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Backus Garden, 1910-1966

Landscape architect:
Steele, Fletcher
Sears, Thomas Warren 1880-1966
Architect:
Cram, Ralph Adams 1863-1942
Derrick, Robert O.
Former owner:
Backus, Standish 1875-1943
Backus, Dorothy
Physical description:
1 folder+ 14 slides (photographs); 1 glass negative
Type:
Slides (photographs)
Place:
United States of America, Michigan, Wayne County, Grosse Pointe, Grosse Pointe Shores
Michigan
Grosse Pointe Shores
Backus Garden (Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan)
Date:
1910
1910-1966
Notes:
Beginning around 1928, Fletcher Steele worked over a period of years designing a garden for Standish and Dorothy Backus at their new home in Grosse Pointe Shores. Featuring architectural work by Ralph Adams Cram and Robert O. Derrick, the entire estate, including the gardens, reflected its owners' love of English Gothic-Tudor design elements. Yet the natural setting allowed Steele to incorporate such elements as broad lawns and a view leading to Lake St. Clair. A wild garden, terraces, formal gardens, and courtyards were accented by a variety of balustrades, obelisks, and other ornaments, including an endpost featuring relief portraits of Steele, Cram, and Derrick. Some of Steele's proposals were never realized, and following the death of Dorothy Backus in the 1960s (Standish Backus had died in 1943) the estate was sold, the house razed, and the gardens destroyed. Most of the images have been taken from published sources, although those sources often reproduce original documentation. There is also one image of a sketch by Thomas Warren Sears, perhaps an unrealized proposal for the Grosse Pointe Shores property or a design created for an earlier Backus residence.
Persons and firms associated with the garden include Fletcher Steele (landscape architect, 1928-1941); Thomas Warren Sears (landscape architect, ca. 1930-1940); Ralph Adams Cram (architect, ca. 1930); Robert O. Derrick (architect, ca. 1930); Standish Backus (former owner, 1928-1943); and Dorothy Backus (former owner, 1928-ca. 1966).
Summary:
The folder includes worksheets, photocopies of publications about the garden, and additional information.
Publications:
Garden has been featured in Robin Karson, Fletcher Steele, Landscape Architect: An Account of the Gardenmaker's Life (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc./Sagapress, Inc., 1989) and revised ed. (Amherst: Library of American Landscape History, 2003)
Garden has been featured in Stanley Schuler, America's Great Private Gardens (New York: Macmillan, 1967), pp. 66-73
Topic:
Gardens
Local number:
MI024000
Data Source:
Archives of American Gardens

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