Historic American Landscapes Survey: Making a Difference across the Country
by Carrie A. Mardorf, ASLA

Including contributions by Betsy Flack, ASLA; Cathy Garrett, ASLA; Chris Pattillo, ASLA; Noel Vernon, ASLA; and Jenn Thomas, ASLA

As a former National Park Service (NPS) intern completing HALS documentation for a historic farmstead in Sharpsburg, Maryland, I had no idea that the program in which I was participating would later sweep across the nation, becoming a full-force landscape documentation program. Now, partnership between ASLA, NPS, and the Library of Congress through the implementation of the HALS Liaison program has spurred new and exciting developments within the field of preservation landscape architecture. Protecting and preserving historic landscapes has become an important goal across the country, no doubt, in part, from the many ASLA volunteers involved in the HALS program.

Reading through the lists of accomplishments for 2009, it’s exciting to see the impact HALS has had on the nation in the past year. Advocacy, education, and outreach are creating new collaborations and forging partnerships between members, chapters, state governments, and other professionals.

While this article focuses on a brief overview of past accomplishments and “HALS happenings” in Northern and Southern California and Colorado, there are many more inspiring activities occurring elsewhere. I urge everyone to contact these and other ASLA chapters to find out more about HALS activities nationwide. The process of sharing successes, challenges, and ideas will keep this preservation momentum going forward.

Northern California - Betsy Flack, ASLA; Cathy Garrett, ASLA; Chris Pattillo, ASLA 

The HALS Northern California chapter has grown to 99 professionals that include ASLA members and allied professionals who share a passion for historic landscapes. Outreach and advocacy is strong in the Golden State with members inventorying and documenting landscapes, planning for cultural landscape workshops, and meeting with key officials to promote landscape preservation. Recent accomplishments include the following:

  • Established a HALS California Web site.
  • Completed HALS documentation for three sites—the Kaiser Roof Garden in Oakland, the Mary Burdell Garden in Novato, and Piedmont Avenue in Berkeley.
  • Challenged members to fill out an inventory form for their favorite site. So far 30+ forms have been submitted to NPS.
  • Conceived the idea for the Theme Park Challenge: Revisiting Cultural Landscapes of Childhood, and issued the challenge to the nation to submit an inventory form for a theme park in their state.
  • Met with staff from the California Office of Historic Preservation. The briefing resulted in a published article in the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) newsletter.
  • Advocated for HALS documentation for a Robert Royston landscape at a public hearing. The cooperating public agency agreed to the HALS documentation.
  • Introduced HALS to architects at San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
  • Planned for educational workshops at the 2010 California Preservation Foundation conference and AIA National Convention in Florida

Southern California - Noel Vernon, ASLA 

HALS appears to be off to a good start in Southern California with a focus on training and networking. In April, a Cal Poly Pomona student session was held at the Peter Strauss Ranch, a relatively well-documented NPS property in the Santa Monica Mountains. Trial GPS measurements were made using ESRI software, and a HALS survey form was drafted for the site. Following this, two additional HALS training sessions were held in August, at Laguna Beach and at UCLA. Both training sessions lead to discussions about potential surveys and project-scale HALS work in the Southern California HALS region. Other 2009 accomplishments include:

  • Advocated for HALS workshops to be conducted through the California Preservation Foundation
  • Discussed an all-California HALS website with the Northern California HALS
  • Finalized the Southern California HALS webpage
  • Discussed converting the findings of a large local historic resources survey project into HALS
  • Communicated with California SHPO
  • Planned for national HALS training/gathering in Washington, D.C.

Colorado - Jenn Thomas, ASLA, HALS Liaison Colorado Chapter 

HALS in Colorado has had a relatively strong presence within the landscape architecture programs at the state universities. In 2004-2005, the first Colorado HALS project was completed by professors and students at University of Colorado—Denver (UCD) on Lawrence Halprin’s Skyline Park, designed in 1973. A HALS documentation studio was also conducted in 2008 for a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in Duhring, Pennsylvania. In the near future, HABS/HAER/HALS documentation will be taught as part of the curriculum of a new Master of Science in Historic Preservation degree program at UCD. There is a strong possibility that regular completion of HABS/HAER/HALS projects will be part of the coursework.

Other HALS activities in Colorado include working with federal and state entities for a stronger cultural landscape presence in new plans and projects in the state. Accomplishments for 2009 include:

  • Met with U.S. Representative Diane DeGette’s staff member, District Director Chris Arend to discuss HALS funding and the Complete Streets Initiative
  • Began dialogue with the National Park Service regarding a potential HALS project in the San Luis area of Colorado, an area with a rich history related to native and Hispanic cultures, and to agriculture
  • Met with Colorado's National and State Register Coordinator regarding the creation of a state landscape inventory form for cultural landscapes
  • Advocated for a stronger landscape preservation presence in the new 2020 statewide preservation plan. Learn more.
  • Urged the state to define cultural landscapes as its own category, distinct from archaeology and architecture

Carrie A. Mardorf, ASLA, is a historical landscape architect and Cultural Landscape Inventory Coordinator for the Intermountain Region of the National Park Service. She can be reached at: Carrie_Mardorf@nps.gov.

Betsy Flack, ASLA, is the Education Director at The Garden Conservancy in San Francisco, CA and co-chair of the Historic American Landscape Survey Committee of the Northern California ASLA Chapter. She can be reached at: bflack@gardenconservancy.org.

Cathy Garrett, ASLA, is a Principal at PGAdesign and is co-chair of the Historic American Landscape Survey Committee of the Northern California ASLA Chapter. She can be reached at: garrett@pgadesign.com.

Chris Pattillo, ASLA, is President at PGAdesign in California and is co-chair of the Historic American Landscape Survey Committee of the Northern California ASLA Chapter. She can be reached at: pattillo@pgadesign.com.

Noel Vernon, ASLA, is Professor of Landscape Architecture at California State Polytechnic University – Pomona and is the chair of the HALS committee of the Southern California ASLA Chapter. She can be reached at: ndvernon@earthlink.net.

Jenn Thomas, ASLA, serves as the HALS Liaison for the Colorado Chapter of ASLA. She can be reached at: jenn4thomas@yahoo.com.

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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