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University of California • Berkeley 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

Volume II 

This manuscript is made available for research 
purposes. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for 
publication without the written permission of the 
Director of The Bancroft Library of the University of 
California at Berkeley. 

Requests for permission to quote for publication 
should be addressed to the Regional Oral History 
Office, U86 Library, and should include identification 
of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use 
of the passages, and identification of the user. 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 


Maggie Baylis Everitt Miller 

Elizabeth Roberts Church Harry Sanders 

Robert Glasner Lou Schenone 

Grace Hall Jack Stafford 

Lawrence Halprin Goodwin Steinberg 

Proctor Melquist Jack Wagstaff 

Interviews Conducted by 
Suzanne B. Mess 

Copy No. / 
1978 by The Regents of the University of California 

TABLE OF CONTENTS ~ Thomas Church 





Geraldine Knight Scott: A Landscape Architect Discusses Training 

Since 1926, and Changes in the Profession 1 


Francis Violich: A Professor of City Planning and Landscape 

Architecture Considers Where the Professions 

Have Moved Since the 1930s 32 

Harold Watkin: A Landscape Contractor Evokes Student Days in the 

1930s, and Discusses His Own Profession 54 

Ruth Jaffe: A 1934 Landscape Graduate's Memories of Early Days in 

the Church Office 75 

Theodore Bernard!, Donn Emmons, Roger Sturtevant: 

Two Architects and a Photographer Recall the Hard 

Work and the Good Times with Church and Wurster, 

1930s, 1940s 88 

Harriet Henderson: A Hillsborough Client Recalls Two Gardens, 

1934, 195Y 114 

Lucy Butler: A Pasatiempo Client Recreates the Scene in 1935: 

Church and Wurster 135 

Miriam Pierce: A Piedmont Client Recalls Two Gardens, 1937, 1962 145 

June Campbell: An Associate Details the Church Office Workings, 

1940s-1960s 148 

Floyd Gerow: A Landscape Contractor Views His Work with Church 

Since 1934 186 

Robert Royston: A Landscape Architect Considers Changes in 

Practices Since His Church Apprenticeship 213 

Walter Doty: A Sunset Editor Assesses the Development of Landscape 

Design Since 1939 234 

Jean Wolff: A Garden and Flower Care Expert Analyses Her Thomas 

Church Garden 249 

Louis DeMonte: A University Architect Summarizes Berkeley Planning, 

1940-1973 and Church's Contribution 263 

Germane Milono: An Architect Traces His Path to San Francisco, 

and Looks Back at Thomas Church's Influence 287 

Burton Litton: A Landscape Architect Looks Back at the Training 

and the Professional Groups in the Field 311 

Joseph Rowland: House Beautiful 's Garden Editor Volunteers Comments 

on Church, 1948-1956 322 

George Rockrise: An Architect Associate Recalls His Role in the 

Church Office, 1948-1950 342 


Elizabeth Roberts Church: A Life by the Side of Thomas Church: 

Family, Friends, Clients, Associates, 
Travels, Memories 368 

Maggie Baylis: Doug Baylis, the Church Office, and Garden 

Publications 521 

Jack Stafford: An Associate Surveys the Church Office, 1946-1965 551 

Lou Schenone: A Nurseryman Views the Landscaping Business and 

How Church Used Plants 576 

Robert Glasner: A Landscape Contractor Describes His Role in 

Working with Church 589 

Jack Wagstaf f : A Santa Cruz Campus Architect Describes UCSC 

Site Planning, 1962 622 

Harry Sanders: A Stanford Planner Charts the History of Campus 

Planning, and Church's Contribution 636 

Everitt Miller: A Horticulturalist Interprets Church's Work at 

Longwood Gardens, 1971-1975 667 

Proctor Mellquist: A Sunset Editor Considers Church's Broad 

Architectural Understanding 679 

Goodwin Steinberg: An Architect Recalls Joint Projects with 

Church, 1950s, 1960s 701 

Grace Hall: Mr. Church's Secretary Reports on the Updating of 

Gardens are for People 718 

Lawrence Halprin: A Landscape Architect's Appreciation of 

Church's Place in Environmental Design History 727 


INDEX 788 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

Thomas D. Church Oral History Project 

Elizabeth Roberts Church 


Interview Conducted by 
Suzanne B. Riess 

1978 by The Regents of the University of California 

TABLE OF CONTENTS -- Elizabeth Roberts Church 

Interview #1 - December 30, 1975 368 

1) Introduction to Tommy 368 

2) Wilda Wilson Church, Ohio and Ojai 369 

3) Old Berkeley, 609 Arlington 372 

4) Tommy's Studies at U.C., Harvard, and Abroad 375 

5) Betsy in Paris 378 

6) Introduction to Marion Rollins and Pasatiempo 381 

7) Bill Wurster 384 

8) 2626 Hyde Street 386 

9) Architectural Influence of Berkeley 389 

Interview #2 - April 20, 1977 391 

10) Individuality and the California Client 391 

11) Lockwood de Forest 394 

12) Tommy's Habit of "Dropping In" 396 

13) Sir George Sitwell 398 

14) First Pasatiempo Houses 399 

15) The Gregory Farmhouse, Mrs. Gregory, and Mrs. Ellis 401 

16) Betsy and Tommy's Houses 403 

17) The Garden at Pasatiempo 405 

18) Tommy's Way of Finding the Key to the Solution 406 

19) Floyd Mick 407 

20) Floyd Gerow, and Bob Glasner 410 

Interview #3 - May 5, 1977 412 

21) The Garden Tour - Organizers 412 

23) Grateful Clients, and Architects 415 

24) Houses and Gardens on the Tour 417 

25) "No One Worked Like He Worked" 420 

27) Choosing Books for Gertrude Stein 423 

28) Anais Nin, the Jolas, and Transition 424 

29) Tommy in Rome, Another Transition 427 

30) Client Connections: A Job in Scottsdale 428 

Interview #4 - May 11, 1977 433 

31) Europe, 1937, Expectations and Meetings 433 

32) Agonizing with the Clients 439 

33) Before and After, Changes at 2626 Hyde 440 

34) American Academy, 1960 and Earlier 442 

35) The Harvard Class, Where They Went 444 

36) More About Tommy's Family 446 

37) Frederick Law Olmsted, Phoebe Apperson Hearst 448 

38) "I'm Investing in Myself" 450 

Interview #5 - May 18, 1977 453 

39) Exposition, 1925, Paris 453 

40) That Day With Alvar Aalto 454 

41) Other Photographs from 1937 457 

42) Betsy and the Furniture 460 

43) Flying 466 

44) Aalto Visits San Francisco, 1939 468 

45) "If He'd Had Three Lives" 470 

46) The Treasure Island Fair 472 

47) Neutra, Et Cetera 473 

Interview #6 - May 26, 1977 476 

48) Mural Conceptualism 476 

49) Catherine Bauer Wurster, and Bill 478 

50) Ruth Jaffe and Marie Harbeck 480 

51) The Associates 482 

52) A Beautiful Visitor 485 

53) Frank Lloyd Wright 486 

54) House Beautiful 489 

55) 'Vho Else Worked That Hard?" 491 

56) Tommy the Photographer 492 

57) -- And Poet, and Designer 494 

Interview #7 - January 27, 1978 496 

58) Tommy's Work in the Northwest 496 

59) More About the Garden at 2626 Hyde Street 499 

60) The Garden Designer Women 501 

61) Architect Associates of the Fifties and Sixties 504 

62) Japanese Gardens 506 

63) Spain: The Moorish Gardens 510 

64) Gardens Are For People: Revising, Binding, Loaning 511 

65) Eero Saarinen and the General Motors Technical Center 514 

66) University of California Campus Master Planning 516 

67) Comments on Friendships, Clients, Decks, and Influence 517 


Elizabeth Roberts Church 

Interviews held at her home, 2626 Hyde Street, San Francisco 

Interview #1 - December 30, 1975 

1) Introduction to Tommy 

Church: It's too bad Tommy wasn't recorded earlier because he was a very 

dynamic speaker. He spoke quickly and he didn't wander; it was very 
much to the point, somewhat edited as he went, whereas I just mosey 
and wander and so forth. I feel very badly that we never got him on 
tape at all. 

Actually the funny thing about Tommy was that he did not like to 
speak. When he first came to live in San Francisco he was asked 
continually to speak at garden clubs and universities. In the early 
days he had lectures and he had his slides. When we would come back 
from our travels, there 'd be various aspects of our trips that he was 
asked to speak on. Pretty soon he decided that he just wouldn't do it. 
He said it made him so unhappy; he worried terribly and he couldn't eat 
his lunch and so forth. So he just tossed it over his left shoulder 
and never thought about it again. But I thought it was so strange 
because he really had a talent for it. 

Riess: He had taught too, hadn't he? 

Church: He taught a little bit. He didn't like that either. He gave that up 
also. He taught at Ohio State before he came back to California, for 
a year after he got out of Harvard. Then, when he first got back to 
California and decided that he was going to stay here, he got a job 
at the University and taught there for about a year. That job was taken 
by "Punk" Vaughan, who was a student of Tommy's at Ohio State; that's 
how he [Vaughan] happened to come out here. 

Riess: It is remarkable how little there is available of a biographical nature 
about Tommy. 


Church: He just doesn't think anything about it; it doesn't interest him very 
much that anybody would want to annotate or anything; it's so funny-- 
you'd think he would. He's a very modest man, although in his 
profession he's absolutely sure of himself and all that. 

The other day, somebody sent him this beautiful book from England 
that is written by two landscape architect friends of ours, Susan and 
Geoffrey Jellicoe. They're marvelous; they're a little older than we 
are. They had quite a bit in the book about Tommy, and Tommy was just 
fascinated, you know, because here they had access to everybody. 
Tommy doesn't think about his uniqueness, yet he really is rather 
unique. That's one of the things that makes him a subject of interest; 
he's not only good and successful at it but his approach is unusual. 

2) Wilda Wilson Church, Ohio and Ojai 

Riess: Could we begin with his family background? 

Church: His mother came from the Middle West; she came from Ohio. It was a 

perfectly charming family, quite a large family, of which she was one 
of the eldest. A typical Victorian family. The father—Tommy 's 
grandfather—was a judge on the Supreme Court in Ohio. They lived 
outside of a large town, really on a farm. 

His mother had always wanted to go on the stage. She became quite 
a well-known person in her own right because she was in on the very 
early beginnings of radio. Her name was Wilda Wilson Church. Wilda 
Wilson was her maiden name and Church was her married name. 

In another age and in another place I feel she would have been 
like the English character actresses like the wonderful one, Dame Edith 
Evans, who was in a Dickens film some years ago, Great Expectations. 
Oh, she was absolutely out of this world. 1 Mrs. Church was very much 
like that. 

She was in radio at the end of her life which was a marvelous 
medium. It just came at the right moment for her. I noticed in the 
paper yesterday a man that she was associated with, his name was Don 
Gilmore. He used to be on "One Man's Family," I think he created it. 
She was in that for years. Really she was a character actress, and 
that's what she wanted to be. 

Riess: And that was something that her family allowed her to be? 


Church: They didn't really like it. That's how she happened to be in Boston. 
She had gone to Boston to attend a college of elocution that was 
quite famous in those days in Boston. When she was there she met her 
husband [Albert Church] who came from California and was a member of 
an old Californian family. 

He was a very brilliant man. He was younger than she. They met 
and they fell in love with each other. He was at M.I.T. Her family 
almost died; they didn't want it at all. But anyway, they married 
and they lived there while he was still going to M.I.T. 

After they'd been married a little while, they had these two 
children (Tommy has a sister, Margaret, younger) and they parted; 
in fact, he drifted off into something else. 

He was an inventor; he invented a lot of interesting things. He 
was very bright. He was just somebody who, unfortunately, never lived 
up to his promise. [See p. 446] 

Riess: How long was he with the family? 

Church: I don't know. I think the children were little; they didn't remember 
him at all. 

Then Mrs. Church took the two children—she was a wonderful woman, 
she never faltered in her chosen round—and she returned to her family 
in Ohio and shortly thereafter decided to get her own setting for the 
children and herself. She got a job teaching school in Ohio and she 
did that for a long time. 

When the children were eight or ten—somewhere in there—she moved 
to the Ojai Valley because her father had retired and he and his wife 
had bought one of the really beautiful places in the Ojai Valley. That 
is where Tommy grew up. 

Riess: Oh, that's quite an influence. 

Church: It was a tremendous influence. Also, I feel that it crystallized in 
his mind that he really wanted to live in California. 

Riess: I wonder who was in the Ojai in those days. 

Church: There are a few people left. There's a woman in San Francisco. We 
saw her the other night and hadn't seen her for a long time. She's 
in her eighties; she's quite a bit older than Tommy. She was sort of 
a girl of Tommy's older cousin, a very glamorous cousin who was just 
that much older and very, very attractive to all the ladies and so 
forth. He was a Wilson. He used to be down in the Ojai a great deal. 


Church: This girl's name was Helen Baker and she became Helen Reynolds. 
She was married to a doctor. She lives now in a retirement home over 
here, but she is one of the foremost conservationists in the state. 
In fact, she and two other ladies of about her age, who've now died, 
almost invented the bill against the road signs. And they did a great 
deal though, you know, it's not perfect, by any means. If you go to 
a state that doesn ' t have road signs, you realize what heaven it is 
to be in that state. She's quite a famous woman. She's really quite 
wonderful. Anyway, she lived in the Ojai. 

People came out to the Ojai from the East whose children maybe 
had tuberculosis or needed to be in a climate where they could be 
high and dry and lead a healthful life and live out of doors winter 
and s umme r . 

Riess: Was it generally large estates, do you think? 

Church: No, it was rather a simple life. Many eastern people came out, but it 
wasn't like Santa Barbara where the eastern people came and had really 
grand estates. I can't think of any of their names now, but all the 
famous people that built beautiful places in Santa Barbara — it was 
almost like Italy. Many of them were influenced by Italy; they had 
the beautiful villas and the fantastic gardens. 

Ojai was somewhat ranching too; they had the lemon and orange 
ranches. There was a lot of that in the Ojai. I never went there in 
the old days; I only went there when Tommy and I were first married. 
Some of the family was still living there then, in smaller houses. 

Mrs. Church in the Ojai had a girls' school; it was very well 
known. She was a great friend of the Thachers.* The Thatchers came 
out for reasons of health. That's how the Thacher School started, 
and they came out in the early days. 

Riess: But Mrs. Church started her own girls' school? 

Church: Yes, she had a girls' school. People speak about it every so often 
to me. The school was in the winter, the regular school term. Then 
in the summer there's always been a tennis tournament. The Ojai was 
a great tennis place. Tennis came from the East; we didn't have the 
great tradition of tennis in California; the easterners brought it 
with them. 

She opened the school and kept all the tennis people, so that 
she was really going summer and winter. She was a very marvelous and 
ingenious woman, she really was. 

*Son Anson Thacher, retired assistant headmaster, resides in Ojai. 


Church: Then, when it was time for Tommy to go to college--! think he 
went to college when he was quite young. 

Riess: Did he go to a school that was already there? 

Church: He went to what was called the Nordhoff Public School. The Ojai was 
earlier called Nordhoff because the Nordhoff s--Charles Nordhoff of 
Mutiny on the Bounty—lived there. They had come from the East. The 
town was named for them, so the high school was named for them. 
Tommy went there for a few years . 

3) Old Berkeley, 609 Arlington 

Church: Then his mother wanted to bring the children to Berkeley so that they'd 

have a little high school. So many families did that in those days-- 

they brought them to Berkeley so they'd get a little bit of high school 
and then go into the University. 

Riess: Berkeley was thought to be a really superb high school? 

Church: Their school system was perfectly marvelous in those days, and maybe 
it still is, I don't know. But it was just extraordinary. I just 
can't tell you the number of people I've met in my long life that went 
to Berkeley. I meet people all the time that I remember as a child 
either hearing that they were there, or knowing them. 

Then Mrs. Church became a great friend of quite a remarkable 
educator whose name was Cora Williams who had what was called the Cora 
Williams Institute in Berkeley. She took a great big beautiful old 
house which belonged to the Spring family, who were an old Berkeley 
family, or at least they seemed old because I had heard about them all 
my life --and maybe they came from the East. I don't know. They were 
people of great wealth. They had this beautiful estate and beautiful 
house which was just a natural place for a school. When somebody in 
the Spring family died and they no longer maintained it, Cora Williams 
bought it. 

Tommy's mother then became a teacher there. She taught English 
with an accent on acting. She always put on a play every year. 

Riess: I'm very interested in hearing this history of Williams College. I 
live near it and it's really kind of a mystery place at this point. 
Who went there? 

Church: Lots of people that I know went there. Lots of children that were my 
age. It wasn't large. 


Riess: It was an alternative to Berkeley High School? 

Church: Yes. It was a private school, with all the sorts of fringe benefits 
of that. 

Riess: Boarding? 

Church: I imagine some people did board, I really don't remember. Tommy didn't 
go there, but his sister did. I believe they were taken up through 
high school if they wished, so it must have been accredited. 

Riess: I guess when it says "Williams College," it probably is more like 
college prep. 

Church: We had lots of coaching schools in Berkeley in those days too, and 
maybe it became that. I don't know. 

Anyway, it was a wonderful job for Mrs. Church because she and 
Miss Cora Williams became devoted friends and always remained so. I 
think the school ended, in that manner, when she died. 

Riess: Where did the Churches live in Berkeley? 

Church: They lived always in North Berkeley, and they lived in a perfectly 
charming house which they had just sold at the time I met Tommy. 

I knew Margaret; we were in college together. She's younger than 
I, but we both were in college at the same time. At least, she was 
there for two years while I was there. I knew her but I'd never met 

Mrs. Church had just sold this perfectly charming house. I think 
it was a Gutterson house; he was an awfully good, very understated, early 
architect --Henry Gutterson. Tommy took me many times back to it after 
wards because he always loved it so much. It was way up on the 
Arlington [609 Arlington]. 

My family were older residents of Berkeley, and we lived on the 
south side of the campus. It's the funniest thing--! always just 
yearned to live on the other side. My sister now does live on the north 
side. I adored everything about the north side: the hills, the 
charming houses, and the winding streets. That was just my passion. 

An interesting thing is that there was this piece of property 
adjacent to the Church's that was just a narrow vacant sunny lot. 
Evidently it had never been built on, and suddenly it was for sale. 
Tommy's mother bought it. She turned it over to Tommy and that's where 


Church: he made his first garden, really created it, and worked terribly hard 
in it. It was awfully attractive. By the time I saw it, it had 
grown up, and it had been let go, but it was quite charming. It had 
a lot cf roses. He was always a terrific .rose fancier. Perhaps that 
part was quite formal. 

And the house was darling. It was just a typical old-fashioned 
original Berkeley house. You know, they're quite unique, those 
Berkeley houses. It had some brown shingle effects. It was on the 
east side, on the hill side. 

Riess: I think it's interesting to know what he [Tommy] was looking at, his 
environment then. 

Church: It's very interesting. And he loves that old Berkeley effect. He 

always has loved it. Some of the Berkeley gardens were just beautiful, 
they really were. The people really loved them and treasured them and 
worked so in them and everything. 

Riess: I guess the McDuff ie 's garden was the famous one? 

Church: Oh, that was just fantastic." To be brought to the McDuff ie's garden 
in the spring was just the treat of the world. 

Riess: Was it open to the public? 

Church: Well, no. Unless sometimes they opened it to the public, I don't 

remember that, but I just remember that occasionally somebody would 
take you there. 

You know, Berkeley is the most amazing place. I often think 
about how very lucky I was to be brought up there because it touches 
all the parts of the world that I've ever been in. People say to me, 
"How do you know so-and-so?" It somehow goes back to Berkeley. It's 
so extraordinary. 

Piedmont was quite different because that was a much more wealthy 
community. It wasn't intellectual at all, you see. Berkeley was 
intellectual and that meant that there were always originals. Not 
that there weren't many wealthy people in Berkeley, but it started 
out to be a university community, and in the early days it was, when 
we were growing up there. There were such marvelous people, so many 
of them from Harvard. All the young professors that I had when I was 
there were from Harvard. 

Riess: What did you study? 


Church: I studied English literature, which was so stupid. Why did I have to 
spend four years studying it? I mean I was oriented toward English 
literature because I read all the time anyway. I did get some languages 

in there. But the classes that I remember that were thrilling were 
things like Kroeber's anthropology. Anthropology---! "d never even heard 
of such a thing. 1 

I was awfully young for my age and also young in years, really, 
and I never got much out of college as an undergraduate. It was when 
I went back as a graduate that I really got something out of it, 
terrific. But then I look back and remember very outstanding people 
that we had. 

4) Tommy's Studies at U.C., Harvard, and Abroad 

Church: Tommy was there at the same time, but we didn't know each other. It 
was sort of the war years and he did the four years in three years or 
something like that. 

Riess: He started out as a law student? 

Church: That was the tradition of the family, and he was always bright, and 
I think they just thought he'd be a lawyer. One uncle had a very 
flourishing law firm, in Sidney, Ohio. I imagine the family just 
always thought that he "d be there as some of the other nephews had been. 

Well, he was filling in [his course schedule] and he just saw 
this beginning landscape gardening course or something and he decided 
to take it. 

Actually Landscape Architecture or "Landscape Gardening" as it 
was called until just a few years ago was in the College of Agriculture; 
when Tommy taught, he was teaching in the College of Agriculture. It 
was nothing to do with design, though at Harvard he'd studied nothing 
but design. 

Riess: Oh, Harvard was very different, then. 

Church: Yes, because Harvard was the first college in this country that put 

Landscape Architecture under Architecture so that it was in the College 
of Architecture and had something to do with design. 

But anyway, that was what sparked him. He saw this course and he'd 
always loved gardening and always taken care of his mother's gardens. 


Riess: That half lot that you said his mother bought and let him do his first 
garden on—what age was he? 

Chuich: I imagine he was in high school then, and maybe through his college 
years. I don't really remember. 

Riess: As soon as he discovered that he loved landscape gardening classes 
then he left the law? 

Church: I think he left the law. I don't know that he did really very much 

in the law. I'd never hear him speak about that. I think he probably 
had a year or something--! don't know what. 

But at any rate, then he learned about this further degree that 
he could get, and it was called Landscape Architecture. It was at 
Harvard, and that was the only place that offered this particular 
thing. He wanted very much to go there, but it was very expensive 
to go to Harvard in those days, of course, to go back and forth on 
the train and all that. 

So his uncle who had the law practice was applied to and agreed to 
loan him the money. He was rather sceptical because he'd made similar 
loans to many of the other nieces and nephews, and he was heard in my 
hearing to say at one time that Dolliver (Tommy's middle name--the 
family always called him Dolliver) was the only one who had seen fit 
to repay him. That was interesting, I thought --extremely. And he 
followed those lines all through his life. 

Anyway, [in 1924] he did go to Harvard. The pictures of him at 
Harvard look like sort of a freshman in high school—he was awfully 
young-looking and must have been awfully young in lots of ways. But 
he made some wonderful friends and he absolutely adored it and he did 
terribly well. 

Riess: Westerners were thought to be sort of provincial creatures then 
weren't they? 

Church: Yes, they were. I believe he even had a little stocking cap or 

something like that to wear in the snow which, of course, I don't 
think they ever wore. [Laughter] I don't know what they wore. In 
Boston, I think they wore fur hats or something. 

Riess: I see in the office biographical notes that in 1924-1925 he was a 
designer with John Nolen City Planners. Where were they? 

Church: In Boston. And at one time he was in Florida. 


Riess : 

Church : 

Riess : 



He was in St. Petersburg in August, 1925 with Stiles & Van Kleek. 
I guess these were jobs he had when he was in the East in 1924-1926. 

Yes, I think that was so. 

Do you suppose he just didn't come back in that two-year period? 

Sometimes he wouldn't come back. Of course he never came back for 
Christmas. There were any number of Wilsons who had all married and 
were living in the area of New York or somewhere around there. So 
he would always spend Christmas with them. He had one aunt who just 
adored him. They had no children, and so he'd spend holidays with them 
and they'd have wonderful tickets to the theater and everything. He was 
in New York a lot. 

Out of this [Harvard] class, I think there were three that were 
considered outstanding, of which Tommy was one. [Also see p. 444ff] 
Tommy and one of the others considered the third--Stuart Constable-- 
to be the most brilliant, but he never developed. Just too tragic. I 
mean, he had all the talent. I think he may have died; I don't know 
what happened to him. The last time I heard about him, he hadn't 
developed what he could 've. Well then, that happens a lot. 

At any rate, Tommy certainly did. 
that he had. 

He made good use of everything 

He got an M.S. in City Planning and Landscape Architecture, 
how strong the City Planning was. 

I wonder 

I think that was pretty strong, and I think that maybe was the revelatioi 
to him, although funnily enough that never--! guess he could have done 
that, but he veered more towards smaller things. Then in later years, 
his work has been almost entirely private. 

After the war, he decided he didn't want to have a huge office 
because it would be like running a business, it wouldn't be any fun. 
Designing for it would be relegated to others, and he didn't want to 
do that. So he worked quite hard with his advisors and bookkeepers 
about how to organize, and he ended by organizing [laughter] practically 
himself and maybe one or two others. 

How did the Sheldon Traveling Fellow thing come to pass? 

That was quite an amusing story. The head of this department at 
Harvard, a professor that the boys were very close to, a charming man 
whom I, alas, never met--his name was Daddy Pray [James Sturgis Pray], 
and he was apparently an adorable person who just knew how to bring out 


Church: the best in everybody, they loved him, and Tommy used to tell adorable 
stories about him--he suggested to Tommy that he apply for the Prix de 
Rome, which Tommy had never heard of before, and he was very happy to 
do so. In those days, the Prix de Rome was three years at the American 
Academy in Rome. 

When Tommy didn't get it, Daddy Pray said, "Well, maybe it's just 
as well because I've put in for the Sheldon Traveling Fellowship for 
you, and I think it would be more beneficial if you had that and weren't 
so shut up in one place for three years." (In those days the American 
Academy people didn't travel; they just stayed in Rome all the time. 
It was a marvelous life for some professions, but I think for Tommy's 
it was more advantageous really to travel a little bit and see the great 
things of Europe, which is what he did.) 

So he had that. Also, it was quite a bit more money, and it had 
visiting privileges at the American Academy. So he spent several 
months in 1926 at the American Academy and traveled all around Italy. 
Then he was in France and England and Spain. He really had quite a 
bird 's eye view. 

Riess: What places did he visit? 

Church: He adored Italy. And France — in later years, we've done a lot of 

traveling in France and he adores that. He didn't know France quite 
as well. 

I lived in France quite a number of years. I was there at the 
same time that he was, but we never met. It was very funny--when we 
did meet finally, after we both came back here, we met at this party 
and I walked into this room and he looked so familiar, and he said he 
had the same impression. Now, I presume that we'd seen each other in 
high school and I'd just never had any idea who he was. But he said 
that he remembered me, and I certainly remembered him. Very peculiar, 
we really had some sort of a sense of recognition or something. It 
was very strange. 

