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National Register of Historic Places Program:
Landscape Architecture Month Feature 2013
Robert M. Hanes House, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.

 

[photo]
Robert M. Hanes House
Photograph courtesy of North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office

Located in what is now referred to as the Buena Vista neighborhood of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the 2-½ story, 1926-1927 Georgian Revival-style Robert M. Hanes Houses faces east on a large, landscaped lot of 2.48 acres. Robert M. Hanes (1890-1959) was a banker, an economic advisor to post-World War II Europe, and a founder of Research Triangle Park. In 1937, Hanes commissioned New York landscape architect Ellen Shipman to design the rear garden for the residence. Ellen Biddle Shipman (1869-1950) received much of her training through an informal apprenticeship with notable New York architect Charles A. Platt. The Robert M. Hanes House was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on August 28, 2012.

Between 1914 and 1946 Shipman designed over 650 gardens, with commissions spanning the United States from Long island to Seattle and from York Harbor, Maine, to New Orleans. Her clients included Fords, Astors, duPonts, Goulds, Huttons, Haneses, Dukes, Grays, and other captains of industry and patrons of the arts. In 1933, House and Garden magazine labeled her the “dean of American women architects.” Prominent landscape architect Warren Manning considered Shipman “one of the best, if not the very best, Flower Garden Maker in America.”Shipman‘s landscape on the Robert M. Hanes House grounds is the garden that runs from the rear of the house westward to the garden house at the end of the property. Shipman’s plan, including the greatly expanded terrace and some of the plantings, is still retained today.

[photo]
Robert M. Hanes House
Photograph courtesy of North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office

Shipman designed a variety of garden types, but the best of her designs were characterized by domesticality, intimacy, romantic seclusion, and lush flowerbeds. At her death in 1950, the New York Times called her “one of the leading landscape architects in the United States.” She preferred simplicity of design and stressed a well-defined plan and a strong relationship between house and garden. Emphasizing the private world of the garden, Shipman enclosed her gardens in some way and often included an outdoor room and secluded spots with seating for reflection and conversation. The garden at the Robert M. Hanes House reflects Shipman’s design aesthetic by exhibiting many of the features she typically employed: an axial layout with a short vista, small lawns, a terrace, near symmetry, multiple levels, well-defined paths, walls, pools in a variety of shapes, a garden house, and a secluded seating area. The garden at the Robert M. Hanes House is one of 11 of record that Shipman designed for Winston-Salem patrons, particularly members of the Hanes family, from the late 1920s through the mid 1940s. However, of these, only four, including the garden at the late Robert N, Haines House, survive largely intact.

During the Country Place Era of the 1890s to the 1930s in America, many wealthy industrialists built large country estates with architect-designed mansions, a complement of secondary buildings, and elaborately designed gardens. Large suburban homes-especially during the 1920s-were also often accompanied by designed gardens, but on a smaller scale. Most of these gardens were designed by professional landscape architects. As a whole, these gardens were highly eclectic, and the style or approach chosen depended on the interests and desires of the owners and their designers. The original landscaping at the Robert M. Haines House is believed to have been designed by prominent Philadelphia landscape architect Thomas W. Sears, who frequently worked on projects alongside architect Charles Barton Keen. In 1937, Hanes commissioned New York landscape architect Ellen Shipman to design a rear garden for the Stafford Road house.

[photo]
Robert M. Hanes House
Photograph courtesy of North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office

Shipman was an active advocate for women in her profession. For over 35 years she ran an all-women office, where she trained many successful designers, and she served as an advisor to the Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture for Women in Groton, Massachusetts. In her numerous lectures and interviews, she frequently emphasized the importance of women in the field and articulated her belief that women were crucial to the revival of gardening that brightened the early 20th century American landscape.

Shipman’s work in North Carolina began in 1929, when she was 60 years old, with the design of the domestic gardens for the home of Ralph and Dewitt Chatham Hanes, now the Wakes Forest University President’s House. In addition to her professional association with the Haneses, Shipman struck up a friendship with them and visited them frequently for the rest of her life. She received many commissions from the extended Hanes’ family, and while she also designed gardens for several North Carolinians who were not members of the Hanes family, her particular professional association with the Haneses is striking.

[photo]
Robert M. Hanes House
Photograph courtesy of North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office

Shipman designed a variety of garden types, from formal to wild and from simple to complex. However, she stressed the absolute necessity of a well-defined plan and preferred simplicity of design. Many of her gardens complemented the American Colonial Revival architecture then fashionable. Shipman viewed a garden as a private world and a place of beauty that could provide rest and refreshment to its owner. Although there was a great variety in Shipman’s gardens, a number of features appeared time and time again, though not always within the same garden. Among those were axial layouts with short or long vistas, small lawns, terraces, symmetry or near symmetry, a parterre design, pools in a variety of shapes-long and narrow, round, octagonal, and other-often with more than one in a single garden, walls, wall fountains, pool fountains, pergolas, well-defined paths, multiple levels with stone or brick and sometimes semi-circular steps, dovecotes, garden or tea houses, secluded seating areas, low borders, and lots of flowers and flowering trees.

The garden at the Robert M. Hanes House reflects many of the characteristics of Shipman’s design aesthetic. The large, flagstone terrace directly behind the house provides a transition from house to the garden, which has an axial design with a vista from the terrace to the garden house-its outdoor room. It is nearly symmetrical-the small sitting area on the north path leading from the center lawn keeping it from being entirely symmetrical. It has a long, narrow pool in the center and a small octagonal pool on the terrace. Small flowerbeds are arranged asymmetrically around the pool and contain hostas, day lilies, and in the spring such flowers as narcissus and jonquils.

[photo]
Robert M. Hanes House
Photograph courtesy of North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office

The terrace opens westward between two huge oak trees at the center of the garden. The majority of the garden is on the same level of the terrace, but the west end, where the garden house is located, is elevated. Both stone and brick steps lead to the upper garden, and a brick wall borders it on the north, south, and west. Well-defined paths contribute to the circulation, achieving a sense of intimacy and privacy. Typically, some of the garden plantings have changed; for example, the low, bordering boxwoods are now large and have overtaken many of the flowering plants.  Still, the foundation of Shipman’s design-the overall form, the brick and stone walkways, the brick and stone walls, the two pools, the flagstone terrace, and the latticed garden house-remains intact.

Excerpted from Laura A.W. Phillips, Robert M.Hanes House NRHP Nomination, North Carolina SHPO, August 28, 2012

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