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Holm Lea 1904-1930

Former owner:
Sargent, Charles Sprague
Lee, Thomas
Sander, Charles
Physical description:
4 folders+ 41 35 mm. slides, glass slides, photoprints, and photonegatives
Mixed archival materials
United States of America, Massachusetts, Norfolk County, Brookline
Holm Lea (Brookline, Massachusetts)
Established in 1869, this now mostly vanished garden was the 150-acre estate of Harvard professor and Arnold Arboretum director Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927). An amalgamation of several older holdings, Holm Lea was noted for its size, the variety of its trees and shrubs, its broad expanses of lawn and meadow, and its vistas and natural woods. As noted by Andrew Jackson Downing in the second edition of his work on landscape gardening published in 1844, much of the groundwork was laid by Thomas Lee, an owner prior to Sargent, who planted trees and shrubs such as rhododendron and kalmia. By the early 1900s the garden's collection of these plants was considered to be outstanding. A later writer noted that Holm Lea "is the most inspiring estate in the United States and the best specimen of landscape-gardening in America because every department of country life is here represented in due proportion without extravagance or faddism, and all are blended into a beautiful and useful picture which is nothing short of exquisite." Among Holm Lea's other features were a rock garden, a pond, and a small herd of cows that added to the picturesque aspect of the landscape. Charles Sander, Holm Lea's gardener for more than 30 years, was a recognized plantsman and Massachusetts Horticultural Society award winner. Although the estate was subdivided after Sargent's death, elements of the garden, including the now algae-choked pond and overgrown rock garden, still survived in the 1990s.
Persons associated with the garden include: Thomas Lee (former owner, ca. 1825-ca. 1864); Charles Sprague Sargent (former owner, 1869-1927); and Charles Sander (gardener, 1875-ca. 1910).
In addition to the 41 original images, there are 16 additional black and white 35 mm. slides, copies of photographs in The Public Library of Brookline, 361 Washington Street, Brookline, MA 024445.
The folders include worksheets and several photocopies of articles about the garden.
Garden has been featured in M. G. Van Rensselaer, "A Suburban Country Place," The Century Magazine, LIV, No. 1 (May 1897), pp. 3-17
Garden has been featured in Nathaniel Coit Greene, "The Most Inspiring Estate in New England," New England Magazine, XXXVIII, No. 2 (April 1908), pp. 137-143
Garden has been featured in Wilhelm Miller, "Successful American Gardens: VII--Holm Lea . . .," Country Life in America, XX, No. 5 (July 1, 1911), pp. 35-38
Garden has been featured in "Some Massachusetts Rock Gardens," Journal of the New England Garden History Society, I (Fall 1991), pp. 22-23
Garden has been featured in S. B. Sutton, Charles Sprague Sargent and the Arnold Arboretum (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970)
Garden has been featured in Mac Griswold and Eleanor Weller, The Golden Age of American Gardens (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1991), pp. 22-23
Local number:
Data Source:
Archives of American Gardens

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