5) Betsy in Paris 

Riess: What were you doing for your years in France? 

Church: I went to Paris after I'd graduated from college and saved a little bit 

of money--a very small amount --hop ing to get a job. I was very lucky, 

I got one in the American Library there, and I lived in Paris for almost 
four years. 



Riess : 
Church : 

Riess : 

Church : 


I was very fortunate. But I was awfully young for my age and I 

didn't realize how fantastic it was until many years later. [Laughter] 
Now I look back on it and I think it must have happened to somebody 
else because I really just knew practically everybody. You know, Paris 
in those days — there weren't so many foreigners that were living there-- 
and you did know one another. Almost everybody was poor, and you 
gathered in little cafes. 

It was the time of the "expatriates." 

Yes , it really was. 

You see, they stayed after the war, or they came 

So did you know Hemingway and Fitzgerald? 

Yes. I did a lot of typing for some of those people because I had 
a typewriter, a traveling [portable] typewriter that I brought with 
me. They didn't have typewriters or they didn't know how to get their 
things typed or they didn't have any money to get them typed. So I 
did a lot of typing. They all came in the library at one time or 
another, so I knew them. I'm just interested — there are so many books 
about Stein and Toklas and, goodness, I knew them quite well. 

How did you get to be such an independent creature anyway? 

I haven't the faintest idea. I wish you'd tell me. [Laughter] I'm 
really rather a timid person. I don't know how I happened to do it. 

But your parents let you — 

Well, my mother and father were dead. Our parents had died and we 
were children with--my mother came from Africa where her English 
family was involved in mining, and my father was involved in California 
mining and happened to go there and they met. Then he came out here 
with my mother, and my brother who'd been born in Africa, to make a 
long visit, and during that time my father became involved in mining 
in Mexico so they stayed. They died very close together in the years 
when we were just growing up and left us, my younger sister and my 
brother and I, in a very extraordinary family which consisted of my 
grandmother --a very wonderful Victorian lady—and five unmarried 
daughters, our aunts. [Laughter] 

When I lived in Paris, people used to point out on the street, 
"There goes that girl"--the French couldn't let it go with just five 
maiden aunts, it had to be seven--! was pointed out as the person who 
was brought up by seven maiden aunts. Lots of people in England are 
brought up by maiden aunts, but there are not so many of them all 
living together. This was quite an unusual situation. 


Church : 

Church ; 
Church : 

Riess : 
Church : 


They must have sort of fought over you, actually. 

I don't know if they did. I think it was rather difficult for every 
body concerned. That was probably one thing that propelled me to 
leave [laughter] and get far away. But anyway, I was awfully lucky, 
I must say. 

Were any of your aunts women with careers? 

Not at all. 

Was it really very "small town" in Paris, as you say? 

The Left Bank was, and it was very charming. The French people were 
just darling. They were so nice to everybody—at least I always 
thought so. I always loved the French; I got on marvelously with 

Was Gertrude Stein someone it was possible to get on with? 

Well, yes. I shouldn't say that I knew them- -I did know them quite 
well because they used to come to the library and I would take books 
to their apartment. [See p. 423] I never went to their salons or 
anything. I think they thought I was about twelve years old. Probably 
I was at the mental age of twelve. 

I worshipped them both—at least I worshipped Gertrude, but I 
really didn't know what she was really like. Now I read her books 
and I think I missed an awful lot. Some of her books I think now are 
just marvelous, but they were all way over my head, and I'd never heard 
of any of them. 

People said to me at the library, "You come from San Francisco, 
you know these two ladies." I said, "I never heard of themj" Because 
they weren't very well known, in Berkeley anyway. 

What did you think you would do with your life? 

I was always going to be a writer, but when I began meeting all these 
writers in Paris and realizing how much smarter they were than I was, 
I got awfully discouraged. I've done a little tiny bit of writing. 

I'll tell you what I've written about --cooking. I became very 
much interested in cooking, though I never did any when I was over 
there nor did I go to a cooking school or anything. But it did sort 
of lay a groundwork. When I got back here and married I really got 
interested in cooking, and I remain very interested. For a while we 
had a cook but I was happy when we couldn't keep him and I could cook 
again and get things as I wanted them done. 


Church: I've written quite a lot of articles. I have never done a book. 
I'd like to, and I might sometime. I think everybody who cooks has 
something to offer about cooking that's different. I never pick up 
a cookbook that I don't find some tiny little thing, no matter how 
small, that is interesting and new and so forth. When I was learning 
to cook there were few good cookbooks. Now everyone can learn to cook 
and many become really excellent cooks. 

Riess: You came home and then you met Tommy? 

Church: I came home after almost four years and I went back to the University 
thinking, when I first got home, that I would teach French. I guess 
I was there about a year and a half. I did the work for a master's 
degree. Then I met Tommy and we got married. I've never done anything 
about the teaching. 

6) Introduction to Marion Hollins and Pasatiempo 

Church : 

Riess : 



When we first were married Tommy was teaching at the University and 
also he had some outside work. That was what he was mainly interested 
in developing. But that was the moment of the Depression. 

So when he got down on his knees to propose to you, how did he propose 
to support you? 

Well, we never discussed it. I mean it was most extraordinary, we 
never have discussed it. 1 I just assumed that we'd manage somehow and 
we always have. The thing that was fortunate was that on our way 
back from our honeymoon- -after we were married, we drove down to 
Mexico, all through California, and we sketched all the missions. 

You say "we." 

You really mean that you were doing it, too? 

Yes, I was always very interested in sketching and 
:at deal together. 

+ + 

a great deal together. 

we used to sketch 

Then on our way back we stopped at Santa Cruz because that was 
where Marion Hollins was developing Pasatiempo. She had come from 
the East and lived at Pebble Beach and sold real estate while she was 
playing golf. That's what a lot of those people did in those days. 
I guess they still do that with those big tracts—of course, Pebble 
Beach was sort of an ideal situation --the country club sort of thing. 
You know, every now and then something is made like that. 


Church: We started our married life really at Pasatiempo living on a 

golf course and being involved in all that country club kind of thing, 
which never appealed really to either of us very much, except thac 
with Tommy it was a fascinating job and with me, I love being in the 
country. But I wouldn't want to live chat kind of life. We were very 
anxious to come to San Francisco. 

Riess: How did he have the contact with Marion Rollins? 

Church: Bill Wurster had met Marion Rollins [through Elizabeth Ellis] and had 
begun to do some building for her there. That was in the very early 
days of his career. We were going off on our honeymoon and as we were 
leaving Bill pulled out of his notebook an address, written in his tiny 
little handwriting and on the back scrawled "Stop by Santa Cruz." 

In those years we "d always by-passed Santa Cruz because everybody 
went to Camel, that was the great place to go, and Santa Cruz's day 
of elegance was quite a bit before that. As children, we used to be 
taken to Santa Cruz, and we'd stop in Felton, those mountains, but 
never stay in the community of Santa Cruz. When we got a little bit 
older it wasn't quite sophisticated enough and we felt we should go to 
Carmel. So I hadn't been to Santa Cruz in years. But we did go 
through there on this drive, and Tommy said, "Bill told me to go and 
see this person, so why don't I do it." So we did. 

She was interested in Tommy and also, here we were starting 
out, and she thought that if we would build a house there, she 
would finance it practically entirely (we didn't have any money and 
it was the Depression—nobody had a cent in those days). But she was 
anxious to get places built. We did build a house there, really a 
lovely house that's still there; it's just charming. We lived there 
for about a year and a half. 

Riess: Bill Wurster designed it? 


Church: He designed it, yes. He and Tommy did it together. It's awfully 

funny because everybody scoffed when it was done. Tommy insisted on 
having a living room and dining room combined; I've never had a 
[separate] dining room, this is always the way we *ve lived. But in 
those days, usually people always had a dining room all set with a 
bowl of flowers [laughter] that stayed there all the time. 

This Pasatiempo house was long and low, really a very charming 
house. At one end of this big room was a fireplace, a very cozy, 
beautiful fireplace. Tommy said, "I want several steps down, and 
around the fireplace will be these sofas arranged and that will be 
the soft, cozy part to sit in." Bill argued with him and several people 
said, "Oh, Tommy, that's a terrible idea. People will fall and break 
their hips." 


Riess: But that's the beginning of the "conversation pit." 
Church: And you know that now people do it all the time! 

Then we had the most marvelous kitchen. It really was out of 
this world. It had a fireplace in it. Also that had a built-in 
thing so that you could sit and have breakfast in front of the fire 
if it was cold—absolutely delightful. Everybody made an awful fuss 
about that, they thought that was awfully peculiar. I'd entertain 
in the kitchen, and that was considered terribly strange. 

The drainboard and the kitchen sink were before some windows 
which looked out onto a perfectly beautiful scene — in the spring, 
azaleas, wild azaleas and everything. It was just beautiful. That 
has made an indelible impression on me—you should never have a 
kitchen sink where you can't look out, because it's so frustrating 
to have a sink full of dishes and not be able to see over that. 

Then Tommy said, "I'll make a hole at the end of the drainboard 
and we will have a thing that leads down and the garbage will go down 
in there. Then the garbage man will just come around and get the 
garbage"--instead of having to take the garbage out, which everybody 
always did. Everybody said, "Oh, Tommy, it's too ridiculous.'" This 
was the first disposal. [Laughter] 

Riess: That's such a wonderful story, my goodness. 

The idea was that he would live right on the estate and would be 
the designer from then on? 

Church: Yes. He did all the basic planning. Then each time a house was 
done, they didn't know anybody else, so they asked him to do the 

We have a place in Santa Cruz and we go down there as often as 
we can, but we haven't been to Pasatiempo for a long time. Someone 
told me the other day that the house was sold again. For a long 
time it was owned by someone and it wasn't very attractive inside, 
I understood; I never saw it. But the person who has now taken it has 
really done it perfectly beautifully. I'm going to go by and call on 
them sometime; I'd like to see it again. 


7) Bill Wurster 

Riess: When did Tommy and Bill Wurster meet? 

Church: They met through me. I had known Bill before I went away. He had 
just returned to California. He'd been traveling in Europe and had 
worked for a year in the East. He was a friend of great family 
friends of mine in Berkeley. They had been in Africa and they had 
been friends of my mother's family so it was a thing that went way 
back. One of the sons was an architect and he and Bill Wurster had 
been in college at Berkeley together. Then Bill left Berkeley and 
went to Europe for a year or so. When he came back he had a job in 
New York for another year. Then he decided, much as Tommy did, that 
his destiny was California. 

Riess: Well, I know that the connection for Bill Wurster, coming back to 
California, was Elizabeth Ellis. 

Church: Yes, partially. But he decided definitely that California was where 
he wanted to practice. And he wanted to practice. He was always 
very much of an individual just as Tommy was. They had many things 
that were very alike. They saw completely eye-to-eye as far as the 
work picture went. 

In any case, I was away and didn't see him again, but by the 
time I got back, he was really established. He'd already done the 
Gregory's farmhouse, which many people feel is almost his greatest 
house. It's really extraordinary. People who come out here from 
the East, they can't believe it. And it was one of his very early 
houses. It is a perfect house. You cannot do anything in that house 
that is wrong. 

Of course, it was a very remarkable client, Mrs. Gregory—she 
was a wonderful and extraordinary person to whom Bill was terribly 
devoted, and I think they influenced each other very much. [See 
following chapter] 

It was the moment in California when everybody was building 
pseudo-Spanish houses. I love the Spanish influence and I feel it's 
tragic that we've lost so much of it here, or have such bad Spanish 
types. But that was what was built in those days. In one way, the 
Depression did a good thing because those houses became too expensive 
to build and people really stopped building those houses for a while, 
you know, they were building very, very inexpensive, simple houses. 


Church: Our house at Pasatiempo it seems to me it was $9,000 and there 

was a lot in that house that was special—doors were a special size 
and all kinds of things. In fact, we heard the other day what it had 
sold for. How, of course, I've forgotten, but I think it was almost 
$100,000. And it wasn't a very big piece of property. It had a nice 

In any case, I introduced Tommy and Bill. Then when Tommy started 
working at Pasatiempo, he and Bill worked together, and shortly they 
worked quite a bit together. 

Riess: What was it like when they first worked together? 

Church: I think they got on wonderfully. Tommy always felt that Bill was 
fantastic . 

Riess: Were they talkers? Did they sort of theorize together? 

Church: Bill talked a lot. Tommy never did. Tommy felt that Bill's plans 
and his thinking on the job was superb. I think he feels that it's 
almost the best that he's ever worked with, although I don't know. 
He felt very, very strongly about Bill. I don't know, as I say. He 
never compared or anything like that, and he did work with a lot of 
marvelous architects. Whatever they worked on together, it was very 
harmonious; that was always my impression of it. Those were very 
wonderful days. 

Riess: They sound like wonderful days. 

The two of you were uniquely free, to pursue your own directions, 
you and Tommy, because of your families being so minimal. 

Church: Yes, exactly. We really did. 

Of course, there again, you don't realize until something is past 
that you've been living through such extraordinary times. I didn't 
make enough notes. I guess I'd start to and then I wouldn't. I really 
wish I'd written down more factual things because we did have some 
very amazing experiences and meet some fantastic people. 

But there's an awful lot of that - -everybody "s annotated everything 
so much, maybe it's sort of a relief that I haven't. 

Riess: When you were down at Pasatiempo, did you have children? 

Church: No, we didn't have any children for a long time. We had Judy about 
five years after we were married. Then Belinda was born about three 
years after that. I was old—we both were. I was 26 and Tommy was 
28. I was over 30 when Judy was born. 


Riess: When Tommy was down at Pasatiempo for those years, was he working 
only there? 

Church: No. The arrangement was that he would get whatever work he could. 
Marion Rollins paid him a base thing. Then whatever money he made, 
it would be deducted from that. He did quite a bit of work; she always 
felt she got a bargain. She was always very devoted to Tommy. 

Riess: That was during the Depression. 

Church: Yes. Of course the Depression didn't hit California really until the 
spring we were married. The crash was 1929, but it took about a year 
for it to get out here really and get really going. By that time, 
people were awfully broke. And Marion Rollins, most of her years 
developing Pasatiempo she was very broke, she had a very hard time. 
In the end, poor thing, it was awfully sad, she'd had quite a struggle 
and she had to let it go. 

8) 2626 Hyde Street 

[Telephone Interruption] 

Church: [Talking of remodeling and adding on to 2626 Hyde St.] Tommy had made 
a dog run for our dogs --we always had these dogs. One day he looked 
out and saw them sitting all day in the sun, using up the nicest part 
of the garden, and he decided to take it [dog run area] away from the 
dogs and build the wing. So he did. It's been there ever since. 

But I think to open the gate [to the garden] is quite marvelous, 
don't you think? 

Riess: I think it's quite marvelous. 

Church: I never fail to get a big thrill. I come home from struggling downtown 
or goodness knows where and I walk through the gate and I'm just 
staggered. Then, quite a number of years ago, and later, we bought 
the flats. We bought this house from two ladies that had been born 
here. It was a very old house--! mean the main thing, the original, 
is very old. It was just a little shack, sort of a miner's shack, 
I think. 

Riess: Oh--what condition was it in when you bought it? 


Church: Well, it was in pretty bad condition. It had been lived in since 
the miners, but they say that this was all little hills that went 
down to the water, this area, and before Hyde Street was graded 
for the cable cars, this house stood right on a little hill--this 
level was on a hill. So there's really another level; it's not 
technically a basement because it's not underground, the first level 
as you come in the garden. Then when they graded Hyde Street, of 
course, that was all scooped out. 

Riess: When did you buy this? 

Church: We lived in it for a long time before we bought it because we didn't 
have any money to buy it. We spent lots of money fixing it up. 
When we bought it, of course we had to pay for all [ laughter] -- 

Riess: For all your improvements. 

Church: I don't remember when we bought it. Sometime after the war. 

Riess: But you moved up here when? 

Church: We moved here in about '33, I think. For one year we lived in what 
used to be a Chinaman's room in an old shingled house, a Willis Polk 
house on Vallejo, a charming place. We loved that. It was wonderful. 
To go up that street, it was like a little private cul-de-sac. Now 
it's the ne" plus ultra. I suppose even the Chinaman's room is 

Riess: What do you mean by the Chinaman's room? 

Church: Well, the Chinese were always in the basement because they smoked 

opium and the people who had this Chinaman didn't want the smell of 
opium in the house. The smell actually isn't too objectionable, it's 
just sort of sweetish, not nearly as telling as pot. You know you 
can always tell when somebody's been smoking pot. But there's a 
sweetish thing about opium, and they didn't want that. 

But it was just about the time when people were beginning to 
rent Chinamen's rooms and be very happy to have them. In those days 
it was hard to find places that you could afford. Anyway, that's 
where we lived for a year. Then we found this house and we just felt 
we had to have it. It hadn't been lived in for quite a long time. 

These two dear ladies, two German ladies, had been born in it 
and tried to dissuade us. They said, "Oh, Mr. Church, the roof leaks.'" 

Tommy said, "I'll fix it." [Laughter] 


Church: Then they just couldn't believe their eyes when they saw how 

he was doing. 

Riess: He started right away on the garden? 

Church: He started working on everything. And you know, it's so funny, it's 
had no effect on this neighborhood at all. It shows how weird that 
sort of a thing is. You think that something like that is going to 
raise the general atmosphere, and nobody else fixed their houses or 
worked on their houses or did any thing --we 11, I shouldn't say that. 
A little bit was done, but not much. 

Riess: It's fairly well hidden, after all. You have to open the gate to 
know about it. Except those two stunning trees—were they there? 

Church: No. Tommy put everything in. The garden was just a little sloping 
thing with a little fruit tree in it. It didn't have any sort of 

Riess: How much do you get your oar in on garden decisions? 

Church: Not very much. I don't really know very much about gardening. I'm 

just now thinking at the end of my life, "Isn't it terrible I learned 
so little. 1 " I've never assimilated plant names or anything like that. 
I'm very appreciative but I just haven't been a student of it. 

Riess: I think that would probably be the safest thing to do. 

Church: Well, I always felt Tommy wouldn't really want me leaning over his 

drafting board, making remarks. I think some people work wonderfully 
together; I don't think he would have liked that at all. In fact, 
I'm sure he wouldn't have because I used to sigh and say, "Oh, they're 
so compatible and they have this wonderful life creating these things 
together," and Tommy always said, "It's not for mej Wouldn't do for 
me at all." [Laughter] 

Riess: Did he ever work at home, or always in the office? 

Church: Yes, he's worked at home, he's always had a drafting board at home. 
He's always had a drafting board wherever we've lived. He has one 
at Santa Cruz too. 

It's funny about Santa Cruz. Years later, he was working on 
the University down there. Isn't that interesting? Our lives are 
sort of entwined in Santa Cruz. 


Church: All these years—besides all the work he's done, he's maintained 

three complete gardens, these two—we have another one off the 
kitchen—and the one at Santa Cruz, where we'd just be weekends. 

Riess: By maintained, you mean weeded and scrambled around. 

Church: He did ail the work- -all the repotting, all the watering. We'd rush 
to Santa Cruz, just get there, and have to start watering^ 

It's really just fantastic. People are always asking, "Who 
takes care of your places?" Now they're really awfully sad, and 
Santa Cruz is awfully sad. I'm not trained as a gardener, and also 
I have to cook. [Laughter] I never felt that cooking and gardening 
went terribly well together. If I ever got started gardening, I'd 
never be able to find the time to come into the house. 

9) Architectural Influence of Berkeley 

Church: I was speaking earlier about Tommy's house [in Berkeley]. I realize 
that so many of those houses have influenced me. Our family didn't 
live in a house like that, we didn't live in one of those lovely 
redwood brown shingle houses, we lived in an old Victorian house 
on Piedmont Avenue between Durant and Channing, and I really hated 
that. As a child I realized it was a hideous house. 

Riess: Is it still there? 
Church: Thank goodness, it's gone. 

But the street was lined—not lined, but many Julia Morgan houses 
were up and down. It was a lovely situation. Piedmont Avenue was 
beautiful in those days. Then, of course, I knew the [Charles] Greene 
family. I used to go down and stay with them in Carmel. Of course, 
the famous Greene house, the Thorsen house, is right there. We watched 
that being built, timber by timber, wooden peg by wooden peg. 

Then, right across the street from the Thorsen house was the 
Gay ley house now done over so it doesn't even look like it, but that 
was a Julia Morgan. It was a really beautiful house. 

I remember years later really almost the first sort of aesthetic 
experience I had in life. We moved from the Gothic horror to a smaller 
redwood house, which was quite nice, on Benvenue. I used to walk to 
college and always cut through the [Maybeck] Christian Science Church. 


Church: To me, that still is one of the most beautiful! Of course, in the 
spring, with those wisteria that must be ancient now if they're 
still there-- 

Riess: Did it always have the soft, old feeling? 

Church: Yes. 1 I was there when it was being built. He just created this 
ancient Gothic architecture right on the spot. 

Another person I knew was Isabella Worn. She was the great 
garden person. She and Julia Morgan used to work together, I think, 
sometimes. She didn't actually do the gardens; she sort of took care 
of the borders. She was never considered a designer, but she was 
really a fabulous horticulturist, a wonderful gardener. She must 
have been younger than Julia Morgan, although I think of them as 
sort of the same period, kind of dressed the same, with long, sweeping 
skirts. Isabella Worn died not too long ago. 

Julia Morgan still had an office when we first lived here, because 
an architect-friend of ours, whose name was Francis Lloyd, worked 
for her for many years, and that was certainly when we were first 
living here. 

Francis Lloyd was a very good architect, quite eclectic. He and 
Tommy worked together a lot. After he worked for Julia Morgan I 
think he was on his own for a long time here. But it must be at 
least ten years since he retired and went to live in Grass Valley. 


Interview #2 - April 20, 1977 

10) Individuality and the California Client 

Riess: Was there a sense then of California being a place where one could 
do new things? 

Church: Absolutely. New things and develop on your own. The East in those 
days—now it's not so much now—but in those days, in the thirties 
the East was very much in the Beaux Arts and in the great estates and 
in the French provincial and the more elaborate styles. There were 
modern things going up, but it wasn't anything that you breathed in 
in the air. It was a very isolated thing. 

Later there were these great modern masters that came over from 
Europe, left Germany in order to escape from things that were taking 
form. Of course they had a lot of influence once they got here and 
really got started teaching, because that's what they all did. But 
in the thirties they hadn't come yet and people's observance of modern 
things was limited. The young people that were able to travel and had 
seen some of these things in Europe, they were influenced by them, 
but it was nothing like what it later became, a complete outburst. 

I know when we first were married and lived in San Francisco— 
now that was in the middle thirties—people used to come through 'here 
all the time and it always surprised me that they were so crazy about 
San Francisco. They said, "This is so marvelous." And we'd ride down 
one of the residential streets and they'd say, "Look at this" or the 
Marina and they'd say, "Look at all the originality in these." To me, 
I thought it was awful, because I was used to the European cities, 
like Paris, for instance, where the great thing was the harmony. 

A French architect friend of mine many years ago told me a 
wonderful thing. I've always remembered it. He said, "America and 
France are very different." He said, "Here all your individuality 
comes on the outside. Your houses," he spoke particularly of New York, 
he said, "Your houses are very much alike inside." 


Church: I used to notice that, when I'd come back from Europe, I'd 

notice that you'd go from apartment to apartment and everybody 
would have this kind of a plate and they'd have that kind of a 
chair. And the French people don't do that at all. The insides of 
their houses are very individual, and they're very like themselves. 
And the outside, the harmony of the street, is preserved by this 
lovely sort of houses alike. 

When I came home, of course I knew how it was here, but I'd 
sort of forgotten about it. I thought, "Oh, how awful this is." I 
used to go on the Marina and I thought, "My goodness, just look at 
this." I used to say to Tommy how terrible it was and he didn't ever 
say too much. I could see that he didn't agree with me and that he 
agreed with these people that came out and were just inspired by the 
originality. You see, that , to them, was the great thing because, 
of course, it was the creative thing. 

Riess: It always verges on chaos, though. 

Church: Well, it does and we d£ have a chaotic effect on the streets. Of 

course, that's where Tommy was lucky because gradually people realized 
that planting and trees and all of that subdued some of this 
eccentricity. That really became the great foil. He was lucky to 
be in on that in the very beginning I think. 

Riess: Do you think that people were individual in their gardens? 

Church: Well, it depended. I think Tommy had much more opportunity to have 
individual conceptions and solutions to people's problems. 

Of course suddenly the whole thing changed, and it really changed 
more in the garden than it changed in the house because, first of all, 
upkeep began to go by the board. They realized that they could no 
longer have these great sweeping lawns. Nobody had gardeners; the 
gardeners were one of the very first of the help that went in the 

Then the next thing was that these people that had smaller pieces 

of property wanted all these things: they wanted a tennis court and 

they wanted a swimming pool, eventually. Swimming pools were a little 
bit slower in coming. 

I remember in the thirties when we began to travel more and we'd 
fly down to Los Angeles quite often—we flew quite a bit in those 
days- -we'd fly over and all of a sudden looking down we'd be so amazed. 
I'd say, "Tommy, look at all those swimming pools.' I don't believe 
it I" It just was a rash. 


Church: Then also there was the Idea of the place for the children to 

play and everything. You know, it's the funniest thing, we'd go 
to these weddings, well about the time our oldest daughter was 
married, and Tommy would say, "You know, that boy, I made his first 
playground." [Laughter] And then when Judy married Decker McAllister- 
the family were friends of mine from Oakland for many, many years, 
not the McAllisters so much, but her family—Tommy said, "Now, isn't 
that funny? I made a playground for those boys when they were just 
eight or nine years old!" 

Riess: If people's interiors expressed such a lack of originality, you'd 
think they would want kind of "safe" gardens in that same way. 

Church: Well, I don't know. My memory of some of those early days--I used to 
go quite a bit and be sort of in on conferences. (Not in on them, 
because I had no understanding at all of it and I was never able to 
visualize a single thing; I'd see the plan on the paper and I could 
no more make it rise like this [gestures] from the flat thing I saw 
in my mind, than the Man in the Moon.) I jid used to hear Bill and 
Tommy quite often. They approached the problem from very much the 
same point of view. I think I'm perfectly justified in saying that. 

It was a little bit different from the old-fashioned thing of 
let's say the twenties and before the Depression and when America 
was really evolving. The great houses and even less great houses, 
almost all of them were taken from the European background and in the 
East. But Bill and Tommy questioned their clients very much, and 
they asked them what they wanted. They told them whether they could 
have it or not on the piece of ground that they had, which was also 
sort of a departure because as you know , hundreds of buildings are 
built on something terribly inappropriate. 

