Specializing in moving and replanting large trees, Lewis & Valentine was one of the most prominent landscape contracting companies in the eastern United States during the first half of the twentieth century. The Lewis & Valentine Company was formed by five brothers whose father had hoped that his sons would grow up to be lawyers. Instead, the Lewis brothers formed a landscape design, installation and nursery firm that specialized in developing "successful methods for transplanting full-grown trees." Their success was based on "doing well the task which is usually considered impossible."
The company was the inspiration of H.C. Lewis, the oldest of seven brothers, who believed that estate owners should have the luxury of immediate landscapes, rather than waiting decades for their landscapes to mature. The Lewis brothers started their business in the early 1900s. Shortly afterwards, a Mr. Valentine, roommate of Albert Addison Lewis at the Amherst Landscape School in Massachusetts, invested in the business. After three years Mr. Valentine moved on and the Lewis brothers bought back his interest, but continued to keep Valentine part of the company's name.
Lewis & Valentine was the largest firm in America devoted to transplainting mature trees in the years leading up to the Great Depression. It claimed to be "the most experienced and most versatile, backed by an intimate knowledge of horticulture and the development of fine estates." The company was noted as a leader in providing complete landscape services, from selling and guaranteeing the plants, to designing and installation, requiring that its staff be men "of good character and not afraid of hard work." This was evident in the firm's principle of no limitations to the size of trees that they were willing to deliver. The trees were often full-grown and ranged in age from twenty to a hundred years old. Many were so large that 20 or more tons of earth had to be moved during the relocation process.
During its first 25 years in business, Lewis & Valentine opened nineteen offices east of the Mississippi serving such notable clients as Charles A. Schwab and Pierre du Pont at his estate, Longwood. The business was set up as an organization of independent companies. Each was incorporated under the laws of the state in which it operated. The offices were located in Connecticut (Darien), Florida (Palm Beach), Illinois (Chicago), Maryland (Baltimore), Massachusetts (Boston and Hanover), Michigan (Detroit), Pennsylvania (Ardmore and Pittsburg), New Jersey (Ashbury Park and Morristown), New York (Buffalo, Roslyn-Long Island, Rye, Valley Stream-Long Island, New York City), North Carolina (Winston-Salem) and Ohio (Cleveland and Cincinnati). Although no longer owned by any members of the Lewis family, the company still exists and operates in Long Island under the name Lewis & Valentine Nurseries.
The Lewis & Valentine Company Collection contains records of the Lewis & Valentine Company dating from 1916 to 1971 including photographs, negatives, brochures, books, trade catalogs, company papers, letters from clients, customer lists and a history of the company written by Harold Carman Lewis. Photographs document the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia, estates in Long Island, New York, and the properties of Hugh D. Auchincloss, Eugene du Pont, Walter P. Chrysler, Otto H. Kahn, F. W. Woolworth, Pierre S. du Pont (Longwood Gardens), Charles M. Schwab and Edward T. Stotesbury. This collection contains only a sampling of the records of Lewis & Valentine and should not be considered comprehensive.
Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Lewis & Valentine Company Records