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Merit Award - DESIGN

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Boyhood Farm Restoration - Jimmy Carter National Historic Site
Plains, GA

Joe Crystal, Denver Service Center, National Park Service;
Karen Vaage, Denver Service Center, National Park Service;
Fred Boyles, Superintendent, Jimmy Carter National Historic Site;

Joseph H. Crystal, FASLA, Project Manager, National Park Service
Denver Service Center
12795 West Alameda Parkway
Lakewood, CO 80225
Tel. 303-969-2494;
Fax 303-969-2238

Purpose of Project

To restore the cultural landscape of the Boyhood Farm, thus enabling the National Park Service to the convey the story of how growing up on a rural Southern farm in a predominantly African American community influenced the character and values of former President Jimmy Carter.

Role of Landscape Architect

Landscape architects played a major role in this project from its inception. For example, the park's original scheme for the Boyhood Farm proposed locating new visitor facilities in the middle of what was historically row crop fields. The project landscape architects, recognizing the potential impacts to this cultural landscape, recommended moving all proposed contemporary development outside the prime historic resource area. This major shift was a key element allowing them to develop a more appropriate preservation treatment for this significant cultural landscape and, in so doing, changed how the farm was to be interpreted to the public. Additionally, landscape architects conducted all the historical research and led the schematic design, design development, and construction documents efforts. They were directly responsible for project management, and construction administration/management. Other team members included architects; archeologists; resource specialists; and civil, structural, electrical, and mechanical engineers. The park superintendent and Jimmy Carter, functioning as client/owner, provided invaluable feedback to the team insuring that the project remained true to history and met the pragmatic requirements of park visitation and park management.

Special Factors

So that visitors could more fully appreciate the historical and cultural associations for which the park was established, restoring the farm to its 1937 historical appearance (prior to the rural electrification of Georgia) necessitated reconstructing many of the farm's original landscape architectural and architectural features. Due to the stringent reconstruction criteria, as defined by the Secretary of Interior's Standards for Historic Preservation, the National Park Service does not often undertake this type of work. It requires extensive research to insure that the reproduction of lost features occurs with minimal conjecture. Computer analysis of State Agricultural Survey aerial photographs dating from 1937 to 1993 as well as photographic images from the Carter Center and Carter family albums contributed to developing a detailed understanding of the farm landscape. Oral interviews with President and Mrs. Carter and other Plains' residents added a richness of detail and human experience not available from photographs. Archeologists verified photographic data by locating remnants of obliterated features such as the windmill foundation, the tennis court playing surface and numerous artifacts. A nationally renowned expert identified the windmill make and model from historic photographs.


Quality of Design

Landscape features such as the windmill, tennis court, vegetable garden, animal pens, hand-crank water well, historic fence lines, and the farm with its outbuildings were reconstructed. An earth colored soil cement accessible walkway aligned along the farm's historic paths and roadways directs visitors from the arrival area to the principle points of interest.

Evidence of modern technology was minimized by burying utility lines and strategically locating and screening new transformers. Low profile wayside exhibits employing narrative, graphic and audio media explain the importance of each feature to Jimmy Carter's life and its role on the farm. An extensive collection of historic farm tools and implements "furnish" the landscape as well as the building interiors contributing to the farm's authenticity.


The farm is equipped to function as it did in past times. Site management includes establishing a lease with a local farmer to actively cultivate the farm's open agricultural fields. Educational programs explaining the realities of daily farm life rely on features such as the hand-crank water well, vegetable garden, blacksmith shop, and animal pens to demonstrate farm activities. The fully functional windmill provides several thousand gallons of water storage for irrigation and watering farm animals. Contemporary design requirements have been accommodated by incorporating features which address needs of the disabled. In addition, hidden electrical outlets and hose bibs have been strategically located throughout the site facilitating maintenance.

Relationship to the Context

The farm's landscape context remains predominantly agricultural and rural in character, having changed little since the 1930's. The restored farm and the new visitor facilities reflect the South Georgia vernacular landscape architectural and architectural design vocabulary.

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Environmental Responsibility

Sustainable design and development components of the project include: the use of wind power to pump water (windmill); the use of native plant material in landscaping where it didn't conflict with the historic condition; minimal grading of site; re-use of salvaged original materials such as lumber, hinges, latches, and brick; renewable resources, such as lumber, were used as building materials; wayside exhibits provide information on stewardship and conservation practices; low-flush toilets in the restrooms to conserve water.

Overall Relevance to Landscape Architecture, the Public and the Environment

The farm is nationally significant for its association with former President Jimmy Carter. Although none of its features are individually significant, together they created a cultural landscape that helped Carter learn the value of hard work, stewardship, common sense, concern for others and many other life lessons. Traditionally, historic preservation has focused on preserving individually significant buildings and gardens. As landscape architecture embraced historic preservation more holistically, we have learned the importance of appropriate preservation treatment for vernacular landscapes. These are the places that often truly reflect our values, behaviors, and humanity. This project is an excellent example of how a vernacular landscape can be preserved to enhance the public's understanding and appreciation of it.



2001 Award Winners
Press Release
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