Tommy always tells the story of one of his early jobs. I think 
it was in Piedmont. It was rather a hilly place. He was called to 
do the garden long after the house was all done. The people were 
about to move into the house. Tommy came back and he said, "You know, 
they can't get a road up to the front door." [Laughter] So it showed 
rather decidedly that there was need for thought on that score. I 
suppose the builders or whoever had just placed the house. Usually 
somebody wants a house that sticks way up in the air and they want to 
put it right on the top of the piece of property [laughter] and 
there's no property left to use. 

I think that concern was new and I really think that came, I 
honestly think--oh, I don't know, people could argue with me about it-- 
but I wasn't so conscious of that feeling in the East ever. I know 
that all these younger people used to come out and they'd just exclaim, 


Church: they'd think it was so marvelous and of course an awful lot of them 
came out and stayed. And you know that's how we got interesting 
architecture here, in the beginning, because after the earthquake 
all the younger men in these offices were so inspired by coming out 
here and doing these things. 

Riess: I should imagine that the California client was more imaginative 
and fun to work with, too. 

Church: Well, they particularly were here because here we didn't have so 
much of the big eastern money which came to Santa Barbara and 
southern California, particularly Santa Barbara. We really 
have the vest estates like the early estates in Montecito and Santa 
Barbara where they could afford to copy the great European gardens. 

Riess: So there they were carrying on an eastern tradition. 

Church: They were, and the Spanish. That was another interesting thing. You 
see, we let the Spanish just go, which is so terribly sad I think. 
We only have a few Spanish buildings—only the Mission really. And 
we did the same thing in Monterey; we let most of that go. When I 
used to go down there as a child, that was almost an entire little 
Spanish village right on the main street of Monterey. 

11) Lockwood de Forest 

Riess: Was Lockwood de Forest someone you knew? 

Church: Yes, Tommy was very devoted to him. We knew him from the very 

Riess: How did the two meet? 

Church: Lockwood had come to Santa Barbara from New York. He belonged to a 
very interesting family in the east, a very distinguished family. 

His brother was a most remarkable man. I believe he was older 
than Lockwood. In fact, I've been shown their house in New York. 
It was down in Washington Square. It was one of the beautiful 18th 
century Georgian houses. The brother was born a hunchback and never 
was able to operate as an ordinary person. But he was a genius and 
they say that he used to just lie flat on the floor and design these 
things. He designed I think something to do with a radio, some 
electronic or some fantastic thing. 


Church: I think of the de Forests sort of like the Adams family or 

something like that. They traveled. I don't know about the other 
children; there must have been more because I think of it as being 
so&t of a larger family. Where he went to school, I don't really 
know. I've forgotten, if indeed he went to school. I don't think 
he ever bothered, Lockwood , he was a complete original. He never 
bothered belonging to the landscape society or anything like that. 
He wouldn't have been interested in that at all. 

Riess: Did he start out studying maybe with Olmsted or somebody in the 

Church: It's possible. They may have come originally from Boston. That's 
perfectly possible. I don't remember. Bill Wurster would have 
known because he also knew him. But we met them because Lockwood 
had married a girl who came from a family that I had grown up with, 
the Kelhams that lived in San Francisco. 

Riess: He was the architect, was he. George Kelham? 

Church: No, it wasn't that Kelham. It was another family. There were two 
girls. One, the younger one, was my friend, my contemporary. 

Elizabeth [ de Forest] was quite a bit older. She's still alive 
and we see her quite often. She's helped on certain things of 
Tommy's. She's a horticulturalist really and a very delightful person. 
She lives in Santa Barbara. 

The other girl married Francis Lloyd, the architect, who used 
to work for Julia Morgan, and now lives up in Grass Valley. 

But he [Lockwood de Forest] did a lot of the things in Santa 
Barbara and he was ^o gifted, oh.' And Tommy just adored him—they 
saw absolutely eye-to-eye. 

Riess: Did they correspond or did they just simply see each other when they 

Church: They saw each other in Santa Barbara. Of course Lockwood was a 
garden architect, so they weren't working together. They simply 
had a wonderful mental rapport. 

Riess: His practice stayed in Santa Barbara? 

Church: Mostly. He came to do one or two things on the Peninsula at one time, 
I think in the very early days. I think he came up a couple of times 
and worked on something of Bill Wurster 's before Tommy was in practice, 


Riess: How were Lockwood's gardens different from Tommy's? How would you 
characterize the differences? 

Church: Goodness—how to say. They were very individual. Of course, with 
his wife, with the wonderful horticultural touch, they had the- -you 
see, I'm just not knowledgeable about how to describe. 

Riess: Well, you d_o describe the houses of Santa Barbara as being great 
estates . 

Church: The big houses, yes. Most of the gardens that I saw of Lockwood's 

were small, I mean they were small in comparison to the big estates. 
They were not estates. His own house and garden, for instance, is 
absolutely charming. They were very quiet, very understated. 

Riess: What structural materials did he use? 

Church: He had gravel. He was very fond of gravel. I remember that. Of 

course, now gravel is sort of going out because it also presents an 
upkeep problem. I do remember that in a lot of his gardens the paths 
were gravel. 

Riess: In a letter that Tommy sent to Bill he asked, "Do you think I might 
write Lockwood" about an idea he [Church] had for parterres for the 
Henderson garden [ 1934] . It sounded like he was thinking of Lockwood 
as a kind of luminary, like "would it be all right to bother Lockwood? 1 

Church: I think that's true. Although Lockwood was completely unconventional. 
I think they must have come from Boston, the more I think about it. 

Riess: That's the only place that gives you that liberty? 

Church: That wonderful individuality. They just made up their own minds and 
they just did it. Oh.' he was a marvelous man. We did see quite a 
lot of them later on. I think Tommy probably did defer to him in 
every way because he was a little bit older. But I think in the end 
Lockwood grew to love and admire Tommy very much. 

12) Tommy's Habit of "Dropping In" 

Riess: When you went on the honeymoon and you were sketching missions, did 
you also look in on other kinds of gardens or landscape architecture 
work through the south? 


Church: Tommy had a few people to see, like the de Forests. That was when 
1^ met the de Forests for the first time. I think Tommy had met 
Lockwood and I had known Elizabeth, but not really well at all. 

Riess: And how about anybody in the Los Angeles area? 

Church: You know, isn't it funny, I can hardly remember stopping in Los Angeles 
at all. I think we may have just spent the night or something and 
just driven hastily to get on to more country. I remember we went to 
San Diego and then we crossed over into Mexico. We didn't stay very 
long, just in the northern part of Mexico. But then we turned around 
and came back again. 

Then, this always happens—every trip we've ever had since — 
Tommy began to get eager to get home. Now this time I don't know 
what drew him. Oh, I know.' I guess he had that visit to Marion 
Rollins on his mind then. As always, he saw things more clearly than 
I did. 

Riess: You mean he_ saw the opportunity clearly? 

Church: Definitely. And I imagine he perhaps saw just exactly what happened, 
because he often did. 

Riess: Do you remember the first meeting with Marion Rollins and the 
excitement about it? 

Church: I'm afraid rather vaguely. I wasn't in on it. I think I mostly sat 
in the car. My role was sitting in the car [laughter], well supplied 
with knitting and books. 

Riess: With the engine running? You sound like a moll, ready to drive away. 

Church: No, I didn't have the engine running--! didn't know how to drive the 
car, either. I didn't drive 'til I was quite advanced in years 
because Tommy always had the car. There was no opportunity for it. 
But I always had knitting and I always had a book. 

The funny thing is that that habit of his continued far into old 
age. When we'd be motoring in Europe, quite often I was very shy and 
hanging back from visits and always thought the most terrible thing 
was to be thrown out. 

Tommy would say, "Well, why do you worry about being thrown out? 
The worst thing anybody can say is "No 1 or 'Would you please leave?'" 
And he said, "What's so terrible about that?" And I remember thinking, 
"Well, he's actually right. What is so terrible about it?" 


Church: Not so long ago we were motoring somewhere and we came to this 

beautiful place and I said, "Tommy you can't go in there. I mean 
you just can ' t go into people's places like that. You have to be 
invited." Tommy said, "It's perfectly ridiculous." And he went in 
and he was just gone literally for hours. They took him all over. 
And he never said, "My poor wife is sitting out in the car." They 
gave him tea and I don't know what all. I was so mad I could have 
killed him. But that happened again and again. 

13) Sir George Sitwell 

Church: Just to diverge for a moment, I'll tell you another funny thing about 
that. Years ago, when he was first at the American Academy as a 
student in 1926, I guess it was, one of the trips from Rome for the 
boys was to go up to Florence and look at all the villas. One of 
the villas was Montegufoni, the Sitwell 's villa outside of Forence. 

Tommy couldn't stand just peering through, it just drove him 

absolutely crazy. He suggested that they enter the place. So, I 
don't know how the guide allowed them or admitted them or maybe he 
was looking the other way or something, but at any rate they really 
did . I think he used to say that they climbed over a wall. I don't 
see how that's possible, but anyway they did enter, and they were 
apprehended a Imos t immediately by Sir George Sitwell, a most 
frightening gentleman with a pointed beard , who was just incensed. 

He asked them what they were doing and all that. Then he said, 
"Well, you want to see the villa, you will see it." Whereupon he 
started at such a pace that they were absolutely dropping in their 
tracks. They were breathless, upstairs and downstairs, and goodness 
knows what all. 

He had never heard of the Sitwell family, Tommy hadn't, didn't 
know anything about them at all. But after he'd seen this and met 
this remarkable man, and realized what a genius he was—because he 
evidently was for planning, he was just absolutely fantastic—he 
rushed to try to find his book and he looked and looked. He [Sitwell] 
had written this book called On the Making of Gardens. It's just a 
marvelous tiny little book. Tommy finally found it and read it. 

He had it, when I first knew Tommy, he had that and he always 
prized it so highly. I wasn't able to understand it really as 
clearly in those days, but I have read it many times since and it's 
just been perfectly extraordinary. (Of course, then I'd have read 
all the Sitwell 's books, too.) Later it was lost; somebody borrowed 
it or something, anyway, it was gone, a most terrible thing. 


Church: Then one time after the war we were in London; we were staying 
with some friends down in Chelsea or somewhere like that, a darling 
old house. I went out one afternoon to where there were a few little 
shops clustered together to get something for tea. I never saw such 
a sight in my life; the windows where ordinarily you'd see all sorts 
of delicious pastries, everything just looked as if it were made out 
of cardboard, it was just too awful. But I finally came on this one 
place that had something sort of good and right beside it was a book 
shop that looked like a house, you know. That's the way they are, 
English bookshops, like your own library or what you hope your library 
looks like . 

I went in and I said, "You don't have Sir George Sitwell's book 
about gardens?" The man said, "Well, it was here a while ago. I'll 
just go and look." He went into the back and brought out one. So I 
returned with that book and the tea. 1 

Riess: How nice. That's a good story. 

And certainly if Tommy has good experiences just going ahead and 
visiting and seeing what he wants and not worrying about it, that's 
great J 

Church: Oh, absolutely. And he's seen some of the most marvelous things that 
most people haven't seen. 

Riess: So, to get back, he hopped out of the car at Pasatiempo and went in 
and met Marion Ho 11 ins. 

Church: Yes. And then they had quite a conference and when he came back to 

get in the car he said, "Well, she's made me an offer." And that was 
his first offer I guess. So he talked about it and he said that he 
had to do a little figuring about it, but he thought it would be a 
good idea because it would enable him to open his own office. That's 
what he very much wanted to do and probably he wouldn't have had the 
money to do it for some time. 

14) First Pasatiempo Houses 

Riess: Did the offer at that point include the house down there? 

Church: No, we were to build a house. We had to scrounge around and get the 
money. I guess she did loan him some of it, I've forgotten. Anyway, 
that house cost $9,000 all told, with an awful lot of the furniture 
built in. 


Riess: Where did you first live? 

Church: We stayed in Oakland where we had a little tiny house that Tommy had 

had before we were married [256 28th St.]. We continued to live there, 
but the house at Pasatiempo went up in less than a year. Things went 
forward very quickly I would say. 

After this was all established, Marion paid him a salary and 
anything that he made on his own was deducted from that. That's the 
way it was in the beginning. It may not have been in the end, I 
don't remember. 

Riess: She worked that out then on the assumption that he would be occupied 
full time down there? 

Church: Yes, while the thing was getting established and getting started and 
various houses were getting built—nothing was built you see at that 
time--she would pay him to make it worth his while. Then as soon as 
he got more and more work and was needed less by her, why then they 
would readjust it. 

Riess: Was your house one of the first houses to go up then? 

Church: Yes, I think ours was about — let's see, hers had been started and the 

Howe's house was also started and the MacKenzie's. [Alistair MacKenzie 
designed the Pasatiempo Golf Course] Yes, I believe ours was the 

Riess: And they were all the work of William Wurster? 

Church: Yes. 

Riess: Well, then how does Clarence Tantau fit into all that? 

Church: Well, Marion had known him in Pebble Beach because he'd done a lot of 
work over there. He was oh. 1 what a charming man. And what a good 
architect. 1 He was just absolutely terrific, a very great friend of 
ours . 

Riess: Very different from Wurster? 

Church: Oh completely. Traditional, everything understated. If you don't go 
too far in any direction I think you're much better off really in the 
long run because it's just a few geniuses that can make a soaring thing. 
Look at what building has become today, it's just so tragic. Don't 
you think it's ghastly? 




Yes, I think you are right, 
be new and it always shows. 

You can see where people have tried to 

Gh_ boy does it show. And I don't want people to copy, 
not feeling that that 's necessary certainly. 

I mean I 'm 

15) The Gregory Farmhouse, Mrs. Gregory, and Mrs. Ellis 

Riess: Well, when you think that those were the days when the Gregory 

farmhouse was considered to be something new, though, and that's such 
a satisfactory kind of old thing. 

Church: And it wasn't really new. It's one of the more traditional of Bill's 
things. But it really has the spark of genius. Also that house shows 
another wonderful thing: It shows the cooperation of the architect 
and the client and Mrs. Ellis. Elizabeth Ellis was a very, very 
remarkable woman, very creative. 

Riess: But how was she involved? 

Church: Well, because she was a very great friend of Mrs. Gregory's. They 

spent endless time those two women down there, just pacing it out and 
doing a tremendous job. I think Bill always gave them full marks 
for that house. 

Originally Mrs. Gregory had asked Henry Howard to do the plans 
for it. He was working in his father's office [John Galen Howard] in 
those days here in San Francisco. He was a very gifted draftsman and 
so on, but I'd never felt that he was the great creative person — there 
was no question that he wasn't. The plans he did—I've seen them—for 
that early house were just traditional, early California stucco, lots 
of upkeep. 

Mrs. Gregory didn't want any of that. She wanted the house to 
sleep 20 people and that whole house was built for $10,000. (Of 
course, it has no heat.) The lumber—she insisted on getting the 
green lumber, and the green lumber in those days was, let's say, half 
the cost of the other, I don't know because I don't remember anything 
about it. As the lumber shrank there now are cracks between every 
single panel, but it's so beautiful' 

Riess: Did she, or Bill, know that it was going to be beautiful or was that 
an economy on her part? 


Church: Well, both. She was very economical. She was a very economical woman 
in some ways and she had an amazing background. Well, just too much 
to go into that; it was just that she was a most remarkable woman 
and so was Elizabeth Ellis--from totally different backgrounds. 

Riess: How come nobody ever mentions Mr. Gregory or Mr. Ellis? 

Church: Well, Mr. Ellis was worlds older than his wife and by the time that 
we knew her, and she was more active, he was an invalid. He was an 
invalid for many years. I really never knew him myself. And Mr. 
Gregory was a very hard-working San Francisco lawyer. His mind was 
just like that (gestures). 

Mrs. Gregory lived in this marvelous atmosphere two or three 
feet off the ground. You know she used to have the most fantjs_tic 
poetry evenings. She really had the closest thing, she and Mrs. 
Ellis between them, they really had salons in Berkeley. They had all 
the intellectuals from the University. 

Mrs. Ellis lived in one of Mr. Howard's houses originally, a 
house that he had built for somebody else. She bought that. Mrs. 
Gregory's house was built by Mr. Howard for the Gregorys. Mrs. Ellis 
rented it when Mrs. Gregory moved out of it and moved over here to be 
near her grandchildren. Her younger daughter had died and left five 
small children, so she moved over here to be near them until the 
husband re -married. Then she became ill and continued to live in that 
house and died there. She never went back to Greenwood Terrace. 
Meanwhile Mrs. Ellis was there. 

Riess: Oh that^s how it works, I see. 

Church: And then Bill bought it. He finally managed to get it, to buy it. 
Mrs. Ellis was going to move or I don't know what. She died very 
suddenly--! think she was still in that house. I can't remember 

But the Gregory house [on Greenwood Terrace] in a way was rather 
like Mrs. Gregory's farm. There were certain of the same principles 
applied to it: the main room was beautiful and the front door and 
the trees, and the library was seemly; the rest of the house was 
unbelievable. 1 Upstairs there 'd be walls almost like paper. And the 
minute you entered, there was a door that led upstairs. In the old 
days, you'd think this was the servants [entrance], you know. 

Riess: And this, you suppose, is what she asked John Galen Howard for? 


Church: I have no idea about the plan of that. What she wanted to do was to 
create that living room and those beautiful windows. I'm sure that 
must have cost the world and maybe that was all the money that she 
wanted to spend on the house. Then she wanted the trees to coue up 
through the house. That was very unusual in those days. And she 
wanted the beautiful view. They looked right out all the way over to 
San Francisco. Nothing impeded the view. Oh, she was a very original 
woman. She had absolutely the most marvelous ideas. 

Riess: She started out in the east also? 

Church: No, she was born in Oakland, or born in Stockton or somewhere like 

that. Her mother was a schoolteacher. She was the only child. Her 
mother was very much older when she was born. The father had left 
the mother and had gone to the Islands and lived in Honolulu. Years 
later some of the family went over there and met him. I guess Don 
Gregory had met him. Mrs. Hardy was a very, very fierce dominating 
terrific woman. She inspired this daughter with every high-minded 
and creative and so-on thing that could possibly be. She [Mrs. Gregory] 
certainly did pervade that in Berkeley. 

Riess: She sounds like the perfect client, one with really strong wishes. 

Church: Tommy always felt that. He used to say to people, "What are your ideas?" 
I remember one girl said to him, "But I don't have any ideas." And he 

said, "Then I can't do your garden." [Laughter] He said, "I have to 
have something to go on. You've got to give me some clue." 

16) Betsy and Tommy's Houses 

Riess: I think so often people think that the only way to treat an artist 
is to let him create. 

Church: That was true in the old days. Way back I remember hearing much older 
architects say, "Those were the days," when the house would be 
commissioned and the family would pack their trunks and they'd go on 
a world tour and they wouldn't come back until the house was finished. 
Of course, I want to live in my house while it's being done. 

I didn't understand anything about architecture or anything when 
this [Pasatiempo] house was done. Bill and Tommy handed me these 
plans and I guess they thought I understood because they didn't explain 
anything to me. So it was all just one surprise after another. But 
later, when we moved into this house, and we began sort of working on 


Church : 

Church : 



Church : 
Riess : 

Church ; 





it, we always had somebody that was working here and I was right 
here and I could see them doing these things. I never would build 
a house again without being right there . 

Because of the excitement of it? 

Yes, it's very exciting and then why should you go downtown, come 
home, and be surprised and find that you've got something that you 
didn't want. 

You need to be there because hideous things can happen? 

Yes and then I think also it's nice to be involved. This house 
[2626 Hyde] shows, well, there are several battlegrounds that perhaps 
you don't see with the naked eye, but the fight was there. I think 
it shows a perfectly wonderful quality that it never would have had. 
Of course, I'm not taking any credit for that, because Tommy did it 
all. The fun we had, I would never give that up for anything on 
earth. 1 And after the last nail went in, the carpenter would take 
himself off, and I'd be so forlorn. I'd be absolutely deprived. 
I hate to have you see it looking like it does today. 

I'm just loving the pink vista [hallway] in one direction and the 
green in the other. 

Well, I think it's beautiful. Tommy did all the colors. 

I think in our first interview you said you were never much attracted 
by the Pasatiempo life. 

Well, I'm not a sportswoman. I don't do any of the sports. I'm very 
fond of swimming, but in those days there was no pool so I couldn't 
swim. I did ride. Marion Rollins had a horse that I used to ride 
quite a bit down there. But I was always very thrilled when we were 
coming up to San Francisco. I didn't belong in that setting. There 
were an awful lot of people that came over from Pebble Beach and they 
were all very interested in sports. That was what they concentrated on. 

What was the prospect? How long did you think that you and Tommy would 
be down there? 

I really never thought. Never crossed my mind at all. 
I know, I understand that. 

Do you? I think it's pretty awful. I certainly wasn't looking very 
far into the future. Tommy was. Well, I guess that what I did think 
about was getting to San Francisco. 


Church: You know, when we were growing up in Berkeley, almost all the 
girls that were close and grew up together on Piedmont Avenue, our 
cme idea was to get into San Francisco. Of course, once I got older 
I wanted to go much farther afield. But we all said that we'd like 
to get over to San Francisco and live over there. It seemed a 
terrific place. Most of us did come here. 

I never cared for even faintly suburbs. Oakland I always thought 
was awful. In fact, before I was married I used to say, "There are 
two places I'm never going to live. One of them is Oakland and the 
other is Santa Cruz." [Laughter] And first I went to Oakland and then 
I came to Santa Cruz. But I couldn't have lived in Pasatiempo, my 
word, I should say not.' 

Riess: Did people come down much? 

Church: Yes, we used to entertain a lot. We had people come and stay with us. 

Riess: They probably thought it was thrilling to be down there. 

Church: Yes, I think people did like it a lot, people that lived in San Francisco 
and that liked sports. Then little by little we had lots of friends; 
some that we'd always known came to build houses there, but not to 
live permanently. The only people that were living permanently were 
ourselves and then people that were really sort of connected in those 
days with Pasatiempo. Marion, of course, was often away. She'd come 
and go. 

17) The Garden at Pasatiempo 

Church: Tommy finished the garden way ahead of the house. The garden was 
perfectly beautiful down there, beautiful.' Absolutely lovely. 

Riess: Were there things about the Pasatiempo garden that were a kind of 
essence of a Thomas Church garden? 

Church: Yes, I imagine there are several things that remained like cornerstones, 
It was a piece of property that was bordered on the road so he created 
some privacy by trees along the road and a wall against which were the 
f lowerborders . I remember that as being perfectly fascinating. I 
never had a flower border. That was adjacent to a brick court that 
led into the house. That was really very pretty as I recall. Then in 
the back it was natural. There was a big terrace off the bedroom that 
ran along the house like this [demonstrates]. Then the bank went down; 


Church: there was a rushing river in the winter and it was all wild azaleas. 
Of course, that had nothing to do with Tommy, but it was very 
beautiful. It was simple, but I imagine it was sort of a beginning 
of things that he thought. 

18) Tommy's Way of Finding the Key to the Solution 

Riess: That Pasatiempo garden was his first own garden since the one on the 
Arlington in Berkeley. 

Church: I guess so. 

That reminds me of the other day when we went over to Berkeley. 
There's a very nice physiotherapist that Tommy met at the hospital, 
and he's very interested in gardening. He's very cute. He invited 
us over there. One day he told Tommy that he was very upset about his 
garden. He wanted to improve it and so forth. So would Tommy come 
over and help him? It was one of the early times that Tommy was back 
from the hospital and I just marveled that he could do it. 

It was a very hot day, and the house was in north Berkeley 
[San Luis Road], right near Indian Rock, a rather hilly area and a 
typical garden. I remember in my childhood we used to be taken all 
through that area on walks and picnics and you know there's not one 
piece that isn't higher than the other. And I thought, "Oh, he'll 
never be able to do this." [negotiate the hillside] 

But they had a little gazebo that they had built in the back garden. 
Tommy sat in that and in about two minutes he was just doing these plans 
for these two men and they got started immediately. They just love it. 
They're perfectly crazy about it. He [one of the men] comes by and he 
brings the oxygen tanks or he comes and fixes the machine for Tommy and 
then Tommy gives him a little rundown.* And we're talking about going 
over there another time. He wants us to come again. 

I was so fascinated because when I looked at it I thought, "Oh, 
why do they bother? There's nothing they can get out of this at all. 
It's just too awful. And they have a lot of stuff growing and 
everything, why don't they just settle down with that?" 

So many times in the past we'd go to these places and the woman 
would say, "Well, what '11 I do?" I'd know just how she felt. I would 
think that the thing she should do would be to do nothing. Sit down 
and turn her back on the whole thing. But Tommy just immediately sees 
the simple little tiny thing. 

*Everett Stanley 


Church: People have told me so often that the simple thing that he sees 

is the key to the whole thing and just changes their feeling about 
everything. I have boxes--! have answered very few of them I'm 
ashamed to say--but there are boxes down at the office of letters 
that people have written about gardens that Tommy has done for them, 
some of them 40 years ago. Unbelievable I his rapport! But that's 
what he concentrated on; he never was interested in doing anything 
except an individual thing. And that's why at the end he was just 
about the only person that did it. It's tragic that he should be 
stricken like this because work was just piling in like I don't know 

Riess: And there isn't anybody? 

Church: Absolutely nobody. He had this marvelous man that worked with him, 
Walter Guthrie, who is perfectly wonderful and who, of course, had 
to get another job and does go in on certain things from time to 
time, but it almost never works out because he worked with Tommy. 
He worked under Tommy. He executed, he was just like a right arm. 
And you never can set that loose on its own, or very rarely. There 
are several people that worked for Tommy who had very active practices 
and do very well, but none of them have just that thing. I think I'm 
perfectly justified in saying that. 

Riess: Well, it sounds like that thing had very much to do with how he 
worked with the clients. 

Church: That's it. 

Riess: And yet these people who worked for him had a chance to observe it. 

Church: Well, it wasn't in them, it came from the outside, but it has to come 
from the inside, that creative push. Well, I'm just hoping that 
Tommy is going to get better so that he really can go on. He's working 
on it. I've never seen anybody work so hard in a perfectly calm way, 
just the way he's always worked. It's just calm and understated but 
he's just got his mind absolutely set on making it. 

19) Floyd Mick 

Riess: What is the Floyd Mick story? 

Church: Well, Floyd Mick employed Tommy. 

Riess: Floyd Mick was actually a landscape architect? 


Church: Yes, and I believe he's still extant and I think he's still working. 
He must be well into his 80s. 

Riess: Did he start out in Santa Cruz? 

Church: He worked around Piedmont and Oakland in the twenties. That was 
when Tommy got summer jobs with him, when he would come home from 
college. Those three years that he was at Harvard he came home each 
summer, I believe, and he always had this job with Mick. 

Riess: Was Mick good? 

