the preservation of the State’s historic landscape resources.

Initiated in 2002 under the direction of Landscape Architect Jim Cothran, FASLA, a collaboration was forged among the State Historic Preservation Office, the Garden Club of Georgia, the Cherokee Garden Library of the Atlanta History Center, and the National Park Service Southeast Regional Office for the purpose of conducting a statewide inventory of Georgia’s historic gardens.

In undertaking this ambitious program, it was decided that the publication Garden History of Georgia: 1733 1933 would serve as a framework and guide for carrying out the project. This comprehensive work published in 1933 by the Peachtree Garden Club of Atlanta consists of three distinct sections: early gardens (before 1865); modern gardens (1933 and later), and institutional gardens/school gardens/campuses. The publication contains 163 listings that are illustrated with photographs and plans supported by narrative descriptions of each entry.

Cothran 1
Images from Garden History of Georgia 1733-1933. Reprinted with permission of the Peachtree Garden Club, Atlanta, Georgia. 

Cothran 2
Images from Garden History of Georgia 1733-1933. Reprinted with permission of the Peachtree Garden Club, Atlanta, Georgia. 

It was mutually decided by participating organizations that the initial effort of the statewide inventory would be to document gardens in Garden History of Georgia that were developed prior to 1865. It was also agreed that the Cherokee Garden Library would serve as the repository for all material collected from the survey process.

In order to insure consistency and uniformity of effort in developing baseline information, the first step in the documentation process was to prepare a survey form for use during the inventory. While the original form has proven to be extremely useful, over time, minor changes and additions have been made to address specialized conditions encountered in the inventorying process. Not only is the survey form directed at identifying current conditions at each site, but also those features that had been lost or destroyed over time including walks, fountains, benches, plants, etc.

From the beginning of the project, it was decided that volunteers from the Garden Club of Georgia would serve as the primary resource for conducting the inventory. Training sessions were held at various locations across the state to insure that volunteers were familiar with the objective of the program and could complete the survey forms properly. In addition to completing the forms, volunteers were encouraged to search for old photographs, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, and other material that would help document the history of each garden. The Cherokee Garden Library has proven to be an ideal repository for the survey material, as it serves as an important research facility for the study of southern garden history.

To date, 116 historic gardens throughout the state have been surveyed. Of these, approximately one-third were found to be in very poor condition or completely destroyed. Of those that are extant, many have been changed or altered from the time they were first developed. Even so, the surveys have provided valuable information on each garden, often indicating a need for preservation, improved maintenance, or action to insure their preservation or survival. Additional benefits of the inventory include: increased awareness for landscape preservation; collection of information that will assist with research on southern garden history; and a greater appreciation of Georgia’s rich landscape legacy. Another important aspect of the project has been the recognition of the potential of various organizations and interested volunteer groups to assist with the HALS program as it continues to develop and evolve.

James Cothran, FASLA, is Vice-President of Planning and Landscape Architecture at Robert and Company in Atlanta, Georgia. He can be reached at 

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Andrew Kohr, ASLA, Chair
(678) 689-2377

Earen Hummel, ASLA, Vice Chair
(970) 484-6073  

Tina Bishop, ASLA, Chair-Elect
(303) 477-5244

David Driapsa, ASLA, HALS Coordinator
(239) 591-2321