Seeking Eden

Many of Georgia’s significant designed landscapes grew from a strong interest in gardening and garden design that was abloom in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Seeking Eden: A Collection of Georgia’s Historic Gardens explores the evolution of 12 of these influential properties.

Through photographs, postcards, landscape plans, and manuscripts, Seeking Eden highlights the importance of historic gardens in Georgia’s past as well as their value and meaning within the state’s 21st-century communities.

On view in McElreath Hall’s archives gallery, the exhibition is presented in combination with publication of a University of Georgia Press book, also titled Seeking Eden: A Collection of Georgia’s Historic Gardens. The book was co-authored by Cherokee Garden Library Director Staci L. Catron and historic preservationist Mary Ann Eaddy.

The content of the exhibition and book are inspired by Garden History of Georgia, 1733-1933, published by Peachtree Garden Club in 1933. Seeking Eden grew out of a more-than-decade-and-a-half collaboration launched in 2002 to conduct a statewide inventory of Georgia’s historic gardens. The initiative was formed between the Garden Club of Georgia, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources-Historic Preservation Division, the Cherokee Garden Library (a Special Library of the Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center), and the National Park Service-Southeast Regional Office.

Oak Hill Home

The Oak Hill Home at Berry College was built in the 1880s. The gardens, including the Goldfish and Sunken gardens, were added in the 1930s and were designed by landscape architect Robert Cridland.

Named the Georgia Historic Landscape Initiative, the project’s focus was to determine what had happened to the designed landscapes identified in the 1933 book. The inventory sought to identify those gardens that had been lost and document changes that had occurred to those still in existence. The current book and exhibition highlight the importance of these landscapes in Georgia’s history.

The co-authors of Seeking Eden met when Catron studied in an historic preservation class at Georgia State University taught by Eaddy in 2000. They began working together at the launch of the Georgia Historic Landscape Initiative. As work on the project’s first phase neared completion, they discussed sharing its results more widely with the public. Out of their conversation, Seeking Eden was born. A third collaborator is photographer Jim Lockhart, who retired from the Georgia preservation office (where Eaddy also worked) after three decades of photographing historic properties across the state. In short order, the trio embarked on what they describe as an “epic journey.”

The 488-page book contains updates on and expanded stories of nearly 30 designed landscapes identified in Garden History of Georgia. Significantly, the new book provides a record of each garden’s evolution and history. It also includes each garden’s current appearance through more than 365 color photographs by Lockhart. These publicly and privately owned gardens include 19th-century parterres, Colonial Revival gardens, Country Place Era landscapes, rock gardens, historic town squares, college campuses, and an urban conservation garden.

Seeking Eden explores the significant impact of the women who envisioned and nurtured many of these special places; the role of professional designers, including J. Neel Reid, Philip Trammell Shutze, William C. Pauley, Robert B. Cridland, Olmsted Brothers, Hubert Bond Owens, and Clermont Lee; and the influence of the Garden Club Movement in Georgia in the early 20th century.

Gardens whose stories are explored in the exhibition include Swan House, the iconic house and gardens that have graced Atlanta since 1928; Hills and Dales Estate in LaGrange, home to the historic Ferrell Gardens, one of the best-preserved 19th-century designed landscapes in the U.S.; and Dunaway Gardens, a rock and floral garden developed in the 1920s near Newnan by actress Hetty Jane Dunaway Sewell.

Dunaway Gardens waterfall

View of the Great Pool at Dunaway Gardens, which opened in 1934 as a theatrical training ground for popular stage performances.


Vista | Presenting Sponsor
The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Georgia, Atlanta Town Committee

Allèe Sponsor
Mark and Paula Hennessy,
Howard Design Studio,
The Albert and Nan Gray Monk Foundation,
Patterson Family Foundation,
William T. Smith & Associates, Inc., Landscape Architects,
Jane and Bill Whitaker

Parterre Sponsor
Ellen and Duncan Beard
Cherokee Garden Club
Sharon and Matt Cole
CornerCap Investment Counsel
Mary Wayne Dixon
Druid Hills Garden Club
Maureen Harnisch Foley
Louise Staton Gunn
Kinsey and Gordon Harper
Kathy and Richard Lee
Carolyn and Hector Llorens
Elizabeth and David Martin
Peachtree Garden Club
Revival Construction
Rose Garden Club
Mr. and Mrs. Charles U. Slick
Alex Smith Garden Design Limited

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