Church: Well, he was pretty good I guess. I don't really remember too much 
about his gardens. My memory is they were rather seemly. And there 
was sort of a Piedmont atmosphere that was rather attractive. The 
people had a little more money than they did in Berkeley. 

Riess: And Tommy was doing the construction end of things, or was he doing 

Church: I think he did some designing, I'm not sure. 

Riess: I'll tell you why I'm asking, because I've seen correspondence between 
Mick and Wurster that I'll read to you: 

Mick writes to Wurster [Aug. 4, 1930]: "Mr. Church has advised 
me of his intention to leave my employ provided certain negotiations 
which he has underway with some of my clients and prospective clients 
will assure him of satisfactory return for his services in a business 
of his own. These negotiations have been developing while he was 
receiving a salary from me, and I have chosen to accept his resignation 
unconditionally. His connection with me has in fact already been 
severed ." 

Now, that's neatly worded. 

Church: Well, I imagine that by that time Tommy had actually severed connections. 

I know that Mick was very angry with him, or at least I heard that 
from people. He [Tommy] never said anything much about it. 

Riess: Wurster [Aug. 8, 1930] says: "Mr. Church immediately explained that 
it would go through your office, as he was working for you. I asked 
that his name appear on the drawings. As far as came to my knowledge, 
he was scrupulous in your behalf at all times. An offer was made 
directly to Mr. Church which came, I feel sure, as a great surprise to us 
both. It was quite clearly a proposal from my clients based upon their 
need of having someone on the ground and their feeling that Mr. Church 
was the man for such a position." 



That's such a wonderful letter of Bill's.' 
revered him and loved him so much. 

No wonder Tommy just 

Riess : 

Church : 

Riess : 

Church : 



Church : 

Tommy always ignored that. You know, many people take terrific 
exception about that business of the various architects. There are 
these famous incidents in the history of jobs being taken by somebody 
from the office to their own office. But as I say the client is 
perfectly free to say who they want. There's no law against that 
certainly. Tommy never paid any attention to it one way or another. 

I see. And the suggestion is that Tommy was taking clients from here, 
or from Santa Cruz? 


Well, I think maybe they were people here. But of course that always 
happens, you see, when somebody leaves, because people always follow 
the person they've been working with. And after all, the client has 
a free choice. They can stay or they can leave. But that happens a 
great deal. He makes it sound as if it were very sinister, but it 
isn't. It's very common. 

Well, I guess because the letterhead was Mick's with a Santa Cruz 
address, I had thought that Mick was the landscape architect originally. 

No, no. He never had anything to do with Marion, no. 

Wurster said: "The Santa Cruz work was brought to your organization 
because of my friendship and admiration for Mr. Church." 

Tommy had to operate through Mick's office. He wasn't established 
when he first spoke with Marion Hollins. And I suppose it took a 
little time to get it organized. This makes it sound--but as I said, 
this has happened for 45 years. 

About the eventual break with Marion Hollins. 
or did that just kind of dissolve finally? 

Was that really a break 

No, no it was not. There was never anything unpleasant in any way. 
We remained great friends. Tommy always adored her and credited her, 
which certainly is true, with having enabled him to, at a very low 
moment, open his own office. He might not have been able to do that 
for some time. 

No, it became obvious that property wasn 't being sold and things 
instead of going up were really going down. It was very unfortunate. 
It wasn't at all what her dream had been, largely due to the Depression. 
It combined with, which is another very fortunate thing in our past, 
the urge to come up here. He early saw that the place for him to have 
an office was not in the country. 


Church: People for years have said to Tommy, "We don ' t understand why 

you don't have an office in Burlingame or some place like that." 
But you see, San Francisco was the center. It wouldn't be so true 
now, but it was in those days. It was the place that people thought 
of to reach him. 

20) Floyd Gerow, and Bob Glasner 

Riess: How did Tommy find Floyd Gerow? 

Church: Tommy found him at Pasatiempo. He was then just practically out of 

school. He was eager and hard-working and like all of Tommy's people, 
he just devoted himself to Tommy. He was just so dependable and so 
terrific always from the very beginning. I suppose there were people 
who didn't like him because there are always people that don't like 
somebody. But I think most people realized what a treasure he was. 

At one time he was a very active contractor and did almost all 
of Tommy's jobs. I think when he didn't get the job, it would be when 
people didn't want to spend that much money. Tommy always felt badly 
because he felt that they then got something that was less and paid 
less for it. And that they might live to regret it. I don't know 
that they did. 

Riess: So in those cases they went out and found their own contractor then? 

Church: Yes, or they put it out for bids or something. It's always put out 
for bids, I think, and then usually Floyd's bid was high. But for 
very good reason because the work was superb. 

Riess: Tommy would counsel people just to take Floyd? 
Church: Yes, he would hope that they would. 

Riess: Of course after a while a contractor can't even keep up with the 
number of jobs that the landscape architect can generate. 

Church: Yes. Tommy almost always had the most remarkable people that would 
just come out of the blue. You don't know where they came from. 
For instance, the man that has been doing his work recently is a man 
called Bob Glasner, the most amazing character, who I think heard 
about Tommy. I don't know how he came to know him. I think he really 
sort of tried to get in touch with him or something. 


Church: Bob is absolutely remarkable! Now he has so much work; you know 

naturally he doesn't work on Tommy's things any more, but he works 
for everybody that ever knew Tommy in the old days because he's so 
perfect. Every no*v and then he comes over here and fixes our garden. 

Riess: Well, I guess Tommy trained a lot of these people also. 

Church: He not only trained them. Yes, Tommy was absolutely marvelous at 
that. And he didn't do it in any obvious way; he never pointed or 
showed them how to do anything. I think they just got it by 
observing him and seeing how he worked. That's what they've told me. 

Riess: The one year that he taught at Berkeley he was teaching the 
construction courses. 

Church: Was he? That's interesting. 

Up until a very short time ago he would always be there with 

the planting, he would always be there with any tailoring of any 

of the shrubs or the trees or anything. That was his favorite thing 
to do. 

Up in the north, where he'd go twice a year, these two women 
would get their teams of workmen, and Tommy would just be out there 
with them.* I think they learned from seeing him. Maybe they also 
learned that they didn't want to do that. It was too much. 

*Mrs. Corydon Wagner, Tacoma, and her sister, Mrs. Prentiss Bloedel, 
Bainbridge Island. 


Interview #3 - May 5, 1977 

21) The Garden Tour - Organizers 

Church: [Talking about the tour of Thomas Church-designed gardens held 

previous Sunday] It was really perfectly marvelous. It had been 
organized by the Stanford Committee for Arts. They'd been working 
on it for about a year and a half. You know, it couldn't be something 
done at the last minute; the people wanted to feel that their gardens 
were looking the best. 

They didn't have room for more than about 150 people and I think 
they had to turn down quite a lot of people, because so many wanted 
to come. There were people that joined the thing [Committee for the 
Arts] just in order to be able to come on the tour. Oh, some people 
were there I hadn't seen for I don't know how many years, really, 
about 30 or 40, maybe more. 

Riess: And some of the gardens were gardens from the thirties. 

Church: Very old, from the thirties, several. One or two of them I hadn't 

been in since the days when they were being done. I hadn't seen them 
since. They'd all matured in the most beautiful way, of course; they 
were far more beautiful now than they had been then. 

Riess: Who selected the gardens? 

Church: Well, there were two girls that were very active in it. One is an 
awfully nice girl that we've met recently. Her name is Carolyn 

Riess: Oh, yes, I met her, the photographer. 

Church: Of course you have, yes. She appealed to Tommy one time some years 
ago and said that they got this house, but they didn't have a cent 
for the garden, and they had to have a Tommy Church garden, so 
couldn't they do a trade? (Now people are trading again as they did 
in the Depression all the time, but that was about the first time I 
heard of that.) 


Church: He said, "Yes," as he always did, and he became very involved 

in it. It's perfectly charming. It's right in Palo Alto, but it's 
one of those suburban-looking streets in Palo Alto. I think it was 
an Eichler House, but of course completely altered by having this 
setting. It really is most attractive. 

So she was very active in the planning of this. She's a very 
dynamic girl. And then the other girl who did a great deal was the 
Reinhardt girl. She's married to Paul Reinhardt. They live down 
in Palo Alto. He's an opthamologist , and he's the brother of Fred 
Reinhardt, who was our ambassador to Italy, who is an old friend. 
The Reinhardt family were an old, old Berkeley family. Dr. Reinhardt 
was the-- 



Church ; 

The University physician, wasn't he? 

Yes, he was the University physician and also he delivered all the 
babies along Piedmont Avenue [laughter] amongst which I was one. I 
said this to Paul the other day and he said, "You're the second person 
today that's told me that they were brought into the world by my 
father." He was an awfully nice man and he died tragically young. 
His wife became Dr. Aurelia Reinhardt, who was the president of Mills. 
And the boys were brought up at Mills actually until they reached a 
certain age. Then she sent them away to school. 

When we were in Rome one winter, at the American Academy, in the 
early sixties, Fred had shortly before that become the Ambassador and 
we saw quite a lot of him. Fred and Tommy were both in the hospital 
in Rome, the famous hospital there. They had sort of adjoining porches 
and so they got to know each other quite well. 

Then Tommy helped Fred. He [Fred] bought some property on the 
coast above Rome and built a house. Tommy advised him a little bit 
about the setting and everything. Alas, it was too late to site it 
properly because it was already there when Tommy got there. 

Well, let me see. We got far afield briefly. 
Reinhardt, then, was one of the organizers. 

The wife of Paul 

I didn't know all the people by any means, or all the houses, or all 
the gardens, but I did know a few. 


22) The Henderson House, and the Backs of Envelopes 

Riess: The house and garden I associate with the early thirties is the 

Henderson house. Now certainly lots of other things were happening 
during the thirties. 

Church: Oh, that house was one of Bill's really charming houses. It was a 
little French country house, very much like the Smith house in 
Berkeley, the one on Russell, which is really evidently beautifully 
kept today. It's a jewel really. It's just one of my favorite 
houses. 1 [1812 Russell St. Designed in 1927.] 

But the entrance [to 1934 Henderson house] was nothing. And she 
had a beautiful Chinese figure that her mother-in-law had given her. 
Tommy felt that that should be so very eloquently placed. So he did 
all the lovely clipped boxwood, and it was quite formal. I don't 
know what it's like now, but it was just beautiful. Then I think 
later he did the garden in the back, helped her develop that. She 
always had been interested in gardening. 

And in those days when all the young people were laying their 
own bricks because it was so costly, I remember we had a couple of 
days when we had big Sunday lunches [at the Henderson's] and everybody 
helped to lay the brick [in the back garden]. 

Riess: Really? 

Church: Yes, they did that quite a bit in those days when everybody was 
economizing. Nobody had any money. 

Riess: Did Tommy start out doing small places and work up? 

Church: Oh, he did very small places in the very beginning, because nobody 
spent any money. People are always coming up to us and telling us, 
"Oh, yes. We only paid $50 for that plan," or something like that. 
It's just absolutely fantastic.' But even the very rich were poor, 
you know, in the Depression. 

Of course, the people like the Walkers [Mrs. Henderson's parents] 
hadn't settled all that property, that lumber property up in the north. 
They had potential wealth, but they didn't have actual wealth. Of 
course now they're frightfully rich. 

Riess: You talk about a little $50 garden that Tommy might have done during 
the thirties—were there any that were just kind of scribbled on the 
back of an envelope and given to people? 


Church: Yes, I think there were quite a few. As a matter of fact, a man 
came up to me one time and he said , "Why Tommy came down here and 
he just drew the thing on the back of an envelope. 1 " And I said, 
"Well, I hope you still have that envelope. It's worth purest gold." 
[Laughing] He looked quite amazed. "Well, I'll look for it in my 

Riess: That's terrible of you! Really, a drawing on the back of an envelope 
would depend on excellent follow- through in construction. 

23) Grateful Clients, and Architects 

Church: Tommy never told me anything that went wrong. He always had a very 

bright approach to everything. I'm perfectly certain that there were 
many things that didn't work out and that were worrying to him and 
that he was discouraged about, but I never knew anything about it, it 
never showed in his personality in any way. He had some kind of a 
ebulliency that surmounted just about everything. 

Riess: Yes, because despite the fact that clients were practically to a man 
happy, there must have been a man in there that wasn't. 

Church: He never had to my knowledge a really unpleasant experience, anything 
that would be in any way serious or really unpleasant. I never heard 
of him as being let go in the middle of anything or anything like that, 
Now maybe he was but I never heard that. 

Now this Sunday [referring to garden tour], it was just almost 
too much, just person after person. I began to get so groggy after 
a few hours. Just endless people coming up and saying, "Now please 
tell Tommy that we just will never get over being grateful to him. 
We think about him every day." Of course, naturally this period that 
he is going through has an emotional impact on people. I realize that, 
But it's absolutely fantastic! 

I've never heard of anybody that was as universally- -now maybe 
I'm just highly prejudiced, but I always wanted to see things as they 
were. I think life has good sides and bad sides and I've always 
thought I'd rather see it. I don't want to think that something is 
some wonderful way, if it isn't. But particularly, of course, since 
Tommy's been sick, but even before that, I hardly believe the things 
that people have said about him-- 


Church: People have had great big projects going that they thought they'd 

sort of do themselves or something, I don't know what, but they got 
in over their heads. And they'd call me up and say, "Can you intercede 
for us because we just...." Oh, they'd say they were about to get a 
divorce, they couldn't stand it, their husbands didn't agree with this 
and that and they couldn't go any further and "Would Tommy just come 
in on it?" He was a marvelous catalyst! He would come in on a job 
where the people were just having a fit over the architect, and any 
number of people have told me that they never could have gone through 
the whole thing if Tommy hadn't. 

Of course what he did would help the architect. (The architects 
were very loathe to admit that. Now some of them do, but some of 
them never have.) Gardner Dailey was one of the very first to say 
that Tommy just had to be gotten in. He never would do a house where 
the people hadn't already employed Tommy to look at the property. He 
wouldn't do it. Gardner felt, and Tommy also feels, that his site 
planning is one of his great contributions. 

You know, it's a very traumatic thing to build; the bigger the 
house, the more traumatic. I said for years after observing all 
these turmoils that people have gone through, "I never would want to 
build another house." Fortunately, when we did build that house, 
I didn't know c>ne thing that was going on so I didn't understand any 
of it so I wasn ' t really a part of it at all. But today I'd have 
things I wanted and I wouldn't be able to get them. I'd be as mad as 
a hornet. 

Tommy was able to bridge chasms and make people happy. And as 

a rule the architect realized how lucky he was. (I don't usually 

talk this way but I've always said I was going to write a book, "My 

Life Amongst the Architects," because I've seen so much. It's a very 
personal thing. I mean it's much more than an art that's superimposed, 

it's an art that involves all these people. Besides that, it has to 
be practical.) 

Riess: Well, Tommy must have had a lot of good grace that he could come onto 
the scene and get off the scene and leave the architect's ego intact. 

Church: Not only that, the architects just cried for him. Certain ones became 
absolutely his best friends, and just absolutely adore him. 

Riess: When you say that you were groggy with the feelings that people were 
generating about their love for Tommy, do you think then that it was 
the personality, or was it their passion for the extraordinary gardens 
that they had been living in all of these years? 


Church: At the office are just packing cases full of letters that have come 
to Tommy during the last couple of years that he's been so sick. 
Several people have written really perfectly beautiful letters just 
like a poem. And of course the garden is a very living thing. 
They're in it everyday. A house can be, well, not a prison, but it 
can confine you with all sorts of problems that are attendant on it. 
And you can open a door to your garden and you can go out, breathe 
the air and see things growing and feel that that's just the way it 
should be. I think it is just marvelous that so often that was the 
way it worked . 

24) Houses and Gardens on the Tour 

Riess: What was the variety of gardens that you did see [on May 1st tour]? 

Church: Well, there were some that were very old. They all had almost the 
same quality of Tightness. They all seemed right. 

Someone asked me what I thought about the houses, a girl very 
devoted to Tommy, who has a very beautiful house. I looked a great 
deal at the houses, too, and I suddenly thought, really I didn't see 
any houses that seemed exactly the same category as the gardens. 

Riess: You mean category of Tightness? 

Church: Yes. We weren't invited in to many of the houses. There were two or 
three that I knew. There was one that I had been in many years ago 
and I was delighted to see it again. It was very original, it just 
belonged especially to these people. But then the garden did not 
particularly belong to these people nor to the house. It was very 
seemly, but it just caused the house to settle into the landscape and 
belong where it was. As you looked at it, you couldn't imagine that 
anybody could have done anything else yet it must have been quite a 
struggle to achieve what he did. That was fascinating.' It belonged 
to a Stanford professor, Robert Bush. [In Gardens are for Pegple, 
p. 30] 

I forget who did that house.* There were very few houses that 
were actually done by the architects. Well, as I say, there were 
two Gardner Daileys, I think. We didn't see any that were done by 
Bill. A couple of them are quite intricate. 

Today I think architecture has begun to change and change vitally. 
People just can't have what they want. There was a period when people 
had the money and they had all these desires. They could have anything 

*Anshen and Allen, on a modified Eichler home. 


Church: they wanted. If they said they wanted a room out this way or room 

here or whatever, they could have it if it would work out. Therefore, 
sometimes that caused a sort of a diffusion. Most of the houses 
were on one story, on one floor. I like a house that comes together 
sort of. I don't like a house that just goes on and on and on. 

Riess: The on and on and on sounds like California ranch style. 

Church: That's it. Oh, yes, there was a Cliff May house*- -although I used to 
like many things about his houses, he had a wonderful sort of a 
domestic scale that I thought was awfully nice in the early days. 
This was the only thing he's done up here other than the Sunset 
building. That we saw—well we just drove by--and of course, that 
Sunset garden is perfectly beautiful, out of this world.' I'd forgotten 

Tommy got that job through Cliff May, I think. The Lanes, when 
they came out here in the thirties, I remember we met them early 
because he immediately began to publish Tommy. You know, he published 
Tommy before anybody else did. I think there was a thing of Tommy's 
every month, some tiny little thing or a little picture or something 
like that. 

I remember the Lanes had a place near Santa Cruz. Even before 
we had our place that we have now [in Scott's Valley] , after we left 
Pasatiempo, we used to go down there a great deal. That was the place 
that we went when we went out of town. We saw the Lanes quite a bit. 

Then they envisioned this thing, compound [for Sunset publications] 
really, in Menlo Park, and they got Cliff May because at that moment 
he was sort of the essence of the California ranch style. 

Riess: On that scale, from what I've seen of it, it seems really good. 

Church: Well, it is good, it really is. And in the very beginning I think he 

was awfully good, I really do. Of course, they keep it up beautifully. 

That's a big thing in visiting the gardens, whether or not they've 
been beautifully kept up. All of these had. The people were all very 
interested in the gardens. For instance, some people called Little 
[Carol and Dick Little], I never had met them before. They were rather 
young people. I don't believe they built the house. It was a big 
rambling house, one of the ones particularly that I didn't care very 
much for. I didn't go inside it. 

But the garden was perfectly beautiful. It was all flat. And 
it was hemmed by beautiful trees, quite old. The greenery was very 
lovely. It was almost like the feeling in the Northwest that there's 

*John and Gail Whelan, Atherton. 


Church: this wonderful background to everything. And the entrance was 
absolutely beautiful; that must have been in Tommy's Hawthorne 
period because he used to plant Hawthorne trees a lot especially 
in entrances. I think they were pink Hawthornes, really in full 
flower. It was perfectly beautiful. 

Then the flower gardens and bed parts and all of that were 
very beautiful. Then this huge lawn, and there was a bird cage with 
little birds, wild birds, and very attractive seating places. 
Wherever you felt you would like to sit, there were little benches. And 
let's see, there was a swimming pool. I've forgotten where that was. 
The swimming pool and the tennis court, all of that was sort of on 
the perimeters of it. 

Riess: Vast? 

Church: It was vast. I heard several people say, "Well, this is the end of 
an era." That certainly had crossed my mind. Because, you know, 
they wouldn't be able to do it. Of course today, I don't know how 
they're going to keep the lawn so beautiful and emerald green [because 
of drought]. It's very tragic to think about it. But that was lovely. 

Let me think. What other things. 
Riess: What were the Gardner Dailey houses like? Were they modern-looking? 

Church: They were the modern period which I like a little bit less than I did 
his earlier things. 

Riesa: So that would b« the fifties? 

Church: No, the one that I think of particularly was done in the thirties. 
Tommy did the garden. The garden is just beautiful. I wasn't too 
crazy about the house. I didn't think it was too unusual. I'd 
forgotten that we used to go there quite a bit, but I hadn't been 
there for ages. 

Riess: It would be possible to do a garden to really distract the eye from 
the house and mask the house. 

Church: Well, I think Tommy did that a great deal. Elizabeth Gordon, a great 
friend of ours, the brilliant editor of House Beautiful for so long-- 
(though I always have preferred the format and superficially just 
riffling through the pages of House and Garden, at least I'm talking 
about some years ago when she was the editor of House Beautiful and 
she had the forward -thinking ideas and so forth. I knew her quite well 
because we traveled together quite a bit and we remained very good 
friends) --she always said that Tommy saved so many houses. She said, 


Church: "If only architects realized how Tommy embellished their houses and 
really saved them from disaster." She said that to me many times 
in no uncertain terms. 

Riess: New houses? 

Church: Yes, houses that were being built, or an old house. Oh, that was 
one of his great specialties. Somebody would buy an old house and 
they'd say, "What in heaven's name are we going to do?" And he 
really was just perfectly marvelous at it. 

25) "No One Worked Like He Worked 1 

Riess: When you talked about Carolyn Caddes in the beginning, and her 

proposing the trade, you said, "Tommy said Yes, like he always does." 
What do you mean by that? 

Church: Well, I mean he would always agree instantly to something like that 
because it was sort of an inspiration to him. 

Riess: And so you're implying that he wasn't all businessman? 

Church: No, he was not. Well, I guess he was a good enough businessman, but 
the first consideration always was the job, how the job was going 
to be and the client and the best that could possibly be gotten out 
of it. 

I don't think anybody that I've ever heard of in my experience 
or any of the people that we've ever known has ever worked the way 
Tommy worked. I've never seen such a worker in my life. Everybody 
says that. Nothing, nothing was spared. 

Riess: In hours? 

Church: All night long, and if something would go wrong, he'd just be there. 
I mean he'd just have come home from the deep Peninsula or something 
and then he'd go back again. He'd be down in Santa Cruz. At least 
that's my impression. I don't know. Of course, as I say, I don't 
know everything. And there are probably people that didn't like him, 
but I don't know who they were. 

Riess: Well, I talked one day to Roger Sturtevant-- 
Church: --Dear, old friend. 


Riess: Yes, and Donn Emmons and Theodore Bernard!, who all sat around the 
table reminiscing and everytitne I asked a question about, "How did 
you find time to do this," how or why or what or anything, the 
answer was always that they were so devoted and particularly Tommy 
and Bill. There was no question of hours, none of these ordinary 

Church: Never, never. 

Tommy has always said, from the very beginning, that Bill's 
plans, when he was able, before he wasn't able to draw, were so 
fantastic. He said that he has never, never seen such plans. From 
the very beginning he just reacted so to that, that it was really a 
fantastic thing. 

Riess: What were some of the differences then between working with Bill and 
working with Gardner Dailey? 

Church: Well, I never heard him say specifically about Gardner's plans, but 

knowing Gardner, I imagine they would be pretty detailed, too, giving 
a very good idea of what he envisioned. Of course Gardner, you know, 
had been a landscape architect. He started out that way. So he had 
quite a knowledge which lots of the architects in those early days 
didn't have. 

The old architects before the Depression were trained to place 
the house and make the terraces and make the driveways and all of 
that, but the ones that came later, that really was sort of taken 
away from them. 

Tommy really, I think—everybody says this so I guess it's true- 
kind of influenced the movement back towards having the landscape 
architect and the architect work together so that the house had some 
connection with the land in other words. As I said before, I've heard 
Tommy say many times that he felt his real contribution was setting 
the house, a thing that is not always very well observed. 

And California was a place where anything grew. It was way 
behind in design, California was. But it was a wonderful place for 
young people starting out because there wasn't very much. The great 
estates were few and far between and mostly in the south really, 
Santa Barbara as I've said. 


26) A Far View of Berkeley 

Church: Of course growing up in Berkeley I think that I just love the 

originality. We had this Russian woman that lived with us for a 
long time [at 2626 Hyde Street] . She had to flee China when the 
Communists came. She landed with us and she lived with us for 12 
years. She was a wonderful human being. She had had one of those 
amazing Russian backgrounds. She was well-educated and had great 
taste. We spoke in French, because needless to say I didn't speak 
Russian. (But in 12 years I could have learned Russian. It makes 
me so mad to think of it!) 

She used to say, "San Francisco--c 'est une ville tres originale." 
Well, now you see, that's just exactly what it is! In that French use, 
it's more than original; "originale"--it 's also a great compliment. 
That cheered me up so. Because in the early days of living here I 
used to go down the streets and I'd think, "Oh, dear.' Every house is 
different and one stands out this way and one stands out that way." 
I was just looking always for the harmonious outside. And I told you 
about what that man said to me that I think about so often. [See p. 391] 

You know, everybody wants to move away from where they grew up, 
or mostly everybody; then they might want to come back. But when I 
went out in the world I realized that Berkeley was a very famous place. 
The University is so great. Places that we'd go, when we'd be 
introduced to these marvelous people and they'd ask where we came 
from, if I said Berkeley, why they were just so impressed. And they'd 
immediately ask if we knew all these professor's families that I really 
grew up knowing when I was a little girl just realizing they were 
Professor thus-and-so and not having any idea that they were famous 

Many of the professors were crazy about Florence in those days. 
You know they'd have those long sabbaticals and so many of them would 
go to Florence. The Gayley family was very close to me because they 
lived across the street and Betty was just about my age. We were 
friends from babyhood. I can see the Gay leys all setting out now for 
the great trek across the Continent and on the boat and then they'd 
eventually land in Florence. Then Betty's letters coming from 
Florence. Of course, I didn't realize what sort of life she was 

When we went to Florence one time someone took us to have lunch 
at I Tati with Berensen. When we came into the room the first thing 
he said to me was, "Where do you come from?" I said we came from 
Berkeley and he said, "Do you know the Clapps?" (That's an old family; 


Riess : 


he was a professor.) I said yes, I did know the Clapps. Then he 
spoke of Professor Gayley and one or two others. It was very 
amusing. But then that gave you sort of an entree. Apparently if 
you didn't get the right wavelength with Berensen you were moved 
down to the end of the table or something. 

