Collection Facts

Extent: 
1326 items
Dates of Original: 
1920 - 1960

Historical Context

Born in Rochester, New York, Fletcher Steele (1885-1971) enrolled in the new program in Landscape Architecture at Harvard University in 1907. While only mildly successful in the academic realm, his talents were recognized by Warren Manning, one of America's foremost landscape designers at the time. In 1908, Manning persuaded Steele to leave Harvard and come work for him at his Boston office. Never looking back, Steele embarked on a career that would make him one of the most prolific and successful designers of the 20th Century. What Fletcher Steele represents to the profession of landscape architecture is a bridge between two different design periods. He was trained in the ideas of Beaux Arts classicism, yet he had a yearning to abandon its formulaic methods in favor of art. His clients had particular demands, and Steele was forced to compromise between the classical and the modern. His designs mingle in both camps. While many classical elements served as inspiration for his ideas, he customized them to fit the unique situations of his client's designs. This process tended to result in very idiosyncratic gardens.

Scope of Collection

The Fletcher Steele Collection contains black and white photographs and a few design drawings of gardens designed by Fletcher Steele in the 20th century. The bulk of the items are from the late 1920s-1930s. Included are views of completed gardens, construction, architectural details, and the estates.