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The Mr. and Mrs. Walter M. Robinson Jr. Garden, circa 1930s-2011

Asmus, Christian A
Clark, Richard R
Landscape architect:
Page, Ben
Nashville Garden Club
Lookout Mountain Garden Club
Physical description:
1 folder+ 69 digital images
Mixed archival materials
United States of America, Tennessee, Davidson, Nashville
The Mr. and Mrs. Walter M. Robinson Jr. Garden (Nashville, Tennessee)
circa 1930s-2011
The garden and residence of Mr. and Mrs. Walter M. Robinson represents one of the first "Country Place Era" gardens in Nashville. The Neoclassical home, designed by architects A. Christian Asmus and Richard R. Clark, was built in 1929 by F.J. McCarthy and his wife Mary Byrd McCarthy. When the current owners assumed ownership of the property in 1987, the garden areas near the house were primarily lawns surrounded by towering boxwood hedges, formal and static in design. With the desire to allow more light into the Neoclassical style house as well as to create terraces to accommodate an eight foot change in elevation and a garden room for a swimming pool, the owners turned to their sons-in-law, landscape architect Ben Page (ASLA) and architect Stephen P. Rick (AIA) to renovate the property. The four garden rooms that were designed are arranged laterally alongside and below the house with surrounding high walls and interior low walls. A pre-existing 50-foot antique wrought iron fence and a pergola built on massive piers were incorporated into the design and separate the garden rooms from the natural garden that comprises the rest of the property. The first room is a large terrace that can be tented for special events, with steps down to a more intimate sunken terrace for family use, followed by more steps to a formal parterre rose garden with a pool and fountain in the middle and pear trees espaliered against one wall, and lastly a landscaped pool and new pool house converted from a three car garage with cutting and vegetable gardens nearby. A door in the garden wall closes off the swimming area when it is out of season.
This garden features plant material and hardscape with provenance, starting with the Seven Sisters climbing roses that were transplanted from another family property in the 1930s. Peonies planted by the current owner's mother still thrive below the pool house and border the cutting and vegetable gardens. The antique wrought iron fence was salvaged from another Nashville property and bricks used for the walks once comprised East Nashville sidewalks laid in the late 1800s. A Charlie Hunt sculpture "Dove of Peace" was carved from a foundation stone salvaged from an East Nashville church, Saint Ann's Episcopal (1882-1998). Native limestone and Tennessee Crab Orchard stone are local materials used for the walls and terraces.
In early spring a row of Yoshino cherry trees blooms along one side of a brick walkway just inside the high limestone wall with tulips blooming on the other side. Pansies and tulips surround the fountain in the rose garden for early color. In summer Annabelle hydrangeas border the swimming pool, and perennial flower beds come into bloom.
The gardens on the estate provide ample opportunities for a wide variety of social, civic and charitable events. One such event was the 1993 Swan Ball Patron's Party for the benefit of Cheekwood Botanical Barden and Museum of Art. The current owner has also hosted a series of literary salons to benefit the Nashville Public Library. Numerous local non-profits have benefited from fundraisers and garden tours hosted at the estate.
Persons associated with the garden include Mr. F.J. and Mary Byrd McCarthy (former owners, 1929-1931); Mr. Edwin Wilson Craig and Elizabeth Wade Craig (former owners, 1931-1987); Christian A. Asmus and Richard R Clark (architects, 1929-1939); Ben Page, ASLA (landscape architect, 1988-1990); Stephen P. Rick (architect, 1988-1990); William Ralston (sculptor); Charlie Hunt (sculptor); Pink Ray (groundskeeper, 1931-1958); Mark Owen (groundskeeper, 1948-1971); Roy Goddard (groundskeeper, 1972-1981); Malcolm Campbell (grounds manager, 1981-1990); Norman David Pugh (grounds manager, 1990-present); Michele Webber (gardener, 2010-present).
The folder includes worksheets, photocopies of articles and other information.
This property is featured in "White Clouds in the Summer Garden" by Mark G. Stith published in Southern Living Magazine, July 1993, pp. 40-46; "Belle of Nashville" by Philip Morris published in Southern Accents Magazine, May-June 199, pp. 130-136; "Southern Comfort" published in Great Gardens Magazine, Spring/Summer 2007, pp. 28-35
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Data Source:
Archives of American Gardens

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