That is a perspective on Berkeley, 

So it was not seen as too 

Church: Not at all. 1 

27) Choosing Books for Gertrude Stein 

Church: When I went to Paris and got the job at the library, I was taking 

the job of a girl who was on a six -month's leave in America. One of 
her jobs had been dealing with Stein and Toklas. I'd never heard of 

So they [librarians] said to me, "Now there are these two very 
distinguished ladies and they're quite different. They have very 
different tastes. Miss Stein is a very distinguished writer. She's 
working on this book about Americans. So she wants everything to do 
with America to be sent to her." (They would spend a lot of time down in 
the country in this house that they had and we used to send them these 
books.) The first batch of books I sent came back practically unopened. 
They didn't want any of those. Then the next batch Miss Stein had 
read. It took me quite awhile to get on to the things that Miss Stein 
wanted . 

The way we got on in the end, which is so funny, was that one 
time she came into the library and she said, "I'm going to give a 

lecture at Cambridge. It's the first time I've ever lectured. I'm 
going to stay with the Sitwells. It's been arranged. I'm very 
nervous. When I'm nervous I read detective stories." (She was the 
first intellectual that I'd heard of that read detective stories. 
I thought only people with no brains at all read detective stories. 
I was absolutely staggered.) And she said, "I wonder if you could 
recommend something." 

I said, "Well, I certainly can, particularly as you know San 
Francisco and you've spoken to me about Chinatown." (She used to ask 
me if the little Chinese girls were still so pretty and had dark hair 
that came down—you know, they used to do their hair in the little 
braids on their ears and wore their costumes. And I said no, I was 
afraid they didn't do that anymore.) 


Church : 

Riess : 
Church : 

Riess : 
Church : 

I said, "There is this series of books, detective stories 
about San Francisco Chinatown by a man called Sax Rohmer." (It 
was a Fu Manchu.) And she said, "The very thing!" 

So I gave her a whole armload of them. Off she went and she 
came back and she never forgot that. She said, "That was the 
greatest thing that could have been done." That introduced her to 
Sax Rohmer. 

Isn't it really killing? Why I just couldn't believe itl I 
mean the reason I knew Sax Rohmer so well was that I'd had a 
very gay aunt when I was young whose beau sent her a new Sax Rohmer 
every time one appeared. We could hardly wait to get our hands on 
it and read it. So I was very familiar with it but I thought it was 
only for frivolous, I didn't realize it was an intellectual pursuit. 

What a good story about Gertrude Stein. 

Yes, she was quite a marvelous woman. They were quite wonderful, 
both of those ladies, needless to say. 

Tommy met Toklas. He took some wonderful pictures of her. We 
were all in Paris at one time later on with some people and we looked 
her up, and we went to call on her and then she involved us in a 
couple of interesting things. One time when we were all having lunch 
or dinner or something, Tommy took these pictures of her. They're 
really quite stunning. 

Where are they? 

Oh, they're right here somewhere if I can put my hand on them. 

Toklas remembered me and she was very lovely and gracious. By 
that time she was living all by herself under very tragic circumstances. 

We introduced Elizabeth Gordon to Alice. Elizabeth was the one 
who got Alice's book, The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, published. 

28) Anais Nin, the Jolas, and Transition 

Church: I was reading about Anais Nin the other day. In those early days I 
was such an ignorant and so behind the times. I wasn't with it. I 
do think she's quite a wonderful writer. I used to see her all the 
time. I used to see Picasso. I never went to any of Gertrude's 
soirees or anything like that, but I heard her read several times. 




Riess : 

I was invited to hear her read. She'd do that at various times when 
she'd finish certain things. But I was certainly not one of her 
inner circle. 

But Anais Nin, that's interesting. Was she known around town? 

I wouldn't have dared approach her or anything because she was so 
exotic and so wierd and of course she was wildly lightyears ahead of 
me in every way, although I think she's just about my age. But I 
guess I took a long time to develop. I used to read her writing. 
In those days I couldn't understand it at all. Of course I didn't 
get very much out of Gertrude's either, but I didn't read any of her 
earlier things. I tried to read the contemporary things that she 
was writing right then. 

Anais Nin has written some beautiful books, 
of the really great books on Mexico. 

She's written one 

I got so tired of her journals that I never wanted to read any other 

Church: Well that's what so many people did. I haven't really read the whole 
thing by any means, but I do mean to go back and look at them again. 
I don't own them. I do have some of her novels. She wrote two or 
three novels. But in those days, well she was just in her 20s and 
she was already very, very advanced in every way. She was living 
with all these people and had these crazy men and everything like 
Henry Miller. They were all brilliant, I knew they were, but I would 
have been scared to death to get mixed up with any of those people. 
I was very. ..[ sigh] 

Riess: Well, you sound like a classic librarian. 

Church: I guess I was. Maybe it was just as well. I'd just as soon not 
have had a lurid past in that respect. [Laughter] 

But also I worked on a magazine that was called Transition, 
did you ever hear of that?* 

*Begun as a monthly magazine to publish "adventurous contemporary 
literature of America" and translations of work from other countries, 
became "a quarterly for creative experiment" and in 1932 a "workshop 
for orphic creation." By 1935 it was "an intercontinental workshop 
for vertigralist transmutation." The war halted publication. A new 
Transition was issued in 1948. Transition was publishing all the 
expatriots, surrealist artists, photography, music, dreams, polemics. 


Riess: Yes. 

Church: It was published in Paris [April 1927, Issue #1 - April 1938]. I 
knew the people who published it. The woman who paid for it and 
who was sort of the chief woman was Maria [McDonald] Jolas, 
who's a perfectly marvelous woman. She came from the South and she 
was quite literary. She'd done quite a lot of translations. Then 
she married this much younger man, Eugene Jolas, who was completely 
haywire. But I guess he was quite brilliant. They knew all of these 
literary people. I used to do typing and things for them occasionally 
and that's how I first heard of Nin because they began to publish her. 

They published all sorts of far out people. They published 
many of Joyce's things. I think they published Gertrude's book that 
she was working on when I was there. I couldn't get anything out 
of these things, they were just much too far ahead for me. Now I 
read Stein; every now and then I pick up something I have of hers and 
I'm just absolutely amazed, it's so fantastic. 

Riess: You caught up with Stein. 

Church: It just took such a long time to develop. In a way, you know, really, 
if given the choice, I would prefer that. I think people that develop 
with a great burst are done too soon—except that the burst caused 
them to do all these things. I haven't ever really done anything 
very meaningful. But me inside myself I'm happier to have done it 
very, very slowly. I think maybe it's deeper and also I'm still here. 
Poor Anais is gone and she really led a pretty awful life. 

And then Kay Boyle, she was around there too. 
than I was . 

She was older 

Well, speaking of the librarians, a lot of people in the library 
really were a little mouse -brown. I wasn't quite as bad as that, but 
I know what you mean. 

Riess: Well, I'm quite sure that you weren't. 

Church: I tell you I've always been kind of on the fringes of things. I've 

always been a little bit outer space. Really I've come to prefer it. 
Then you don't get too horribly involved. Some of these poor people-- 
oh , dear. 

Riess: Well, the passion I guess that went into all of this. I mean now 
you can read it with the pleasure. 

Church: Very much so and I don't have to be involved in it. Much of it was 
pretty awful. 


29) Tommy in Rome, Another Transition 

Riess: I think it's interesting that you were in an American center in 

Paris, and that at practically the same time Tommy was in Rome at 
an American center, the American Academy. But it really was very 

Church: Completely so. But he was certainly benefitting. 

Riess: The American Academy in Rome's emphasis was on looking back. 

Church: That's right. I think he didn't particularly want to. I think 

later he was very glad for the classical background. I always used 
to hear him say that it had trained his eye and that he used to 
think that was so important for his students. He worries about 
people today whose eye perhaps isn't trained. 

I do think that is a part of your education, it seems to me. 

Because in that way you get proportion and perspective and so on, 

unless you're born with it, which I guess some people are, some of 
the great geniuses. But everybody isn't. 

Yet I think he was looking. He was very eager for the new 
thing, for a turning. So many of the boys that had been in Harvard 
with him—and they were a group that were considered the brightest-- 
went into various offices where they were doing huge things which of 
course ended with 1929. Tommy I think was always satisfied that he 
had missed that experience. He hadn't been in it. 

Wurster was evidently another person that was destined to be 
in the "new world," as it became after the Depression. He had had 
a year working in a very old firm in New York and that all just went 
into its right place in him. It was there, but he was ready for 

The Depression was perfectly marvelous really for both Bill and 
Tommy because it gave them an opportunity to try out things that had 
never been done really. In a garden in the old days I'm sure you had 
to have a stone or a brick wall. Tommy did all those things with wood. 
In Bill's case the same applies; the houses had been done in these 
very elaborate materials and Bill just got the Gregory farmhouse, built 
with those boards that split and had great gaps in between them. 

Riess: But why would people be more willing to take risks like that during 
the Depression? 


Church: Well, I think it wasn't everybody that was willing to do that. But 
there were enough exciting people here. There were some very 
exciting jobs as I look back on it. I can see it must have been 
really a terrific moment. Then you see they weren't having to change 
the format of their offices because their offices started out just 
little, tiny cubbyholes and so forth. You know Tommy's always been 
in the same office in San Francisco. 

Riess: Did the Pasatiempo clients become the San Francisco clients or did 
that not necessarily make a connection? 

Church: Well, yes I would think some of it did. Yes, some of them were 
people that we'd known, a couple of people. Then people used to 
come down from the Peninsula and rent houses in the summer. Many of 
those people became clients. 

Riess: Having seen things? 

Church: Yes, and then sort of gotten to know Tommy. Then also he was led 

across to the Monterey Peninsula, Pebble Beach, by various connections, 
meeting people at Marion Rollins' or something like that. 

30) Client Connections: A Job in Scottsdale 

Church: Yes, there's a tremendous amount of stuff down at Pebble Beach that 
he did, some pretty big places there. I guess that was in the days 
when there was more money. Bing Crosby, you know, was the first 
Hollywood person that was admitted at Pebble Beach. He built quite 
a large house there and Tommy did that garden. 

Riess: Well, then, that must have been at a time when one only called 
Tommy Church. 

Church: I guess so, yes, because I don't think he had any real introduction. 
I've forgotten who the architect was. I don't remember the house as 
being very distinguished, just big. 

Riess: I wonder if that was gratifying, to be called sort of automatically 
for his name. 

Church: I don't know that he ever thought about that. I think he was always 
perfectly confident within himself of his ability. I don't think he 
thought that he was the best. 


Riess: It just seems less than personal, but then of course you can make 
the relationship personal, I guess. 

Church: Well, that's what usually happened. That doesn't always happen, 
you know, in business relationships. It's quite amazing, when I 
think back over some of our friendships, they've almost all 
developed through Tommy's association with them, which was awfully 
nice for me to be a sort of camp follower. 

Did I speak about visiting this place in Arizona? 
World, p. 101] 

[Your Private 

Riess: No. 

Church: Well, Tommy about 25 years ago did a job in Scottsdale. He has a 
lovely photograph in the office, that has always been on the wall, 
of a pool. I've always thought that it would be something I'd like 
to see. He's always thought highly of it. The house was done by 
Henry Eggers in Los Angeles. 

When I was down there, about a month ago, I called up these 
people. Their name was Lewis Ruskin. They came out from Chicago. 
At the time that they built this house, and acquired the property, 
there was absolutely nothing as far as the eye could see. I imagine 
Scottsdale must have been just roads, nothing that was indicative 
of what it is now, which as far as the' eye can see is nothing but 
habitations. However, they're sort of far away, halfway up on one 
of those extraordinary mountains. 

This man very kindly came to get me and take me to see the 
house and garden. On the way there he described quite a lot about 
it. He said that of course having lived there [Arizona] he knew 
Frank Lloyd Wright very well and detested him, said he was mostly 
phony; he was one part genius and several other parts phony. I 
imagine a small place like that with somebody like Frank Lloyd Wright 
and that other man that's an offshoot of Frank Lloyd Wright, [Paolo] 
Soleri--there is an awful lot of inner workings. 

Anyway, he'd heard about Tommy and seen some pictures or something, 
so he just called him up one day. He said, "I have a site project." 
And he said, "I thought afterwards if I had approached Tommy and said 
that I was building this house and I wanted to make a rose garden or 
something that he would have turned me down." (I imagine he would 
have, but this site thing took his ear.) Then he said, "It is in the 

And Tommy said, "Well, I never worked in the desert and I think 
that might be very interesting." 


Church: The man said, "When can you come?" 

Tommy looked at his program and he said, "Well, I really could 
come in about two weeks." So they made this date and he went down. 
At that time, they didn't have any building or anything there at 
all. But they knew more or less where they wanted the house to be, 
and how they wanted it to be set. Much of the land was steep and 
so a good deal had to be not only bull-dozed but really dynamited. 
It was very rocky—beautiful , rocks. Tommy spent about three days 
and he just walked around. 

Ruskin said he still has Tommy's original plans and original 
sketches. He said Tommy had this briefcase with stickers from 
wherever he'd been--he always carried that. It had rolls of tissue 
paper, the kind of drawing paper that just one goes on top of 
another and you can trace, tracing paper I guess. He had the yellow 
tablets. He had all of that equipment. 

He just wandered around and they left him completely alone. 
(I guess they were living somewhere nearby so they could get back 

and forth easily.) At the end of a certain time, he showed them 
these things. Then it was agreed that they would start getting 
the area prepared. So he came down again I guess and oversaw that. 

Then he said, "There are only two architects that I can see 
doing the house that you want. They are Eggers in Los Angeles and 
Ed Stone in New York." 

I said to Ruskin, "Well, I'm awfully glad you didn't have Ed 
Stone because you wouldn't have had what you've got now at all and 
you would have had something that cried 'Ed Stone.' Also he was 
in New York and you must have needed somebody that was nearby that 
could come at the drop of a handkerchief," because it was a 
terrifically difficult thing yet it looks as if it just all 
happened by mirrors, you know. The house is very, very understated 
and very small, seemingly. It's not really a small house, but it's 
perfectly beautiful. It's the only really beautiful place I saw 
there. And the garden is just exactly the way it was done originally. 
Everything is apparently exactly the same. 

Riess: Is it a desert garden? 

Church: Some things are desert, yes. It has a lot of beautiful rocks. When 
I got home I was describing it to Tommy about the rocks and he said, 
"Well, you know some of those rocks I painted.'" When they first 
were blasted, they were very raw. He didn't want that, so he put 
some sort of a stain or something so as to cause them to look like 
the others. 


Church: Then they're [the garden areas] rather small, since the whole 
effect is quite small, although, as I say, it isn't really. But 
there will be a little garden off the living room and another one 
off another area—well I can't really remember exactly how it was 
now. But the effect was just understated and subdued to the 
fantastic site. 

It was extraordinary, with the huge mountains and then this 
long flat plain. They had to plant a lot so as to hide because what 
was evidently once just a sea of plain is now built up mostly. Of 
course, it's far enough away so that you couldn't really see them, 
but you could tell it must be pretty awful. 

Riess: That's a name that's new to me, Eggers. 

Church: Eggers? Henry Eggers. He's a Los Angeles architect. Tommy's known 
him for many years and he's worked with him a lot. He did some very 
stunning houses in Santa Barbara. I think the most recent one they 
worked together on. He's supposed to be retired now. I don't know 
what age he is; I guess he's about our age. He's a very interesting 

Riess: You talked about Tommy walking around that site for three days. 
I wondered to myself whether he was ever completely stymied by 

Church: Probably. Oh, I think often he was terribly stymied by things. 
Then he would grind at them until he got them. 

Riess: Do you remember him ever coming home and saying, "I've got one here 
that I just can't. . ." 

Church: Yes, occasionally he would say that he was terribly stuck. He 
wouldn't come home [laughs]. He'd remain at the office. And I 
remember thinking, when he first had to give up smoking, which 
happened some years ago, that I could understand the terrific impact 
of smoking on the drafting room. Because, of course, all architects 
are just furious smokers. Overflowing ashtrays are everywhere. And 
I asked him if this was true, and he said, "Yes, it was." There was 
always something else you could do; if you couldn 't get it, you 
could light a cigarette, you see. 

Riess: Yes, that is an option all right. 

Church: Tommy was a very heavy smoker, unhappily, because that contributed to 
his bad lung condition now. Maddening. 


Church: I went to another private home, at which no expense was spared, 
In Scottsdale, too. That was the typical sprawling — it just went 
every which way. You sort of went down two steps and there was a 
huge massive door. I thought it was absolutely hideous , and it was 
done by a famous New York architect. It was sort of ground out of 
the landscape. The feeling was that there had to be this terrific 
statement made. But where you have these marvelous natural settings 
I think the thing should be subdued to that, don't you? I hate 
these things that just are the terrific rivalries. 


Interview #4 - May 11, 1977 

31) Europe, 1937, Expectations and Meetings 

Church: I found this book to show you, which is Tommy's photographs of the 
1937 experience in Scandinavia. [Full page of photographs printed 
on heavy-weight matte paper, spiral-bound, approx. 11" x 14"] 
Actually I think they were some of the first published photographs 
of Scandinavian architecture. (They are not in order; we hop over 
to England and also to Germany.) 

We went to Europe in 1937 for the first time together and we 
traveled for about four months. We had $2,000. Goodness, we went 
everywhere you can think of, almost, and that's all we spent in four 
months! We were sort of like gypsies and we always traveled third 
class and everything was really marvelous. 

Riess: What were you heading for on that trip? 


Church: Honestly I don't know what he was heading for, I suppose just a 
renewal of his experiences of some ten years before. It was ten 
years since he'd been to Europe. We didn't go back to any of the 
same places except France. We didn't go to Italy or Spain, the 
places that he'd known. 

Meanwhile he'd been practicing for seven years and he had come 
in contact with a lot of architects here and somewhat in the East, 
but not as much as he would like to have. So this trip was quite 

Riess: When you say "architects," you mean landscape architects? 
Church: No, architects. 

This trip, I felt, almost more than anything else what it did 
for Tommy--! don't know what he felt, really, but I assume it was 
somewhat the same --was that he connected with people all over the 
world that were thinking in the same terms that he was. Not many, 
but the few instances that he had of that were really richly rewarding. 


Riess: Had he made plans ahead of time about who he would go to? 

Church: Not really, because we didn't have anything like the communications 
that we have now. There was one boy that we knew who had taken off 
after college. He was an architect. He graduated from one of the 
architectural schools and instead of going to the traditional places, 
Rome, or Paris, he went to Sweden, and subsequently to Finland, and 
he met Alvar Aalto. 

Aalto was then quite a young man and virtually unknown here. 
I mean he was unknown to the average person, whereas today if you 
mention Aalto 's name, everybody knows him, partly because of the 
furniture, of course. But I didn't have any picture of what he was 
like; I had no idea what we were going to find. 

Riess: But you had heard about him from this young man? 

Church: This young man I think had worked for awhile in Wurster's office. 
He had talked a great deal to Wurster about Aalto. So, of course, 
Bill talked to Tommy. 

We made our plans, and we were to set off in July, and a short 
time before we left Bill said, "Why don't I join you later, at the 
end of the summer, and we'll make a trip through Sweden and Finland?" 
That was more than acceptable to us and he joined us in Copenhagen. 

Before that we'd been in Austria and various places like that, 
more or less vacationing. Tommy hadn't been making any attempt to 
get in touch. We didn't go to Berlin. We didn't do the things that 
we might have to get in touch with architects. 

We'd been in England. Tommy 'd seen some landscape people in 
England that he was interested in. 

Riess: It interests me that you keep saying "architects" and that they lead 
the way for landscape architects? 

Church: Well, they certainly did in the beginning I feel. Now Tommy may 
disagree with me, but I think so. I think landscape architecture 
in those days was beginning to evolve. There weren't very many 
[landscape architects] and when I first was married and came to live 
over here, a wife of a landscape architect called me up one day and 
asked me if I wanted to belong to the "Wives of the Landscape Architects" 
or something. I said, "Goodness me, that sounds awfully interesting. 

How many are there?" 
much . 

She said, "Fifty" or maybe it wasn't even that 


Riess: Oh, that sounds like a lot, I think. 

Church: Well, in 1930. Maybe it was less than 50. Anyway, I thought that 
sounded like a good many. I didn't know there were that many 
landscape architects. There really weren't, in those days. But 
you see now it's just burgeoned; of course, architecture has, too, 
but nothing like to compare. There were always quite a few architects. 

Riess: If you were interested in architecture, on that 1937 trip, what did 
you look at in France? 

Church: We did have, I remember, a couple of people that we looked up. In 
France we really looked at the old things; we didn't see very many 
modern things. 

Riess: Not Le Corbusier and so on? 

Church: We had a date with Le Corbusier. That was on our way back from 

Scandinavia, when Bill was with us. We stopped in Paris on the way 
back. Bill had made a date with Corbusier and we went to his office 
and found that Corbusier was only in his office from Tuesday to 
Thursday. They kept saying, "They do the English weekend," "Le 
Weekend." So we never were able to get in touch with him because 
we didn't have a great deal of time. I guess the middle of the week 
we could have seen him at least. I wouldn't have gone, but Tommy and 
Bill would like to have. Subsequently they both knew him. 

Riess: Was the Paris Exposition a prime motive for your 1937 trip? 

Church: Oh, I think that was part of it. Actually that was the first exposition 
we attended together. We had wanted to go to the Chicago one in 1934 
and we didn't. 

The setting [in Paris] was marvelous. I don't think Tommy was 
too crazy about the buildings. I don't remember very well; I don't 
remember which building he liked the best. 

Riess: I brought a book of pictures of the gardens at that Exposition, and 
I want to leave it with you to look at with Tommy if you will. 

Church: Oh, good. 

I was trying to remember about that Exposition. I can ' t remember 
too terribly much about it except some buildings we didn't like. 
There weren't very many pavilions that were too fascinating really. 
The French leant heavily on their Oriental connections, French Morocco 
and all of that, and that was colorful, but I don't remember anything 


Church: very outstanding. The building I think we both liked the best was 
Yugoslav, for some reason. I can't think why now. I'd like to see 
the pictures to recall it to me. 

Riess: In England in 1937 who did you visit? 

Church: I know he saw Sylvia Crowe and Nan Fairbrother. I don't remember his 
getting in touch with people that subsequently became great friends, 
like Susan and Anthony Jellicoe. 

We had some friends in London and they loaned us their flat. 
Then we had quite a few friends that we motored places with, out 
into the country. Tommy as a rule preferred to be in the country.. 
He wasn't so crazy about the cities. 

Riess: What inklings did you have of how what you saw in Scandinavia would 
ever apply to California? 

Church: Well, now that was interesting because honestly you wouldn't think 
that it had any connection with it at all. Except that points out 
Tommy's feeling that he had from the very beginning that he wanted 
to be very much connected with design. Because really the design was 
the only thing that connected in any way with our part of the world 
and Tommy's profession, the design that he saw in the European things 
in Scandinavia. 

The thing that was interesting about Scandinavia was that in 
these other countries we didn't see any modern architecture, I don't 
believe. Naturally not in Austria and as I say we didn't go to Berlin 
so we didn't really see a lot of modern things. Scandinavia was the 
place that had moved more sympathetically I always felt into modern. 
Modern things were side by side with very old 18th century things. 

Of course the architecture in Scandinavia was a little bit more 
restrained; it never was very flamboyant except in little incidental 
things there. It was sort of classic architecture rather like the 
restrained 18th century. It was very beautiful. But you passed along 
streets—of course, you did that in the other cities, too—and there 
would be one thing that would burst upon one--a little bit like, 
well, in a way what we've done here. I don't know, maybe that analogy 
isn't valid. 

Riess: And the "one thing" would be a new thing? 

Church: Yes, something modern. And their modern was very quiet. It didn't 
just leap at your throat. It was very gently eased into. 


Church: In Finland there was really more of the thing that we would 
look for today in modern because there were only one or two 
architects in Finland. Aalto was one and I think there was one 
other that was known. Aalto really was getting all the contemporary 
work. By the time we got there, he was a little bit older than we 
were. We were in our early 30s. He might have been sort of 40ish. 

And Aalto 's wife worked with him. That was another thing that 
was interesting. The combinations a lot of times were husband and 
wife. Aino, Aalto's wife, designed furniture. She did all those 
beautiful things that they had in that marvelous shop. 1 Oh' And 
the weaving. 1 She had all the weavers. They had everything right 
there that they controlled. It was all beautiful. 

Riess: That was new, the idea that the architect did not just do the shell, 
but all of the furnishings and everything? 

Church: That's right. And there were two or three things that were absolutely 
sensational. Their own house was perfectly beautiful. 

Riess: When did the first wave of "Danish modern" arrive here? 

Church: I imagine that was--yes, we did see a few people in Denmark. We 
didn't see any very modern people. 

Riess: But had it hit this country in any way in 1937? 

Church: Practically not at all. Tommy was aware of it, of course, when we 

were married, much more so than I, although I had been in Paris through 
the 1926 Exposition which was very appealing and struck me terrifically. 
(Tommy doesn't speak of that.) The halles decoratif , that was the 
first thing in this early Exposition that I saw. And that was very 
extraordinary. I remember being terribly struck, however not so much 
by a whole structure, but by all the appurtenances. The furniture 
and everything that you used in daily life had all begun to be redesigned, 
A lot of it was perfectly beautiful. That was before I came home, 
before I was married. 

Then when Tommy and I were married we agreed that we would like 
to have a lot of modern things. So we went out to find them and 
couldn't find anything.' In 1930 Aalto's things weren't even in the 
East. In fact he gave us the distribution of his furniture in San 
Francisco and it was the first Aalto furniture that arrived in this 
country. Oh, people had bought some and they had brought it back with 
them but this was the first place where you could buy it. There were 
one or two architects who knew of it — there's an architect called 
Harry Weese , who traveled quite widely. (He's in Chicago now.) He 


Church: had been abroad and traveled in Scandinavia. He was very cognizant. 

But an awful lot of people weren't, which is perfectly understandable. 

Riess: Aalto was received in this country by a few clients and architects. 

Church: That's right. Just as we got there he had had a first contact from 
Rockefeller. That was the first thing that he came to the country 
to do. I've forgotten what it was exactly, some sort of a small 
building, and that was in 1937. 

Aalto and his wife had both been to school in Germany. They 
were students at the same time, in the same class, and they completed 
their work at some school in Germany. But by the time we got there-- 
this is interesting because he was a very young man--he really was 
almost in control of the architecture there. He was getting all the 
huge jobs. It was really fantastic. 

He had done this famous hospital [Tuberculosis Sanatorium, 
Paimio] . It is pictured in this book (gestures). Then he had done 
the library at Viipuri. That was demolished in the war. 

He was working on a great big thing, really a town, for the 
pulp company [Sunila cellulose factory, Karhula] which is one of 
their big industries. I guess it was one of the early towns where 
everything is done in harmony. There were houses for the workers and 
the whole thing, just a regular city. We didn't see it. It was in 
the sub-planning stage, and he had just come back from work on it. 

Riess: So Aalto would have had great appeal to somebody who was interested 
in planning also? 

Church: Oh, very definitely. 

