Oakville's Private Gardens and Estate Parks, 1914-1939
Pleasance Crawford Residency
introduction bring in photos lecture series garden analysis portfolio chronology bibliography links contacts sitescope

This project grows from one I began nearly 25 years ago. Although that resulted in a 1981 report entitled “The Ontario Home Landscape: 1890-1914,” the research has continued and expanded. Now, during the month of November 2004, I am concentrating on a later period—1914-1939—and a specific place in Ontario: Oakville.

In my earlier project, I considered a broad range of turn-of-the-century home landscapes: from unadorned farmsteads to elaborately ornamented city lots. The Oakville project is similarly all-inclusive. Christopher Campbell, in his lecture on November 3rd, touches on the Oakville residential work of early 20th-century landscape architects (C. Ernest Woolverton, L.A. and H.B. Dunington-Grubb, William Harries & Alfred Hall, and Arthur M. Kruse, to name a few). He then looks to the future. Edwinna von Baeyer, in her lecture on November 10th, focuses on Mackenzie King and Kingsmere. Like W.G. MacKendrick who created Gairloch, King, Elsie Reford, the Butcharts, and others were dedicated, albeit well-to-do amateurs.

This project also seeks information about the home landscapes of ordinary people in the Oakville of 1914 through 1939. Such landscapes are sometimes called “vernacular gardens.” Virginia Tuttle Clayton, an American scholar, describes them as “the lost, homemade gardens of the greater middle class.” By any name, in any place, these creations have received far too little attention. Yet while many landscape historians overlook these supposedly commonplace endeavors, a few search—knowing it may soon be too late—for documents about them. And they ask questions: Where were these houses and grounds? Who were their owners? What inspired these owners to garden? How did they find the time? What plants did they grow? What other features did they include? How did they use the various spaces? What do people remember about these places? Do any traces survive?

Here in Oakville, during the month of November, we can all be landscape historians. I am searching various repositories including the Town’s Archives, held by the Oakville Historical Society. More importantly, though, I am asking you—past or present residents of Oakville—to search albums and boxes and drawers for old photographs or anything else that may help document the town’s residential landscapes during the inter-war period. Then, with each owner’s permission, these discoveries can be scanned and posted on this web site, along with my comments, questions, and supplementary images. Also with each owner’s permission, I may include these found treasures in my lecture on November 24th: the third and final one in the series.

During November, you can reach me at Oakville Galleries (905-844-4402). After November, this site will remain on-line and will, I hope, serve as a permanent point of reference for further research on “Home Landscapes: Oakville’s Private Gardens and Estate Parks, 1914-1939.”

Thank you for your interest in this project. –Pleasance Crawford


photo credit: Charles Crawford