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Thomas Warren Sears photograph collection, 1899-1964

Catalog Data:
Sears, Thomas Warren 1880-1966
American Society of Landscape Architects
Harvard University
Olmsted Brothers
Tibbetts, Eleanor Sears
Landscape architects:
Sears & Wendell
Uniform title:
Landscape architecture
Physical description:
44.5 cubic ft
4317 negatives : glass
363 negatives : film
182 lantern slides
12 photograph albums
56 architectural plans
3 monographs
Collection descriptions
Lantern slides
Photograph albums
Plans (drawings)
United States
Archives of American Gardens encourages the use of its archival materials for non-commercial, educational and personal use under the fair use provision of U.S. copyright law. Use or copyright restrictions may exist. It is incumbent upon the researcher to ascertain copyright status and assume responsibility for usage. All requests for duplication and use must be submitted in writing and approved by Archives of American Gardens.
Harvard University's Loeb Library includes a number of images by Sears, some of them documenting gardens that he designed.
Harvard University's Fine Arts Library, Special Collections includes a collection of photographs and negatives of English parish churches by Sears, c. 1908. Some of the images were published in the mongraph, Parish Churches of England.
The Philadelphia Architects and Buildings Project (PAB), administered by The Athenaeum of Philadelphia, includes references to design projects by Sears.
The Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina includes plans by Sears of Reynolda in its Estate Archives.
Thomas Warren Sears was born in 1880 in Brookline, Massachusetts. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University in 1903 and Bachelor of Science degree in landscape architecture from the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard in 1906. Sears was an amateur photographer who won awards for his photography while at Harvard. In 1915 his images were published in the monograph, Parish Churches of England. After graduation he worked for the firm of Olmsted Brothers Landscape Architects for two years and then briefly practiced in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1913, Sears established a landscape design office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he spent the remainder of his professional career. Sears at one point was in a professional partnership; some of his design plans list the firm name of Sears and Wendell. He was made a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 1921.
Sears designed many different types of landscapes ranging from private residences, schools, and playgrounds to parks, cemeteries, and urban housing developments. His designs were primarily located in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New York. Just a few of his private landscapes include Marengo in Easton, Maryland; Sunnybrook, the Isaac H. Clothier, Jr. estate in Radnor, Pennsylvania; and Balmuckety in Pikesville, Maryland. In 1915, Sears started work on Reynolda, a country estate in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He generated design plans for the property intermittently over the next two decades. Reynolda's formal gardens, greenhouses, and acres of fields and woodlands subsequently became part of Wake Forest University.
During World War I, Sears designed Army camps in Battle Creek, Michigan and Spartanburg, South Carolina. He also helped lay out Langley Field, at that time an experimental aviation field in Hampton Roads, Virginia. In the 1940s, Sears designed the amphitheater at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania for concerts, outdoor performances, and other special events. During that decade he also worked on Colonial Revival gardens at Pennsbury, William Penn's country estate in Bucks County, Pennsylvania located by the Delaware River. Sears retired in 1964 and died in 1966.
Inventory is available.
The Sears Collection was donated to the Archives of American Gardens by Sears' daughter, Eleanor Sears Tibbetts, in 1992. A small number of drawings were added to the collection in 2012.
The glass plate negatives were originally housed in numerous cardboard boxes manufactured for the sale of undeveloped glass plate negatives. Sears annotated the outside of many of these boxes with project or client names and/or locations, but the contents do not always match these labels. In addition, because very few of the glass plate negatives and lantern slides were labeled or captioned, it is not always evident where one job ended and another began if multiple projects were stored in the same carton. As a result, there are many instances in the Sears Collection where images have been inadvertently mislabeled because their identification is not apparent. Misidentified images are subject to correction as their proper identification is discovered
The Thomas Warren Sears Photograph Collection documents examples of the design work of Thomas Warren Sears (1880-1966), a landscape architect and amateur photographer from Brookline, Massachusetts. Sears, who was based for most of his career in Philadelphia, designed a variety of different types of landscapes ranging from private residences, schools, and playgrounds to parks, cemeteries, and urban housing developments located primarily in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New York. In addition to some of Sears' design work, images in the collection document Sears' domestic and foreign travels, design inspirations, and family. The collection includes over 4,800 black and white negatives and glass lantern slides dated circa 1899 to 1930. While most images show private and public gardens, there are a significant number of unidentified views and views photographed in Europe during two trips he took there in 1906 and 1908. Few images are captioned or dated. In addition, there are over 50 plans and drawings, most notably for Balmuckety in Pikesville, Maryland and Reynolda in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and 3 monographs by or about Sears.
Parish Churches of England. Photographs by Thomas W. Sears; Introductory Text by C. Howard Walker. / Rogers and Manson Company, Boston, Massachusetts, 1915
Architecture and Design, Vol. V, No. 21, September 1941, This Issue Devoted to the Work of Thomas W. Sears, Landscape Architect
Architecture and Design, Vol. XVII, November 1953, This Issue Devoted to the Work of Thomas W. Sears, Landscape Architect
Cite as:
Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Thomas Warren Sears photograph collection
Repository Loc.:
Smithsonian Gardens, PO Box 37012, Capital Gallery, Suite 3300, MRC 506, Washington, DC 20013-7012
Landscape architects
Data Source:
Archives of American Gardens