The thing that Tommy was fascinated by was his settings, his 
site planning—the few things that we saw. (We didn't see a lot of 
his things unfortunately.) Tommy was so fascinated by his siting 
because he felt that that was so perfect in connection with the 
proposed building and also with the environment. 

Tommy liked the clean lines of the buildings, light wood with 
stone or stucco. And the stark surrounding countryside, simple 
pathways and groups of birches in threes. He has used this effectively 
ever since. 

In 1937 we expected that we would be going back and we were 
really cut off for ten years again. We did go back the next time we 
went to Europe after the war, which was in '48 or '49; we went to 


Church: Scandinavia. That was the last time we saw Aalto. We couldn't go 
to Finland, but he came over from Finland and he spent the night 
with us. And it was in the summer, so the nights have the wonderful 
deep blue night, perfectly clear, and we just spent the whole night 
walking around Stockholm. It was very memorable, marvelous. [1937 
trip discussed in next interview] 

32) Agonizing with the Clients 




Riess : 

I understand there were four designs for the 1937 Sullivan garden. 

I'm curious about why, whether that was Tommy evolving his design 

or whether that represented dissatisfaction on the part of the client. 

I think it's very possible knowing the client. She's a very 
intelligent and--oh, dear, I want to get the right word for her-- 
she's a wonderful person. He's done I don't know how many gardens 
for her, tons. I think that she'd be very with it. 


Aware of all the influences and the different kinds of things that 
were going on as well as appreciating any originality of Tommy's. 

Now, of course, that Tommy did four plans for her is no surprise 
to me because many, many people he's done many plans for before the 
time he settled on one. His last really sort of working holiday we 
went down to the Islands. We were there a week and he did a job for 
a girl who was going over her whole living quarters. Really she had 
very limited space. But in that time he did three complete schemes for 
them to choose from. It was all drawn to scale and everything so 
they could see exactly what it was. 

They said, "Why did you do this? Because now we can't decide, 
we want them all." 1 [Laughter] But I think he often did that. He 
gave people lots of choice if it was possible. 

And it was a genuine choice? He didn't have any preference? 

Evidently he didn't, 
he didn't reveal it. 

Now that's interesting, isn't it. 
I never thought about that. 

If he did, 

I used to be in on conferences a lot because when Tommy would 
be away I'd sometimes go with him for the weekend. I used to really 
just be tortured. I agonized sometimes over the clients because here 


Church: they were in the grip of these dymanic men and poor things it was 
their money and they were going to spend the rest of their life 
with the results and they didn't want to make a mistake. They were 
just in agony. They didn't know what to do. I think two or three 
times I spoke out. So I wasn't invited again or something like that. 

Anyway, I've realized that I had to be very careful of what I 
said because it was pretty high powered. That was the thing that 
Tommy has always been so marvelous about. He's not a sort of wishy- 
washy person in any way. He's as strong as iron, but he just had 
the sense when not to press and not to urge. Oh, I've been in on 
some frightening conferences. Poor things, my heart just bled for 

Riess: Well, you could have been like the nurse, holding their hands. 

Church: Well, isn't it funny. Another thing about me is that I don't get a 
quick reaction. Something has to sink in. Sometimes it takes many 
years. Obviously it's going to be too late because there isn't that 
much time left! 

The other day when I went on this trip [Stanford Committee for 
the Arts Thomas Church Garden Tour, May 1], I was just amazed at how 
I didn't get the whole sense of those gardens when they were done at 
all. It took me years for it to sink in. 

33) Before and After, Changes at 2626 Hyde 


Riess : 

Church : 

Michael Laurie did a very clever thing. He showed two slides together 
like this (demonstrates). I guess that's often done, but I hadn't 
seen it exactly like that before. One was our front garden [2626 Hyde 
St.] when it was first done. The second one was this one. It was 
absolutely fascinating because I always thought the first garden was 
just beautiful. When Tommy suggested taking it out, I mourned. I 
said, "We can't give up that lovely boxwood, chairs and table." 

Lo and behold, there's just no comparison! This garden is 
really a great garden. The other one was just I don't know what, sort 
of a pastische. 

What did you do in the other garden? 
you tend to walk through it? 

Was it a place to be, or did 

You know this garden has never been possible to use really as a 
sitting place. There are a few days in the year when we have very 
hot weather and no wind, but they're very rare. There's usually a 



Riess : 



great deal of wind. It didn't have the big trees that it has now, 
so it wasn't really very protected. I remember two or three times 
we had lunch down in the corner. There was always that corner- -or 
was there? Yes, there was a flat corner part that we could have 
sat in. Now that we have this [kitchen] garden we never go sit in 
the other, we just use it to pass hastily through. 

So that first garden was designed to be a garden to look down on? 

Yes, I think Tommy realized that it would never be a garden that 
would be used and so he made it perhaps more of a pattern to look 
down on. It was pretty from here, very pretty, but seeing the two 
together you realize-- 

Of course old pictures tend to be inferior photographs anyway, 
new pictures the colors make things look better and cheerier. 


That's true. Although Tommy and I used to laugh a lot when we'd 
look at the "before" and "after" pictures in magazines. We almost 
always agreed we liked the "before" better. [Laughing] Don't you 
think so? 

Riess: Yes. 

Church: I think the "before" so often are more real, and more, I don't know, 
more appealing to me. 

Of course, this house went through so many different changes. 
It was altered quite a few times. I think Tommy is always thinking. 
He's unable to alter anything dramatically now, but he's always after 
us to change things. He'll point at something and that has to go. 
Then something else and then he wants something else to come and be 
brought and put in its place. One reason he doesn't sit in this room 
very much now is because—well, it's more convenient in the kitchen 
and he loves looking out on that garden. 

A couple of years ago when I had the living room and the down 
stairs painted I took all the books out and I've only just begun to 
put some of them back. But to arrange all the books is such a 
horrendous thing. You have to stick at it, you can't just pick it 
up and go back again and do something else, and my life has been too 
scattered in the last couple of years. Every now and then Tommy 
points to this wall here where I have three or four darling little 
tiny pictures that were hanging there. I haven't put them back because 
everything was put in boxes and it wasn't labeled, and I don't know 
which is which. 


Church: When Tommy was in the hospital last year so much I thought, 

"Oh, well, while he's in the hospital I'll get all these things done." 
But I didn't get nearly as much done as I do now because I had to go 
out there all the time to prepare his food. He couldn't eat the 
hospital food, he would have starved to death if I hadn't done that. 

Riess: This is your own combined library, or a library of landscape 

Church: Some of the garden books have encroached here. 

Both my sister and I worked in a library when we were in college. 
It's simply ridiculous that I can't organize that. I can do it. 
But the trouble with a private library is that the shelves are never 
the right sizes. You're constantly stopped. I can get all the books 
of a certain subject together but then they aren't going to fit in 
here. So then I have to start all over again. 

34) American Academy, 1960 and Earlier 

Church: But as I was saying, I think Tommy was constantly changing everything. 
I think his mind probably always moved on. Yet what I always have 
thought was so wonderful with him was that he drew the best from the 
old things. So many of the young people don't even know the words 
for certain forms of architecture. They simply aren't trained. What 
Tommy always said to these boys when we were in Rome that time and they 
were frothing at the mouth and wanting to do modern new things--(of 
course there's a lot of modern in Rome, too, just as there is everywhere 
in Europe) --Tommy said that their purpose for being there was to have 
their eye trained. That is true. If your eye isn't trained, you 
don't get proper proportions. That's usually the matter with archi 
tecture or gardens, that they haven't got the proper proportions. 
They don't have to necessarily design by the Beaux Arts, but you d£ 
have to have your eye trained, don't you think? 

Riess: Yes. Could you do it in any country, or is Rome the place? 

Church: Rome is a pretty good place. Also in France. 

Riess: Do they still measure the Pantheon and that kind of thing? 

Church: Oh, yes. The students do, they certainly do, the architectural 

students do. There are corps of them measuring everything. They're 

measuring the steps and they're measuring balustrades and all of 
those things. 


Church: It isn't to copy — that's what I used to say when I was meeting 
a lot of these younger people — it isn't to copy something. You're 
not expected to do that. You're just expected to be given a decent 
basis. Like looking at the Parthenon: I don't see how you could be 
an architect if you didn't look at the Parthenon or pictures of it 
because those proportions really are so perfect. 

Riess: Well, it is^ interesting. I read an interview with an Italian 
architect. He talked about growing up in Rome and how very 
influential it was because you were surrounded with great architectural 
spaces, wonderful fountains, piazzas, great shade and high buildings 
and so on. Then the article showed pictures of what he had done in 
this country- 
Church: Perfectly awful. 
Riess: Perfectly awful. It was interesting to me. 

Church: It is strange. Heaven knows there are a thousand million examples of 
exactly that. Everyone doesn't have it. There has to be another 
ingredient obviously. The Lord doles it out rather sparingly I think, 
don't you [chuckles]? 

Riess: I was reading a bit of the history of the American Academy. In the 

late twenties there was a struggle to reconcile the original founding 
concept, which was definitely to understand the classic ideas, with 
the new ideas. 

Church: Well, of course, that still continued until not very long ago. It 
really did. And I can understand it in a way. In another way that 
year we were there [1960] I was somewhat sympathetic with the Fellows 
because they were bursting at the seams. They "did" old Rome and 
all of that in a very short time. They all got cars as soon as they 
got there and they dashed around the countryside. They were just 
bursting to express themselves in other ways. 

Riess: What was Tommy's role at the Academy in 1960? 

Church: He was sort of like a visiting professor, so that he was available 

to the students, to the fellows to answer any questions that they had. 
There were a lot of landscape architects. Not a lot, but there was 
something like two or three. 


35) The Harvard Class, Where They Went 


Norman Newton was the Fellow in 1926, Tommy's year. 
Webel was next. 

Then Richard 


Riess : 


Yes, Dick Webel. He's just died. He was a very good friend of 
Tommy's. He and Tommy and Stuart Constable were considered the stars. 
Poor Stuart, the last I heard of him he was working in the offices 
of Central Park in New York. He never emerged. Now I don't know 
what's happened to him. It may be that he's died. 

Coming back to California was certainly a greater opportunity than 
falling into some practice on the east coast. 

The ones that stayed on the east coast were early trapped by the 
Depression because the Depression wiped out a whole way of life 
never to come again. All those big offices and everything. 

Webel married a landscape architect; she was quite well known. 
They were married a long time ago. He started out working for 
Innocenti and then when Innocenti died he sort of took over. 

Riess: Innocenti is the name of a firm? 

Church: Innocenti was a very famous gardening firm. He was an Italian. It 
was based on all of the Italian villas. In those days you could 
import all of those beautiful things, miles of terracotta pots and 
goodness knows what all. All the atmosphere was there. He was a 
very attractive man. I never met him but everybody that did liked 
him very, very much. I never saw anything of his that was very 
original. It served people that had all the money in the world and 
they traveled in Italy and they came back and that was what they 
wanted. It was handsome, there was no question about it, but it 
certainly wasn't very applicable. The moment was at hand when it was 
all going to change. 

I only met Dick Webel once and this was a few years ago in 
Florida. His wife had died and he had remarried; he'd married the 
sister of Jo Kimball, who was the wife of Dick Kimball, the architect, 
He [Dick Kimball] had been the head of the Academy when we were in 
Rome. Tommy had known him before but we got to know them very well. 

Webel had just finished a huge garden in Florida and it was the 
saddest and the most disappointing thing, most unsuitable^ 


Church: Tommy and Dick Kimball had just finished for friends of ours a 
most enchanting house at Hobe Sound. There's no word to put on it. 
It was a delight from the start to the finish and everything about it 
was so suitable. Then we were matched across the road to this barn- 
like edifice right smack on the beach with decorations and embellishments 
that were unnecessary and unsuitable and then a huge formal garden 
that just drove you this way and that way. 

Maybe here in the West we had more original clients, people 
that really were sort of sparked by the new and not relying so much 
on the old. 

Riess: I've read The Little Garden by Fletcher Steele, and he sums up the 
Italian, French, and English gardens in a fascinating way. Did 
Tommy know him? 

Church: I believe that Fletcher Steele was based in Boston, wasn't he? 
Riess: Yes. 

Church: I think Tommy did know him. Another friend of Tommy's that graduated 
with him from Harvard did work for him [Steele] for quite a long time 
and admired him very much. Tommy did, too. I think he offered Tommy 
a job, too, one time, but Tommy never wanted to work in the East. I 
guess he always wanted to return to California. 

On the boat coming home from Europe in 1926 Tommy met the man 
who was the head of the landscape department at Ohio State. He offered 
him a job which Tommy accepted because he didn't have a job. Also 
Ohio was the family seat of his mother's family. Tommy had grown up 
very much amongst them and was devoted to all of his mother's family. 
So he sort of took it as a challenge. But very shortly he felt that 
he did not want to teach; he wanted to practice. 

Riess: Do you think that at first he had been thinking of a more academic 
kind of career? 

Church: I don't think so. I don't think he ever really did. He never was 
terribly interested in that. 


36) More About Tommy's Family 

Riess: You mention his family. The first time I talked to you we talked 
a little bit about his parents and more about his mother than his 
father. Did he keep up a contact with his family, Albert Church? 

Church: Well, he never really saw his father, never met him consciously 
until he came back here to live much later. His father was the 
black sheep of the McNear family--his mother was a McNear. There 
are thousands of McNears and somehow he's related to them. The 
father was many times married and spent his life dissipating his 
talents, which were many. He was an inventor, and he could have done 
all sorts of marvelous things but he didn't. 

He knew where he [father] lived in Piedmont when he, Tommy, 
returned to live and work. He was going by his house and saw this 
car--his father was an inventor and if he bought a car, he always 
did all kinds of things to it that made it sort of outstanding, his 
own and so on, very inventive. Tommy realized that that was where 
he lived. 

He was about to go up and ring the doorbell when the man came 
out of the house. Tommy felt that it was his father and he went up 
to him and said, "I guess you don't remember me, do you?" 

His father said, 'Veil, your face is familiar, but I can't think 
of your name." Famous last words. 

Then Tommy said, "I'm Dolliver," because what was what the 
family called him, and he claims that his father turned pale. I 
should think he would , his general approach to the family being such 
that he should turn pale. 

Riess: What an encounter! 

Church: Isn't that extraordinary? Then Tommy did see him sometimes after that. 
He had a fantastic shop and beautiful tools. Tommy asked him if he 
would make certain things. He made fountain heads for some fountains 
Tommy did at Pasatiempo, and maybe one or two here. He was very gifted, 
just never did anything with it. Isn't that awful? 

Riess: Am I correct in thinking that his mother must have been very ambitious 
for Tommy? 

Church: Yes, I think she probably was. But I think what she did more than 
anything was to give him the most wonderful solid base on which to 
fare forth. He's told me so many times that she impressed on him that 


Church: he must never depend on anyone but himself, from the moment he was 

just a little tiny child really. Then she taught him to do everything 
possible with his hands, which I'm sure he came by very naturally. 

Riess: The grandfather was a gardener in some way? 

Church: Yes, his avocation was gardening. They had a beautiful place in the 
Ojai and part of it is still extant. He made endless terraces around 
the house and they were filled with all the different kind of fruit 
trees. Oh, it was just fascinating. 1 You could see what delight he 
must have taken in it all and he did all the work himself. 

Riess: And Mrs. Church taught Tommy to do things with his hands. Was that 
because she envisioned some life work where he would be creative 
with his hands? 

Church: I guess so. But nobody envisioned landscape architecture because it 
was hardly spoken of in those days. 

Riess: Well, I thought when he started out studying law, albeit briefly, 
that he was following whatever was the wish of the family. 

Church: That was a family thing. That was just considered the thing for him 
to do. He hadn't any contrary idea until he found this course. He 
hadn't realized that landscape architecture was a profession. He 
thought of it as an avocation, like his grandfather, and as many people 
in California did. Everybody in California gardened. 

Riess: Yes, well that concept is still kind of with us at some level. 

Church: Yes, I think we lagged in design. But that was wonderful for Tommy, 
because that [design] was his forte. People have always teased Tommy 
and said that he doesn't recognize plants and flowers and so on. But 
my heavens, how could you? Unless you could study a lifetime. 

Riess: They don't tease Tommy about that? [skeptical] 

Church: Oh yes they do. At least people used to. A lot of them, amateur 

gardeners, that's the one thing they can do. They can really learn 
about horticulture. They'd say to Tommy, "What about such and such?" 

And he'd 6ay, "Well, I obviously don't know. I'm not a horti- 
culturalist." Oh, I heard lots of people make jokes about him. 

Then another friend of ours --this is sort of a cute story about 

Tommy's use of rocks in a garden. One friend said, "You know, this 

is Tommy's approach. If there is a rock there he has it taken away 

at hideous expense. But if there isn't, he has one brought in at 
hideous expense." 


Church: It's so interesting to see the incorporation of rocks. I feel 
that he was almost the first person that I knew of that did that 
in sort of a natural way. Though, what about the Japanese! 

37) Frederick Law Olmsted, Phoebe Apperson Hearst 

Riess: I read the biography of Olmsted by Laura Roper. He was quoted about 
his "disposition to reverie and daydreaming, that being the soul of 
designing." Do you think that described Tommy in any way? 

Church: I think it must, but I can't say that I--I never think of him as 

passively being lost in reverie. It seems to me he was always actively 
engaged in something. 

Riess: Maybe in the childhood years he would have had a chance to develop 
that side. 

Church: Maybe. I'm perfectly certain that a large part of his thinking life 
has been reverie, but I don't think it was very- -he wasn't just 
sitting. His approach to a new problem was always absolutely 
fascinating to me because it was a combination of thinking, but a 
great deal of action. I think of reverie as being passive. Of course, 
that isn't necessarily true. [See "Beyond the Rim," poems by T.D.C.] 

Did you know that Piedmont Avenue, where I grew up, the part 
from the south boundaries of the University onward that has little 
islands in it and still has them, was designed by Olmsted? Someone 
told me that the other day. 

Mrs. Hearst brought Olmsted out here, didn't she? 
Riess: Yes, he was here and he was at Stanford both. 
Church: Also didn't he design St. Francis Wood?* 

She [Mrs. Hearst] envisioned Piedmont Avenue as driving straight 
from the University to Oakland. She wanted him to make all the designs. 
She wanted him to outline it. Well, where the block came I don't know. 
Piedmont sort of stops suddenly, doesn't it? 

*01msted and John Galen Howard planned St. Francis Woods. Design 
approved 1912. 


Church : 

Church : 

Church ; 

Church : 


Our old house was on the corner of Piedmont and Channing, a 
wonderful old Victorian. Well, hideous--! hated it, an old 
Victorian wooden castle. But it was a beautiful setting. It now 
has two fraternity houses on the property. We also had a very large 
wonderful garden, the kind of garden that children just love to 
think about. It was huge.' It was right in the midst of the loveliest 
part, with the two little islands. 

There was one island that ran all the way almost from the 
University down to Channing. Then after that there wasn't a middle 
island. And then there was a little round space, almost a little 

When we were growing up my family always thought so poorly of 
Mr. Hearst that I was never allowed to look at the Hearst funny 
papers [laughing]. 

Just because Hearst himself was such a bad person? 

Yes, I don't remember my family talking about Mrs. Hearst, 
they certainly didn't know her. 


I didn't realize many things about the University when I was 
there, and what an impact she had really. I wasn't aware when I was 
growing up of Mrs. Hearst's tremendous influence, and how far-seeing 
she was, the fact that she went to Harvard and got a lot of these 
younger men that saw a chance to emerge from perhaps the closed New 
England setting. Because California's early days were drawn very 
heavily from Harvard. We had many, many people from Cambridge that 
lived around us in Berkeley. That even was true in my time. 

They got themselves integrated into Berkeley pretty well? 

I think they were integrated in a marvelous way. They added so much 
to Berkeley life. 

Was Tommy ever--I have a note somewhere about his having been asked 
to come back to Harvard and head the department? 

Maybe so. I wouldn't be a bit surprised. He never would tell me 
anything like that because I would have urged him to do so. 

Would you have? 

Oh, I think so. I always urged him to do anything that was sort of 
away and out, without giving it very much thought. 


Church: But he never had any intention of doing that. And he didn't 

really have the background for it. It must have been more from the 
point of view of his achievements and personality. He didn't have 
any University background as far as teaching went because he early 
indicated that that wasn't his main interest. 

Riess: It would have had a certain parallel to Wurster, who went back with 
no background in teaching, though he went to school before he became 
dean at M.I.T. 

Church: That's true. But that was the war. Wurster was obliged to make 
certain adjustments in relation to himself and his work and the 
office and so forth. Tommy during that time had this job out at 
Parkmerced and that sort of saw him through the war years. Also he 
was able to keep his office so that any time there was any work he 
could do it. 

38) "I'm Investing in Myself" 

Church: There was an amusing thing about that [1937] trip. Tommy had saved 
up a very small amount of money; certainly in today's book it would 
be laughed at. We decided to do this. He felt that he could. Also 
I think he felt a desire, as I say, to be in touch with the past 
because he loved Europe and would like to return and to reach some 

of these other things that were happening that weren't happening 
here, at least in California. 

California in the thirties to some extent was not in very close 
touch. It still took three or four days to get to New York by train 
and things like that. The communications were not so tremendous. I 
think those were some of the things he was thinking about. 

But one of our very conservative friends said, "Tommy, you know 
what you ought to do? You ought to take that money and you ought 
to invest it in PG&E stock." (Thank goodness we didn't, the way I 
feel about the PG&E today [laughs]. I'd be mad as anything.') 

Tommy said, "Well, you know what I'm going to do with that? I'm 
going to take that money and I'm going to invest it in myself." And 
the look on this man's face I'll never forget. It was just killing. 
He just as much as to say, "Conceited '. Imagine such a thought." 

As a matter of fact, it was a very good investment because it 
did put him in touch with other people that he might not have come 
in contact with. Also it was the first step in a continuing relationship 


Church: with people all around the world that were doing and thinking as he 
was doing and thinking. I do think for an artist that's wonderful 
because how lonely they sometimes must feel not being appreciated. 

I think Tommy was always lucky because he was appreciated. But 

you see his work is more with people, closer to people. But I do think 

that it is marvelous to be in touch with other people [professionals] 
like yourself. 

Then after the war we used to go back [to Europe] a great deal. 
Goodness, I think of some of the people that we might never have 
known otherwise. We'd meet them in Paris, we'd meet them in Rome, 
and goodness knows where all, wherever they were. 

Tommy had a funny experience the last time we went to Scandinavia. 
This time we "d gone to meet Aalto and then we came down from Stockholm. 
There was something the matter with the plane so we sat in the airport 
waiting, for hours and hours. Tommy kept looking at his watch and 
he said, "Oh, this is terrible." (We were on our way back to London.) 
He said, "This is awful because I have this date to see this man that 
I want so much to talk to, Sir Peter Abercrombie." (I guess he's 
still alive, though quite elderly. I've forgotten what he was, 
whether he was an architect or a planner. Anyway, he was a very 
prestigious person evidently.) 

So it got later and later and obviously he was not going to get 
to London in time. However the flight left, and we were in our seats, 
and all of a sudden he looked up, or Sir Peter Abercrombie looked up, 
and they realized they were on the same plane and that instead of 
having just a few minutes with him in his office, they had almost the 
whole day. They did have the most marvelous time. I sat in a little 
bit on it and heard their conversation. I realized they live in 
other worlds.' 

Riess: They shared ideas. 

Church: Yes, and talked about the things that they'd seen. He'd just been 

there giving lectures or something and he talked about that. It was 
very rewarding. I don't believe Tommy ever saw him again. 

Riess: Tommy could really talk on the idea level. 

Church: Yes, he related quickly to ideas and expressed them. He spoke quite 

dynamically. I try not to think about that now because it's unrecorded, 
Nobody will ever hear it again. So sad. He had a wonderful dynamic 
way of speaking and of putting something across. He didn't run off 
the way I do. 


Church: The other day one of my friends said, "Why couldn*t this have 

happened to you?" [Laughing] 

Riess: Well, he did great writing, too. I think he could well respond to 
most questions by saying, : 'I've written it down. Go and read the 

Church: Yes, that's right. I think he did feel that. He always felt that 
in the first book was everything that he thought and did and tried 
to do and wanted to do. 

I said to him one time, "Why did you do that? You should have 
kept a few little secrets." However, he did not. 

Riess: You had your daughters by then, before you took that trip? 

Church: Judy was born. We didn't have Belinda. We left Judy behind with 

family in Berkeley. She had a little Chinese girl that took care of 
her. That was something I could never envision doing again [laughter] 
People don't do that now, they take the children, go off in a camper 
or something like that, travel for months, and have the children with 
them. We never would have done that. I never took my children 
downtown. Now the parents can't jg£ downtown if they don't take the 


Interview #5 - May 18, 1977 

39) Exposition, 1925, Paris 

Church: [Talking about book on French gardens from the 1937 Paris Exposition.] 
We both felt, looking at the book, that they seemed more influenced 
by — that they didn't seem to be totally original French. 

This [1925] book you have brought is far more interesting.* I 
do remember the Swedish pavillion in 1925; it was very beautiful. 
And Laparde, he was probably the great one of this Exposition. The 
arcades here are charming, but there is so much going on. 1 

[Leaping through pages] You can see that in 1925 they were trying 
to get away from the Beaux Arts and yet I don't remember that there 
was much criticism. Usually there's a lot of criticism at the time of 
a change, but I don't recall that in 1926. 

You know, Tommy did a fountain in Santa Cruz, at Pasatiempo and 
his father constructed the pewter fountain head for it, and it's still 
there, really quite lovely--and it's not too unlike this [in book].** 
I must show it to Tommy. 

Forestier I remember was a landscape architect at that time. Of 
course I didn't know anything about landscape architecture then. 

[Looking at pictures] You know, we think the trellis was always 
built from the 2x2, and that came later of course because it was more 
practical, but the original trellis, the old treillage , was done when 
they did the massive pruning in the fall. There 'd be certain trees 
that would be just exactly right, they'd have the straight branches, 

*1925 Jardins, Marrast, Paris 1926. 

**From later interview. Church: Very modern, and different planes- 
it didn't have sculpture on it. Riess: Just a trickle of water. 
Church: It goes into a basin. It's in a wall [at the house designed 
for Mr. and Mrs. George Howes by Bill Wurster. He was Marion Hollins' 
general manager. (Daniel Gregory)] 


Church: and they'd save those, and then during the winter they'd prepare the 

treillage with it. I think of it mostly done in the country, expecially 
in the Touraine where I spent a lot of time when I went over there. 
The old country houses, or barns, with just a piaster wall, would have 
this rather rough trellis--it wasn't too symmetrical, but it was really 
more beautiful, and of course in the spring sometimes it would burst 
into little green shoots. 

You know that furniture that was built of very small branches of 
trees? We have some friends who have a house up at Tahoe and they 
inherited furniture that came from sort of a chalet in the Rocky 
Mountains and they had an old retainer who was trained I suppose in 
the old country to make this furniture, and it is the most beautiful. 
It's absolutely classic today. And whether he followed forms that 
he knew, or what, I don't know. When they first had it up there 40 
years ago everybody made fun of it. Now it's worth purest gold. 

Yes, I think this 1925 book is far more interesting. Tommy 'd 
like to look at that. 

40) That Day With Alvar Aalto 

Riess : 




Now let me ask you to identify some of the pictures in your 1937 trip 
book. Whose garden is this? 

That was a very famous place, the home of a famous family in Sweden, 
the Magnussons, in Gbteborg. It's on the water I believe. We were 
taken there, introduced to these people. They were a very wealthy 
banking family. I think they were Jewish, and I understand they had 
to flee at the time of the war. This [vase in pool] was the most 
absolutely beautiful Chinese bronze vase. Spectacular. I don't know 
who did the garden, they never told us. But isn't that absolutely 
charming; that's a little red Swedish farmhouse. 

That [fountain sculpture] is by the famous sculptor Carl Milles. 
He later came to Cranbook and taught there. 

This is Aalto "s house. And was this picture taken that day you 

Yes, all the pictures were taken that day. 

And the arrival was so 


Church: When we got to Helsinki we hurried to the shop, which was also 

the office. We said that we had arrived and we'd like to call on 
Mr. Aalto. It may have been Saturday morning. 

They said, "Oh dear, Mr. Aaltc is away, he's up in the country, 
he may not be here." (As a matter of fact he'd returned but he'd 
told them not to say he'd returned so that he could rest. I guess 
he had driven all night.) 

We were very much disappointed because we feared we wouldn't 
meet him. They said we could meet Mrs. Aalto in the shop in the 
beginning of the week, but I think we weren't planning to be there 
that long. 

So that's when we took the car and thought, well, we'll drive 
and see everything we can see. So we got in behind this fantastic 
chauffeur who was just driving hellbent and knew exactly what we 
should see. He'd stop and he'd wave his arms at these various things 
that I don't even remember --they weren't so significant --but it was 

The chauffeur, it turned out, was the chauffeur who always drove 
foreigners, and he had just been driving Frank Lloyd Wright all over, 
so he knew all of these houses. He was taking us on a regular tour 
[laughter] by Frank Lloyd Wright. He couldn't speak a word of anything 
but Finnish, and of course it's the most incredible language. So we 
had no communication at all, but I think we had Aalto 's name all 
written out. He lived in a suburb. 

This chauffeur didn't even look at the thing we had written on-- 
the directions and everything. He started at breakneck speed and 
careened out into the country—shot like a bullet.' We kept trying 
to get him to go more slowly; we wanted to look, and also it was so 
terribly dangerous. All of a sudden, with a tremendous burst of brakes 
and everything, he drew up in front of this very beautiful modern house. 

Tommy and Bill both said, "Oh, how beautiful"' 

Bill said, "Oh, now this is what we've come to Finland for." 

So we said to the chauffeur, "Whose house is this?" The chauffeur 
didn't pay any attention, and he made no effort to tell us whose house 
it was or anything. 

Tommy sprang out of the car, immediately loaded his camera, and 
started taking all these pictures. Bill went up to the door very 
politely to ring the bell or whatever. 


Church: As he did, I noticed up above there were two awfully cute, blond, 

sunburned children, eight and ten, something like that. They were 
looking out of an upper window and they looked at us and their mouths 
drew dorfn at the corners. They had been evidently promised by their 
parents that they were going to be taken swimming, and so when they 
saw these people coming to spoil the day from every window we saw 
them just grumbling. They weren't pleased to meet us at all. They 
didn't do the traditional curtseying. 

Then the door opened and a very large lady who spoke English 
said, "Ah, but you have telephoned." 

Bill was still exclaiming and asking who owned this beautiful 
house. He didn't catch on that it was Aalto's house' Neither of 
them did, but I did because I realized immediately that this woman 
was Mrs. Aalto. She said, "You've telephoned "--and we had been trying 
to reach him by telephone. They were both so excited that they didn't 
realize it at all. 

Bill, who was so overwhelmed, and Tommy, who was running around 
photographing, kept saying, "But who's done this marvelous house?" 
And Mrs. Aalto kept saying to me (in deep accent), "But it is my 
hoosband." When Bill and Tommy learned, they almost went into a 

Riess: The house was extraordinary? 

Church: Oh, yes, indeed. It was so new. It just shot us through, like a 
quiver full of arrows. Of course the inside was a little more 
exciting to me, because I don't grasp the full impact of [the exteriors] 

And then Tommy just adored this casual sort of garden. He would 
never cto this, but he just loved it. [See photograph showing young 
trees and rock wall and stones.] 

And you can see [looking forward in book] that Tommy was just 
enchanted with this new camera, and all the different angles. Of 
course he turned the film like this so that it would make that angle 
when he printed it [looking at roof detail]. 

Well then, she let us in, and Alvar Aalto suddenly emerged. He 
had on his dressing gown and he had just returned from an all-night 
drive from some far-away place in the interior and he had not intended 
to receive anybody that day. 

But when he found us, he just opened up. He was learning a little 
bit of English from Victrola records because he was shortly to make a 
trip to England. You know, it's tragic that his speech was not recorded 


Church: because when he was learning English he had the most fantastic, vivid, 
use of words. Whatever he was describing—well , I think I did make 
notes one time and maybe I'll find them some day. He made several 
trips here and we saw quite a bit of him and by then he spoke much 
better. But this was the sort of thing you would never want to 
correct, because it was so vivid. 

He was so excited, and we ended by spending the whole day and 
practically the whole night together. Oh, we just adored him, a 
marvelous person. 

Riess: Had he heard of Tommy, and Bill? 

Church: He had never heard of Tommy--yes, I guess he had. He greeted us with 
saying, "Bill, now tell me about the--" and it's a famous house that 
Bill and Tommy did. It was a fascinating house, built of concrete 
blocks, the Frank Mclntosh house, in Los Altos Hills. It's still 
there. I asked Tommy about it the other day and he said, "Oh yes, it's 
still there." The man who built it was quite a fantastic man. It was 
a very sloping property and you entered down a great long flight of 
concrete steps, like this, and then the house unfolded and expanded. 
He [Aalto] had the plans and he had studied the plans and he was just 

41) Other Photographs from 1937 

Riess: Where is this? [photo of waterfront at dusk] 

Church: It was in Stockholm. And in 1937 was the first time we saw this type 
of construction [using a crane]. It was invented by either a Belgium 
or a Frenchman. Now you wouldn't think of doing anything without one 
of those things [cranes]. The picture was taken in the evening as 
we headed out from Stockholm to Helsinki on a fantastic passenger boat. 
We sailed all night. 

Riess: Now what is this place? 

Church: Isn't that beautiful! That is [the esplanade in front of] the town 
hall of Stockholm. And that I'd heard about from the moment I began 
meeting architects, because all the young men that could possibly get 
to Stockholm in the twenties and thirties, mostly the thirties, went 
there, and their great high moment was the Town Hall. I always 
imagined it was very modern, but it isn't at all. It takes and diffuses 
all the old, romantic, almost like 18th century. And it used all the 
artists in Sweden; they were all identified with various portions of it. 


Church : 

Riess : 
Church : 

Church : 

There [ in front] is this great sweeping terrace and two of 
these [shell shaped fountains]. Isn't that just the most beautiful 
thing? When I see the ghastly modern fountains, for instance that 
disgrace down on the embarcadero. Can you think of anything worse? 
Wouldn't that have been beautiful [to have fountain like the ones 
in Stockholm] ? 

And another thing. I spoke to you about Harry Weese. He made 
this talk long ago, way before the war when he used to come out here, 
and he was so upset about what was happening to our embarcadero, 
to our waterfront- -and of course it is upsetting to anybody who loves 
all the waterfronts of Europe—and he had hundreds of pictures of how 
the waterfronts in every part of the world had been developed, even 
down to the tiniest and most insignificant and unknown places, how 
they were used. I just spent a whole day there when I got to that 
place and just felt I was breathing, eating, something delicious. 

But where do people sit? 
parks . 

I would expect lots of benches in European 

Yes, I think there was a lot of sitting space in the back. True, 
there isn't much shown. I think people walked back and forth in it 
a great deal. But can you think of anything more beautiful? 

Now, here are you and Aalto. He's in his bathrobe. 
Yes, he never had a chance to get dressed until evening. 

[Looking at 1937 book again] And this is the great concert hall, 
in Goteborg, the first thing of its kind that we had ever seen. The 
money to build it was given by that family, the Magnussons, whose 
house we looked at earlier. You can see how exhausted I was. [Betsy 
seated on steps] Bill and Tommy would just never stop. 

The concert hall was closed, but the family, when they heard 
that we wanted to see it, sent their chauffeur to take us to it. The 
chauffeur had the keys and he opened the concert house and took us in. 
It was the first of this kind of thing that we had ever seen. We 
were staggered. The wood was a screen made of half-rounds. The sides 
flowed around. The chauffeur's daughter came to play the organ for 
us so we could hear the accoustics. 

Now here [another view of the Stockholm waterfront] are the 
sitting places. And this interests me. I haven't look at these 
pictures for a long time, but you know there's a picture that Tommy 
has in his office that he took of a garden in Santa Barbara, Montecito, 
and it has very much this same sort of a feeling, a big space like 


Church: this and then the swimming pool and the figures and the background 

of the trees--! don't suppose he even thought about that—but it does 
seem the same. In the garden in Montecito it's sort of reversed. 
Here is sort of a wading pool and a place where people sit. [photo 
of small glass building] 

That's Denmark. There was a lot of the casual modern building, 
commercial buildings. He was taken with that both in Sweden and in 
Denmark. He really was crazy about both of those countries. 

This was a little family that we knew in the Munich area. [Five 
people in an outdoor cafe.] 

And this is a fascinating picture. This is a man we see all the 
time, Otto Lang. And this is Maudie Schroll, my very, very old 
friend, and this is her brother Jerome Hill, the painter, who has 
died. And this is Marina Chaliapin, the daughter of the singer. She 
was a great beauty, and unhappily her life didn't develop. I remember 
I was telling Jerome something that was very interesting to both of 
us. It was in Salzburg, such a lovely place. See Jerome has his 
camera too--he and Tommy were both mad about photographing. 

Riess: Were you all traveling together? 

Church: No, Tommy and I were on our way north to meet Bill in Copenhagen and 
we ran into them. We had allotted a day for Salzburg, and we ran 
into Maudie. She made us stay and we stayed for several days, and 
then went straight up to Copenhagen. 

Riess: Is Otto Lang an architect? 

Church: No, I'll tell you, he was one of the ski people who was gotten over 

here from Austria, from Salzburg, during the war so that he wouldn't 
have to fight. He got several jobs here at various ski resorts. And 
then when the war cut down on that--he was a very good photographer, 
and he's doing some photographing for Tommy right now. He's just 
moved here. 

Those are our English friends [having a picnic]. 
That's a German town we went to visit. 

That's Boris Lovet-Lorski, the Russian sculptor who had a very 
high moment in France in the twenties and alas never progressed from 
there. Awfully sad. 

Now that's the hospital [TB sanitorium in Paimio], 


Church: That's a little tea pavillion in Helsinki. I understand during 

the war the glass was all shattered. [Looking at slender metal 
columns between curved glass sides.] It's just like some of the 
cast-iron architecture in New York. We have a little bit here, too. 
Isn't it charming? Just too lovely. And then this sort of leafy 
atmosphere. That was one of Aalto's favorite buildings. 

That's Sweden, apartments. That's the first time we had seen 
this sort of arrangement with the running balcony and then the 
dividers so that people from the different apartments have [private 
balconies]. Now these are just a dime a dozen, you know. In those 
days it was very unusual. And the awnings were painted bright colors, 

Now this was what Tommy loved. He loved these paths that just 
wound through the trees [also looking at sanitorium in Paimio] . Of 
course the birches were so lovely, the background of the green trees. 

Riess: Were those paths designed by Aalto? 

Church: Yes, I think Aalto did that. He just made those lines on the paper. 

42) Betsy and the Furniture 

Riess: After you got Aalto up and out of his bathrobe -- 

Church: He put on his clothes and he said, "Come, we go." And he just took 
us everywhere. He took us to a marvelous place for lunch. 

Then he said, "Now we're going to go swimming and then we'll 
change and we'll meet for dinner at a restaurant I've just finished, 
and then we'll go on from there." I'm not a night person and I just 
don't go all day. I don't know how I did it but it was so stimulating.' 
We did all of that. 

Then when we went swimming—you know, they don't wear suits. 
Fortunately the ladies were somewhat divided from the men. In those 
days I would have been terribly shocked, I guess. I don't know. 

Riess: That was the only day with him? But then when did you make your plans 
for the furniture business? 

Church: It was all done that very day. I don't know how it happened like that. 
Now wait a minute, maybe we did stay longer, because later he took 
us to office buildings and things that he'd done, the building that 


Church: the furniture he designed was created for. We may have stayed 
another day or so, but it was not very long. 

But he [Aalto] saJ.d , "I have no outlet in America and I'm 
looking for an architect's lady," as he put it, "who would be 
interested in having the furniture." 

Tommy gave me a big nudge and I said, "Well, I'd be interested 
in it." 

He said, "Well, perfectly fine." And that was all that was done 
or said. Then I guess he must have written to us, or Tommy must have 
written to him. I don't know how it all came about. 

I had worked for some time for a marvelous member of the Branden- 
stein family, Agnes Brandenstein, who had a beautiful shop before 
the war, called Cargoes. It was one of the great shops, that and one 
on Post Street that belonged to the two men who now live in Switzerland, 
they made so much money, Amberg-Hirth. Their shop was very deluxe. 
Hers also had very many beautiful things but it had some other sides 
to it, and it was very personal. 

I don't know how I happened to go to work there. But anyway I 
did and we became the greatest of friends. I always felt that had 
she not died so terribly young I'd still be doing something with her, 
because we just saw eye to eye, we just got on like a house on fire. 

When we got home --actually I'm so stupid about business and 
everything like that that Tommy did all the business part of it in 
the office with his secretaries and bookkeeping people and so forth 
because I'm evidently incapable of doing things like that properly. 
At least I've never done it. I guess he felt it was less trouble to 
do it than to try to train me. 

Riess: Had you thought of making Cargoes the showroom? 

Church: We thought of that on the way back because we did not have the outlay-- 

My goodness, the first amount of furniture I think was something 
like $1000 and when I think of it, it was just tons of furniture. 
It all arrived here, on this sidewalk, in the most beautiful crates 
with mitred edges that were absolutely like custom-built furniture. 
You'd keep them today. You'd live in them. 

I just stood there gasping at them. I saw the workmen tearing 
into them and I said to Tommy, "I can't stand it." Tommy said, "Don't 
be silly." Anyway we unpacked it all right here. 


Riess: And moved it into the house? 

Church: Some of it came in, but by that time we had made the arrangements 
with her [Agnes Brandenstein] . She was wanting to somewhat change 
where she was, and the old Vickery, Atkins and Torrey building was 
vacant, so she got that, and she gave me a great big room in the back 
that would have just been used for a storeroom for her because her 
shop had an intimate feeling. 

Riess: That's what now is Elizabeth Arden? 

Church: Except that it's changed. Gardner Dailey did it over for Elizabeth 

Arden and you didn't go through a garden. I must I6ok at that again. 

Anyway, I loved being there. 
Riess: How much did you work? 

Church: I began by just going in the afternoon. Of course, in those days I 
had lots of help. I didn't have to think about housework. (Now I 
think about it but I still don't do it.) 

Riess: How did you advertise the furniture? 

Church: I don't know, she must have done something. I think maybe we had 

sort of a "do." Then I had exhibits or paintings there, too, I did 
quite a bit of that, and we'd have a vernissage . 

The other day, on the garden tour, I met a couple that was so 
interesting. They go all over the world and the husband sets up 
university libraries, tells them what they should have, an expert 
needless to say. His wife was a marvelous woman, I was so drawn to 
her, and she said, "Oh, all these years that we haven't seen you, 
it's just terrible." 

She took me into the house and I saw all this Aalto furniture 
that you don't see much anymore now, the sort of classic pieces. 

I said, "Where 'd you get your Aalto furniture?" and she said, 
"I don't remember, we got that someplace in San Francisco." 

I said, "Oh, you bought it from me." [Laughter] 

Riess: Would just certain people buy it and it would be too "far out" for 


Church: Yes, it was much too far out for most people. They didn't care for 
it at all. They thought we were sort of crazy. I used to have 
various pieces scattered around this house in amongst the old things, 
but they never looked so terribly well. Tommy has a lot down in the 

Then I had two classic chairs and they were perfectly beautiful 
and I gave them to the University, to Duke Wellington, because he 
has a collection of different types. One was really a beautiful 
classic but it was a hard chair to keep, it was always peeling off 
and people would sit in it and damage it. 

You know, it was built as very inexpensive furniture. The stools 
were something like $7.50. Now they're at least $50 if not more. 
Originally it was mass-produced things. He [Aalto] was doing all 
these buildings and big factories and restaurants. He had so much 
work his head was spinning. It was done in an effort to meet the 
demand; he couldn't get the things, so he had to make them. 

Aalto "s first outlet in Europe, in the world, was Artek, in 
Zurich, which evidently before the war was out of this world. It 
had the best of everything and the first of everything. I'd heard 
of him [the owner of Artek] long before I knew Aalto. He was Jewish, 
so he had to disappear during the war. But he had such materials. 1 
I believe somewhere I had a shred that came from him. You would gasp. 
They say the shop was unbelievable. It disappeared during the war. 

But he [Aalto] didn't have things in England. People had 
furniture, but it wasn't for sale. There were only a few modern 
houses, you know, in England. They had a period just before the war 
of doing wooden houses, and they would send for the furniture. 

Oh, a marvelous thing about Aalto "s house.' Here was this country 
that had nothing but wood. And we said to Aalto--! of course didn't 
know what wood it was made of --but Bill said, "How'd you get this 
Douglas fir?" 

Aalto said, "Oh, it was very expensive, we had it brought all 
the way by boat"--from wherever the Douglas Fir comes fromj 

Yesterday—this is digress ing- -Tommy and I were talking about 
some friends who were soon to come back from London. When I realized 
they had been gone only about three weeks I said, "What on earth did 
they do that for?" Then I suddenly thought, this is around the 
middle of May, they'd gone to London, they'd copied us, because we 
always used to go to Paris for our wedding anniversary. 


Church ; 


I didn't think more about it, but a bit later Tommy got my 
attention and reached over to the paper and made a big circle around 
May 17th and put "47" with a big exclamation point. Yesterday was 
our wedding anniversary and neither of us had remembered it.' I 
hadn't, and Tommy usually always had to be prodded to remember to 
give me something. So we had sort of a jolly little celebration. 

A couple of days ago I saw in Design Research — they had them 
back again—the Aalto vase. Have you ever seen that? You haven't 
been able to get them for years. We had them in the shop. In 
Finland they cost about $7.50. In the shop they were maybe $10 or 
$15, and now they are $55. But I'm going to get one for Tommy. He 
should have one, right here on this table. 

The first time we saw them [the vases] was in the house, and 
she [Aino Aalto] just brought the flowers from the field, didn't 
arrange them, and just let them fall in the vase and take their own 
shape. That was Aino's design, probably her most famous design. 

The bent wood furniture, that bent wood tradition in all of 
those countries, comes from the skis, the snow shoes, the little 
casual chair. You'll find examples that go way, way back of the 
bent wood.. And they were making some in Sweden. But Aalto--his 
was designed for mass production. It was awfully clever. 

Why did he want an outlet? There couldn't have been that much profit. 

Maybe he just wanted to spread it. That moment that we arrived he 
was just beginning- -as I say, he was going on his first trip to 
England shortly and also he was coming in the fall to this country. 
He had been contacted by the Rockefellers and what it was he did for 
them I can't remember. But he had the first people reaching out to 
him from this country, and I think it was enormously exciting to him. 


He had a show at the Museum of Modern Art in 1938. 
Finnish Pavillion in Paris in' 1937. 

He also had the 

Church: Yes, I remember that, because he spoke about it. I do keep mixing up 
the two fairs in my head. Funny Tommy didn't take any pictures of 
that. We were in Paris on our way back and we all, with Bill, went. 
We had a week in Paris. 

Riess: What happened to Cargoes? Did that come to an end after the war? 

Church: It was considerably after the war. It ended because Agnes Brandenstein 
became ill with cancer and died fairly soon which was terribly sad 
because she was quite young. 


Riess: I have a reference to Tommy having had a showroom in 1954. 

Church: Was it 1954 really? I guess so. I didn't realize i,t was as late 
as that. During the war the shop was still open. It always takes 
a little while for things to catch up, both bad news and good news. 
The furniture continued to come for some time. 

Then it took Aalto a little while to shift his operation to 
Sweden. In 1952 when we were in Sweden to meet Aalto, one of the 
things we did was go to the factory in Sweden. We chose quite a 
few things, so the place was going then. 

Riess: Did Tommy participate actively in the business end of it? 

Church: He did take care of all the financial and so forth. He did the 

ordering. He and Agnes discussed it together and I put in a word 
here and there, but mostly it was their decision. She agreed with 
everything that we wanted. 

After she became ill a cousin of hers began to run the operation. 
Various young people that I knew worked there. It was an unusual 
place. It was one of those unique shops of which now there are many 
all over the world, but there weren't as many of them then. 

The cousin carried on, but then she developed the same thing 
and died, which was very sad. So I guess they just liquidated 
everything then. I don't seem to recall that. 

Riess: The Aalto furniture didn't have a continuation? 

Church: No, there was never another sales place for it in San Francisco as 
far as I know. I mean Knoll Furniture is the only business that I 
know of today in any of these cities that carries on more or less 
in that vein with importations and designs produced here, there and 
everywhere. Almost everything is sort of boiled down to places like 
McGuire where they control the designs and control where they're 
made. People don't import except under their own conditions seemingly. 

Riess: You had a gallery there? 

Church: Yes, I showed one of my very great friends, Caroline Martin, who was 
quite a well-known artist in the thirties and forties and fifties 
and she still has shows every now and then. She lives here. She's 
had shows in New York and she's a girl that studied abroad and is a 
natural born painter. 

Now she's not young any more and she finds it difficult to do 
long hours alone in the studio and also the work is sort of heavy, 
lifting canvases and framings and so forth. I just went to see her 


Church: this morning to say goodbye. She's going to Europe, she goes every 
year. I said, "Now take a sketch book and make drawings in your 
sketch book. You don't have to make those into paintings, but 
they'll be something that you have within you that you still can get 
down on paper." I think it's a terrible mistake to let something 
like that go, don't you? 

Riess: Oh, I do. Besides which, I often think that the little sketchy 
thing is better than the finished work. 

Church: Oh, I'd rather have an artist's sketchbook than almost anything I 

can think of. I think it's the most rewarding thing. I think that 
their little notes—and you know sometimes they put a little arrow 
and everything, I think it's the most personal^ It speaks worlds 
to me. I have lots of her paintings around now. I don't know where 
any of them are. They're not up just at the moment. 

We had a show of hers and we did have a couple of others. I've 
been trying to think as I was talking, and it's terrible that I can't 
think who else we showed. We didn't do it regularly, but the room 
was a big square room with nice light and practically empty except 
for the furniture. 

Riess: Was Caroline Martin's work very modern? 

Church: Her things were charming, French-oriented somewhat like the 

Impressionists. They were not terribly far out. I think that's 
perhaps one of the reasons why she hasn't been so terribly active 
in recent years because she doesn't work in that medium. 

43) Flying 

Riess: To go back, in 1939 Aalto had something in the New York World's Fair. 

Church: We went to that, too, Tommy and I. Yes, I remember going to the 
Finnish Pavillion. 

Riess: The Finnish Pavillion in Paris in 1937, the 1938 show at the Museum 
of Modern Art, 1939 the New York World's Fair, and then he came out 
here in May of 1939. 

Church: Yes, now I don't remember seeing—maybe Tommy saw the Museum of 

Modern Art one in 1938. Tommy had begun going East then. He'd begun 
flying. Tommy never flew. He didn't want to fly. I said, "Well, you 
can 't be a landscape architect and not fly. It's just too ridiculous 
because you have to see." 


Church: I always remember this friend of mine, Jerome Hill, who was 
given to wonderful statements. He said that after the gardens of 
Versailles, balloons simply had to be invented because otherwise 
they could never manage to see it. That's absolutely true. I 
thought that the other day. 

Did I tell you about going up in a balloon? I think I must 
have. A friend took me up in a balloon for a birthday present. There's 
a man over in the East Bay who has figured out a wonderful way of life. 
He takes people up in his balloon. The whole balloon becomes a 
package and goes into a little straw gondola that's just like a little 
wicker trunk practically and goes in the back of his truck. He can 
go anywhere that it's possible to fly. 

We went over very early in the morning. (He only flies very 
early, doesn't start a minute later than about 8 o'clock, so we had 
to go very early.) It was the most marvelous experience, it was an 
hour that was just unbelievable. You're up above ground, really not 
very far from the highway, yet you can't believe that you're anywhere 
that's near anything. We floated over a beautiful pond and birds 
flew out that we'd never seen so closely. We saw a fox chasing some 
rabbits and all kinds of things that you would never see if you were 
driving along. Then the pattern of the land was so beautiful. 

Anyway, I persuaded Tommy finally to fly East. He was hooked 
in one easy lesson. He practically never came down to ground again. 

Riess: Do you think he really enjoyed flying over the landscape? 

Church: In the early days he just loved it. The flights were so beautiful. 
Then later on flying really has become not nearly as nice as it used 
to be. But it's essential. Tommy always liked to get to these places 
quickly. He never liked to go on boats or anything like that, dawdle. 
He liked to get to them quickly so that he could have time there. 

Riess: And he liked being called from great distances? 

Church: Yes, he did. That was a great challenge, to work in different places. 

As I look back on it, he used to meet it in the most extraordinary 
way. He was never bothered by any of the things that most people 
would worry about--! would, for instance. He just assumed that every 
thing would go as smoothly as it always did. 

Riess: That he would get there and everybody would be on time and that sort 
of thing? 


Church: Yes, and then the problems of working in another country never 

bothered him in the slightest. He didn't particularly seek jobs 
in other countries, but he did like an occasional one very much. 

44) Aalto Visits San Francisco, 1939 

Church : 
Riess : 

Church : 
Church : 



Church : 

Why did Aalto come out here in 1939? 
He came out here to see all of us. 

I read that you and Mrs. Gardner Dailey represented a sort of 
committee to welcome him and take him around town. 

Oh, goodness. What troubles we got into. 
Tell me about that. 

It was very complicated. There were wild jealousies of hostesses 
and oh, my heavens. 1 I never had had such experiences of that. 

It seems like you would be the natural person. 

Well, Marjorie was very executive. I don't think Mar j or ie and 
Gardner had met Aalto. They were traveling in Europe the same year 
that we were, but they were smart. They went through Finland and 
they entered Russia. They came down through Leningrad and they went 
through Warsaw. We didn't do that. 

I am sure that Aalto came especially to see Bill. However, he 
became very friendly with Gardner. He was very devoted to Gardner, 
Aalto was. 

Why even were you two women designated as a pair to greet them? 
sounds more formal than the situation calls for. 


Well, it was sort of silly. And I had no idea that he was going to 
be so sought after, but of course everybody wanted to entertain him, 
oh, the sort of cultural people in San Francisco. I wouldn't say 
everybody. I don't think the general run was all that fascinated 
by the idea of him, but people that were quite knowledgeable about 
architecture and so forth were all anxious to meet him. 

Riess: How long was he here? 


Church: He must have been here a little while. I remember the Daileys had 
the most beautiful party on one of San Francisco's fantastic 
tropical evenings. Everybody was in tropical costumes and mostly 
outdoors, in their apartment on Telegraph Hill. 

Riess: Would everybody come, would Wurster come to a Dailey evening? 

Church: Yes, yes, Wurster was there and a lot of the architects and I guess 
their wives, I really don't remember. I do remember that a lot of 
people were very angry. One lady banged up the telephone and said 
she'd been insulted because she counted on having--! don't know who 
insulted her, but anyway. I don't know who she was. [Laughter] 

Oh, and it was the time of the Fair, this evening that I described, 
and their balcony looked right out over Treasure Island, so we sat 
there looking at the lights of the Fair. 

Gardner did a building for some South American or Central 
American country. Then he worked with Frances Elkins on the Women's 
Club. Bill I guess did some things. Tommy didn't do terribly much 
at Treasure Island. He did some small things. 

Riess: When Aalto came out here then, did he have an agenda of people he 
wanted to meet? 

Church: He was very casual about the whole thing. He left everything to us. 
I think really that his sort of favorite person that he met was 
Gardner. I think they were very friendly. And Bill. But Aalto and 
Gardner used to prowl night spots and things like that. Of course 
Aalto consumed more food and drink than any human being I've ever 
seen or heard of and without any of it showing in any possible way. 
He always was as lean as a greyhound. Maybe he got stout later. 

Riess: Did he bring his wife on that expedition? 

Church: She wasn't here the first time but she was the second time they came, 
They came another time and Mrs. Gregory entertained them at Santa 
Cruz, which they loved. Tommy took some wonderful pictures of them 
at Santa Cruz, too. 

Riess: And you said that they had trouble getting it manufactured, but did 
the furniture business continue through the war? 

Church: Well, it did. But it was very hard for us to get it. 

As I look back on it today the things you'd do now when you 
had something like that, hundreds of things that we never thought 
of. The furniture just really sold itself. I didn't make any 


Church: particular effort to sell it. We didn't have a lot of publicity or 
anything like that. People just heard about it and they bought it. 

Riess: It certainly went beautifully with Aalto's buildings. Did it go 
beautifully with a new Wurster house or a new Dailey house? 

Church: I don't think Gardner ever used it. His wife had very beautiful old 
furniture always. He probably used it in houses that he built. 

Riess: I was thinking that the architect certainly could recommend it and 
be very convincing about it. 

Church: Yes, that was the way it was really largely sold. But people couldn't 
just come in the shop and carry an armchair away because the showroom 
was simply examples. They really weren't for sale because they were 
the only ones we had and we had to order. 

Riess: Was it through a wholesale "to the trade" arrangement? 

Church: I really don't remember that. I don't think that had come into such 
ardent being as it has today. Don't you hate it? "To the trade," 
isn't that a bore? You know perfectly well that anybody that can is 
going to get in there. 

But as I think about what you'd be obliged to do now, it was 
so much nicer in those days. After all, it should sell itself. He 
was so casual about it. I guess he was pretty casual about everything, 

45) "If He'd Had Three Lives" 

Riess: Did Tommy find the idea of Aalto's sort of architecture and his 

controlling of the environment and everything very appealing? Did 
he ever entertain ideas of doing more than gardens? 

Church: Well, he would love to have. If he'd had three lives, I think he 
really would have liked that. I think almost anybody would. But 
then when we've talked about it I've always said, "Tommy, you're so 
lucky that in your time you saw the effects of as much as you could 
possibly do to extend that. Your influence did." 

You know hundreds of people, if they had the bathing house to 
do by the pool and things like that, they just begged Tommy to do 
all those things. But he really never could. 



Riess : 

Church : 

Riess : 




Riess : 

Funnily enough, for years architects had designed the terraces 
and collected their percentage on that and designed the walks and 
the roadways and all of that, and Tommy in the early days was 
somewhat "relegated" to garden spaces. When he began to move more 
and tnore into the picture of the setting, some of them didn't like 
that at all, yet they would have been just furious to have any sort 
of structural infringement. Not that that made any particular 
difference, but it was too much trouble to establish something like 
that. Of course in the early days someone like Bruce Porter just 
glided back and forth from the house to the garden. 

Oh, yes. I think of Filoli. 
garden there. 

I think he had a lot to do with the 

He did the garden, not the house. The terraces, however, I think 
had all been done by Willis Polk. They'd been outlined by him when 
he did the plans for the house. But then Mr. Bourn quarelled with 
Willis Polk. And it was finished by Hobart which was too bad because 
the house is very insignificant compared to what it could have been. 

I guess in the early days the landscape architect was only consulted 
about the plants. I remember John Gregg saying sort of mournfully 
when I asked him about how he worked with John Galen Howard, "Well, 
occasionally Howard would ask me what sort of tree to put in here." 
That meant that Howard took over completely. 

Oh, he did, he did. There weren't enough people to go around. It 
was hardly a profession. It wasn't defined as a profession and it 
wasn't organized in any way. Now these professions are all so 
heavily organized, with rules and things you have to pass and goodness 
knows what. 

I guess when we were talking about Cargoes, Incorporated and so on, 
I was interested in your point of view of what the other important 
showplaces were in San Francisco. V.C. Morris? 

Yes, V.C. He had some very lovely modern things, too. 
was very personal, reflected their wonderful taste. 

And Gumps? 

His shop 

Gumps always had some Oriental atmosphere. I don't recall. I think 
perhaps if they had furniture in the old days, it would have been 
classic Chinese, which of course became something that the modern 
people chose when they could get it. 


46) The Treasure Island Fair 

Rieso: I'll remind you of some other things that were at the Fair. There 
was [ in a section of the decorative arts division called "rooms"] 
something that was called a "dining room from Finland" designed 
by Alvar and Aino Marsio Aalto with a table, chair, round table, 
teawagon with blue tile top, upholstered chair, extra chair, a rug 
by Loja Saarinen, some [Alberto] Giacomettis, a screen by Picasso. 
It said, "The furniture was imported by New Furniture, Incorporated."* 
Now that's the New York importer of the Aalto furniture? 

Church: Yes. 

Riess: So he must have had some sort of a showroom in New York. 

Church: That came afterwards. 

Riess: After yours? 

Church: Yes, and also by 1939 that was the war you see and things had begun 
to get a little bit sticky about importing, about getting the stuff 
here. It used to come by boat, of course. We did have a lot of 
trouble I remember. Then finally it couldn't be made in Finland 
anymore. It was made in Sweden during the war. 

Riess: And the room was arranged by Beth Armstrong? 

Church: Yes, that probably would have been through Bill. Bill was very 
devoted to Beth Armstrong [decorator with Armstrong, Carter, and 
Kenyon] . She had a wonderful touch. [Another decorator] Frances 
Elkins was the sort of glittery, very worldly-- 

Riess: Glittery or literary did you say? 

Church: Glittery. She was kind of a glittering person. Everything she did 

was very--oh dear, what is the word I'm searching for--Beth Armstrong 
was very underplayed, very quiet, but beautiful. 

Riess: Then there was also a room at the Fair that had furniture that was 

laminated birch designed by Breuer, also lent by this New Furniture, 
Incorporated of New York. [And installed by Ernest Born.] 

information on the Treasure Island Fair, the 1939 Golden Gate 
International Exposition, from Decorative Arts Catalog of the 
Department of Fine Arts. 

I *14V. trtL_ 



I2^> •v^*lMfc?**-"»*'-* , -,«^. ..-.».. 

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KSan Fr^ci&b:^*'' *" 8 **'^ -^^^ 


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^fitiumbrellcc. Mqnufactured/byftn 


^Assembled" by Gump's, San Francisco, 
Designed by Eleanor . Forbes, Rudolf ' 

Blesh.and Leonard Linder 

Ji«A-r.*- r -. . . V 



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San Francisco and Los 

-t Two chcdrs":.brchrbmed metal^upholsterecl in* 

ff t luiwujw. iv . .^.. :,• v • ; • • .•• • •• -.-"fa* •-.- ixncony rail 01 .Ajumnue i in aluminum. »- -»-?r 

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^ws.vsr..,. v 
v. Flower Arrangements: 

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7^ •' > Membe'rs'of the— * 

^iu, - San Francisco Garden^Qub. 

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floor;' Executed. 

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;; Forest Hills Garden Club.:, 
l^iT-JrHiUsborough Garden Qub. 

^Garden Club of PalpAItpi - - 

^Marirt Garden Club^^i- ^^jm 

. «J 

r;Assistant^^B i r^u' 
:.'iEvelynV Arnold. 

r By San Francisco Society of Women^f; ' 
Artists. .Three montages to be exhibited 
during the year. First montage assembled » -•'•'. ' 
by Florence Alston Swift Second mon 
tage assembled by; Helen Forbes. Third '|s|;f|| 
montage- assembled by Helen Pauson. , 

See.'catalog'v sections^; fon. individual- list- r j 
-ings of exhibiting artists^? •-•- '. '$ MJ$ i' Y - 

; ii 

*•••: •" tir $--^- 
-;•• ' 

. . ._. 

"Tithonia and Myosotis" bas-relief panel, background of selected pebbles; by Helen Brut on 

; ' ; vfc. 


Church: Oh, yes. I don't remember what that was. I know there was a man, 
whose name I've now forgotten, sort of for awhile we got things 
through him. But that was not very satisfactory. 

Riess: While we're at it, the Giacomettis were lent by Templeton Crocker. 
The more I looked at the Treasure Island catalog the more things 
I saw were loaned by Templeton Crocker. Who was Templeton Crocker? 

Church: He was an amazing man. I never knew him but I was taken to his 
apartment--! think he became ill and he lay for years in this 
apartment. I think I'm right about that, and people would be taken 
to see it. It was the first apartment in San Francisco that was 
done by a European. The walls were cork. He imported a marvelous 
man from Paris [Jean-Michel Frank]. I have a book that has pictures 
of it, but my eye doesn't light on it. I'll have to find it the next 
time. He [Frank] was terribly well known. It was very 1920s; that 
was when it was done. 


As I said, I never knew Templeton Crocker, but practically 
everybody else did. He was rather a precious person. In his heyday 
he entertained widely and so on. The way we mostly knew him was 
that his butler, Thomas, all the time that he was still extant and 
then for a long time afterwards, well, for ages, everybody had him. 
Whenever we had a cocktail party we'd have Thomas. I think he acted 
as a valet to quite a lot of gentlemen around town. He worked out 
of 9 whatchamacallit Green. It was on the top of that apartment on 
the end of Green Street. I forget who bought that, some needless to 
say very rich person. 

47) Neutra, Et Cetera 

Riess: In 1939 there was another show called the Mural Conceptualism 
that Tommy was in and Neutra apparently also. 

Church: Goodness, I remember that name. 

Riess: I guess I thought Neutra was Los Angeles. 

Church: I think he was chiefly Los Angeles. He did use to come up here. 

Riess: There are a couple of places where he and Tommy are associated. 

Tommy's terrace at Treasure Island was in association with Neutra. 

Church: Goodness, I really don't remember too much about that. I remember 
seeing him socially a great deal at all these architect's parties. 


Riess: He did lots of writing, theorizing about new architecture and new 
space. I wondered if he and Tommy talked much, and how Bill fit 
into that? 

Church: I do remember that wierd title and I never did get it through my 
head what in heaven's name Mural Conceptualism meant. 

I know if Neutra talked a lot and was very vague that would 
make Tommy terribly nervous. That's why Tommy never worked on any 
committees or anything like that because it was so wasteful of 
his time. 

Riess: That "Architecture and the Outdoors" section at Treasure Island was 
introduced by Neutra. [pp. 19-21, Decorative Arts Catalog] 

Church: I'll talk to Tommy about Treasure Island. We haven't talked about 
that for a long time. 

Riess: Some of the exhibits were a "seaside terrace," Bill Wurster, 

architect, an "outside dining terrace," assembled by Gumps, designed 
by Elinor Forbes. 

Church: Oh, yes, of course, I remember her. 

Riess: "A space for living"--mostly rattan furniture, it sounds like, that 
was done by Gardner Dailey. (I'm just listing these to see if some 
of them have meaning for you.) Something called a "sports terrace," 
designed and assembled by Neutra, which was mostly metal. 

Church: Sounds awful. Bicycle exercycles. [Laughs] 

Riess: Then there are three terraces listed in the Landscaping and Flowers 
Decorative Arts section, which was introduced by Julius Giraud , who 
was the Chief of the Bureau of Horticulture of Treasure Island. 

Church: He was a wonderful horticulturist. Tommy knew him very well. 

Riess: So there were three terraces within that. One was a Wurster one 
which had Lockwood deForest's work. 

Church: Oh really. That sounds nice. 

Riess: And then [Paul] Frankl and Gardner Dailey. 

Church: There was a man called Paul Frankl in Los Angeles who was very slick. 

Riess: Martin and Overlach did the landscaping. 


Church: Martin and Overlach--those were the people that in a way were an 
offshoot from Podesta Baldocchi. They took over the big plants, 
the house plants and that kind of thing. They verged off from the 
florist kind of thing. They had a wonderful shop for many years 
on California Street. 

Riess: And then there was the Neutra terrace that had Tommy's landscape 

Church: Oh, really. I don't remember that. I'll ask him about that. Yes, 
I don't remember very much. 

Riess: They must have been peak years. 
Church: Isn't it funny? They just seem like-- 

Riess: I mean to have had shows and to be sort of bursting with ideas as 

it all seemed to have been. Maybe that's just hindsight that makes 
it look that way. 

Church: You said that the other day about "37 and I've been trying to think 
in my mind, was "37 such an extraordinary year? I guess it was. 

Riess: Well, it was the year you went to Europe and it was preceded by 

this San Francisco show. I'm going to leave this museum catalog with 
you.* Neutra makes a major statement about landscaping in it. He 
kind of pre-empted the field in a way. 

Church: He was, of course, an elder statesman. He was a very old man compared 
to these other people. 

Riess: And if you can get Tommy to talk a bit about this "Holiday" design. 

Church: Well, I did ask him about that and he smiled, oh he thought that was 

wonderful to have that brought to life again. He remembered that very 

*1937 San Francisco Museum of Art catalog of Contemporary Landscape 


Interview #6 - May 27, 1977 

48) Mural Conceptualism 

Riess: Did you ask Tommy about that Mural Conceptualist Show? 

Church: Oh, yes, I had that article. Well, I read it out loud to Tommy. 

And you know that we began to shriek and scream with laughter. Did 
you read it? Of course, you read it. I said, "This really ought 
to be—this is satire. It's so funny." 

Tommy said he didn't remember anything about it. I said what 
a terrible name. We both agreed that it must have been Neutra's 
idea because it sounds just like him exactly. He was very wordy and 
sort of ponderous and didn't have a ray of humor I always felt, at 
least that was my impression of him. Nobody could make such a phrase: 
"Mural Conceptualism. 1 " Then the other person that was engaged in 
it to some extent was Garrett Eckbo, who also sort of likes that 
kind of thing. 

Riess: But Tommy didn't remember participating in it? There was that little 
model of his on the second page. And the Florence Allston Swift mural 
that's in your garden was pictured in the article. 

Church: It evidently wasn't a very major thing. Neither of us really could 
remember very much about it. Isn't that terrible? 

Riess: Neutra, even though he seems to have been very much on the scene, 
was not anybody's pal? 

Church: He really wasn't X don't feel. Of course he lived in Los Angeles. 
There always has been that Mason-Dixon line between San Francisco 
and Los Angeles. He did come up here a bit. I tell you he was 
very highly specialized. His houses were extremely expensive for 
one thing. The finish was very beautiful and all of that. 

One house that we did visit that I remember very well was a 
house up in Oregon. The people that built it I imagine are still 
there. He was a Dutchman and came over with masses of bulbs. 


Church: Evidently the atmosphere up there is very much like Holland. Now 
everybody that gets bulbs get them from this place—I've forgotten 
their name now, a Dutch name. His wife was American. She came 
from New York. They were able to live up to this fantastic thing. 

But the [Neutra] houses that I remember the finishes were all 
perfect. It was very precise. Life had to be very perfect. Every 
thing had to be very perfect. Wasn't he Bauhaus? He really was. 
But I felt that he was much less fluid and much more rigid perhaps 
than the others who bent somewhat with the times. 

He was a very beautiful man, Neutra was. At the end he became 
ill and we almost always saw him in a wheelchair. He did that with 
the greatest flair. He had blue eyes, oh.' And always white hair. 
He must have grown white when he was quite young. He was really 
quite a spectacular looking person. He always had a lovely blue 
blanket over his knees. 

He may have been very friendly with some of the architects here 
but I really don't imagine so. I imagine his friendships were really 
with the people that he'd known in Germany. I can't remember if his 
wife was German. I don't believe so. I have a feeling she was 

It's interesting that he was the only one of those—well, he 
wasn't the only one because [Eric] Mendelsohn came here, but he 
came much later and really under some duress. Neutra had gotten 
out of Germany well ahead of all the troubles as some of the people 
in the East had. But Mendelsohn was a late arrival. 

The other person that influenced people to some extent here was 
Serge Chermayeff. 

Riess: But he was in the East, wasn't he? 

Church: No, he was here for quite a while. He came here first and he lived 
in this house one summer. 

Riess: You put him up out of the goodness of your heart? 

Church: I guess so. He came first during the war. 

Riess: And he was brought over by the Architecture Department? 

Church: No. I remember Catherine Wurster saying that she had met him in 

England. I remember her saying that he made it very much of a point 
that he did want to come. That was before she came out here and was 
married to Bill. So then when he came why he applied himself 
immediately to her. 


49) Catherine Bauer Wurster, and Bill 

Riess: When did you first meet Catherine Bauer? 
Church: Tommy met her in 1926 in Europe. 
Riess: She was a student traveling also? 

Church: No, she had been in Paris for a year living in a French family and 
learning to speak French. I guess she had contemplated studying 
architecture and then she veered off from that. I don't believe 
she ever went to architectural school. After she met Lewis Mumford in 
New York she became interested in his kind of approach and she began 
working for him I think and then she realized that that was what her 
interest was. Then came Roosevelt and the New Deal. That all fitted 
in very well together so she was a long time in Washington. Then she 
came out here. 

Riess: But all through that she was an acquaintance, somebody you would 
have visited? 

Church: She was an acquaintance of Tommy's. She was always sending postcards 
to us saying, "Can't we meet," here and there or something, and we 
never met. She was out here a couple of times and we were always 
away. So finally we went to a party one night here and as we entered 
the room Tommy just almost died.' Here was Catherine Bauer. 1 And 
they rushed into each other's arms. We saw a great deal of her. 

Actually, I do credit us with having really brought her together 
with Bill, but you know how people don't ever like that to be said. 
[Laughs] Bill always resisted the idea that we brought them together 
very much; he wanted it to be "the hand of fate," as indeed it was. 

Riess: You introduced them at a party or something? 

Church: Right here. I think early it was very successful. Then when he 

became ill it was awfully difficult. However, we always were very 
great friends. I was very devoted to her. I thought she was a 
wonderful girl. 

Riess: I should imagine he had been terribly eligible and pursued all those 

Church: Yes, he chose marvelous girls to pursue. They evidently never were 

right for him. He was well into his 30s if not older when he married 
Catherine. It was just a thing of the times I guess. 




She certainly was influential in his life, 
influential with Tommy? 

I wondered if she was 

Riess : 
Church ; 

Church : 


No, I don't know whether they really had too much to talk about. 
And pretty soon after their marriage, and after Sadie was born, 
they began to travel. She traveled a great deal, she was away an 
awful lot, and Bill traveled a good bit, too, because he'd be 
called east on all sorts of projects. So we really didn't see them 
then. When they moved over to Berkeley we kept in touch, but I 
didn't see them very often. Tommy saw Bill, of course, on jobs. 

Well she certainly must have changed the whole direction of his life. 

She did. She brought a much wider scope. He was somebody that had 
started out doing somewhat private things. Naturally that was 
extended as it was in Tommy's case. But then when he married 
Catherine his interests broadened tremendously. He'd always been a 
Democrat. She was very politically inclined. They became involved 
in a good many projects of that nature. 

And I think that she always had some sort of a post at the 
University when they came back. She wasn't teaching when they were 
in the East, but he was. I believe that was Bill's first teaching. 
He found that he liked it very, very much. He was very popular, I'm 
sure, because he was very- -oh dear, now I want to say the right thing: 
his speaking was quite marvelous, very simple. 

You knew him? 
Yes, I interviewed him. [For Regional Oral History Office, 1964.] 

Oh, good. Well, then I mustn't struggle to describe him because you 
know what he was like. 

Actually I look back at that interview and think he was a very good 
teacher and he was very straightforward. 

Very. And he thought very clearly. I think I've said before that 
Tommy has always felt that Bill's drawings were just absolutely the 
top. He probably would feel that they were the best of anybody that 
he ever worked with. The clear thought in his mind was translated 
with perfection. That is sort of rare. People have a hard time. 
That's like me, I'm struggling now to say exactly what I want to say 
about his speaking. I've heard him describe things so beautifully. 

His manner was rather reserved. He was sort of gentle. Catherine 
was more dynamic than he was. I believe she was immensely popular 
with the students, Catherine. She had scores of young people. When 


Church: she was here I don't imagine that her influence was as effective as 
it might have been earlier in the New Deal. She was very much 
concerned in that. 

Riess: I have a little note about Catherine Bauer and Telesis. 

Church: Yes, that was another thing that appeared on the horizon. I didn't 
really follow that closely. 

Riess: It must have filled a need for a lot of people. I don't know exactly 
what it was doing. 

Church: I'm afraid it wasn't very effective. All those things, it seems to 
me, would have to have a leading light. 

50) Ruth Jaffe and Marie Harbeck 

Riess: The people that were the most active were Burton Cairns who of course 
then died practically immediately. [1939] And Vernon deMars and 
Eckbo and Violich and Jack Kent. And Marie Harbeck and Ruth Jaffe, 
which interested me since they were both in Tommy's office. I'd like 
to find out more about those two ladies from you. 

Church: Well, now isn't it funny? Ruth Jaffe called me just the other day. 
She wanted to come over and see Tommy. She wrote Tommy a very 
charming note. She said, "Those years in the office, I look back 
on them as being the great years." Very charming. She's a very 
quiet person. She lives in Berkeley. I think she works in Berkeley. 
She's always been oriented a little bit in city planning or something 
like that. 

Riess: When Ruth Jaffe was in the office, what was her position? 

Church: I guess she was a designer. I think she's a landscape architect. 
And Marie Harbeck was --Tommy almost always drew people from the 
University of Oregon, it's the funniest thing, time and again he got 
people from there, and Marie came from the University of Oregon. 

Riess: Marie went into private practice? 

Church: Marie wanted to go to New York. Tommy wrote the most marvelous letter 
to people to introduce her so that she'd get a job. She did get a 
very good job. I remember it was a really charming letter. 

Riess: Was she an important addition to the office? 


Church; Yes, I think Tommy thought she was very gifted. She was a designer, 
too. These girls I imagine came as secretaries, but I don't think 
they did that very long. I think Marie really sort of lived in 
another plane. She was quite an unusual girl. 

Riess: What sort of other plane? 

Church: In a world of her own dreams. I think Tommy felt she was very 

gifted. She ended in Texas, married a landscape architect sort of 
along in years, and she was by that time somewhat along in years. 
They had a very lovely life for a very short time then they were 
killed in an automobile accident. Tommy was very sad about that. 

But Ruth Jaffe is still involved in something civic I believe. 
I don't believe she ever went into private practice. 

Riess: What terminated her? 

Church: I honestly don't know. You know, during the war Tommy's office was 
not open except for himself. He kept the office, but he was the 
only one that was there. 

Riess: There was Ruth, and Marie, and June. 

Church: Yes, June came before the war. Because she worked with Tommy out 

at Parkmerced. June came also as a secretary and she remained with 
Tommy for a long time and was with him at Parkmerced because he was 
given a job there of superintending the whole layout during the war, 
which enabled him to keep the office and do any work that there was 
on weekends and evenings, and then at least he got a living wage 
during the war and had this office. 

Riess: When I was thinking about Parkmerced and looked again at the drawings 
in one of the Aalto books of worker housing for that pulp company 
you referred to, the cellulose factory at Sunila, it seemed maybe 
one could call that an influence on Tommy's work at Parkmerced. 

Church: Now we never saw that. Bill saw it. 
Riess: You said you saw the drawings for that. 

Church: Yes, yes. Tommy certainly did, I remember, he was very much impressed 
by them. But we never saw it built. But Bill and Catherine went 


51) The Associates 


Church : 



Riess: So the office was boiled down to June at that point. Royston I 
guess had been in the office and then went off to the war. 

Church: Then he came back and he lived with us for awhile. 

Riess: When he came back he didn't come back to Tommy, did he? I thought 
he went with Eckbo. 

Church: I think he came to Tommy after the war for a little while. Then 

maybe he went to Eckbo. I honestly don't remember. Also Garrett 
Eckbo [was in the office]. He wasn't of very long duration in the 
office, but he was always a great friend, charming. 

When there were people like Royston and Halprin in the office was 
that a sort of flirting with having them as a full-time partner? 

Tommy always said that he would never have a partner. 
Well, then it was planned as a short-term relationship? 

I imagine so. These people were called "associates" after a reasonable 
time, but he never wanted a partner. They were all people that 
presumably would go on their own. Of course in the old days landscape 
architects really didn't have very big offices. They were on a very 
modest scale in the very early days here anyway. I guess in the east 
they had more. 

Riess: Then [Doug] Baylis and [Theodore] Osmundsen are two others who were 
in there briefly. 

Church: I don't think Osmundsen was there very long. Baylis was there quite 
a while. We saw a lot of him. 

Riess: When Jack Stafford and Casey Kawamoto and Walt Guthrie came, unlike 
the others they were content to be associates. 

Church: I guess so. I felt Walter was because he had not a terrific drive. 
He had all the mental equipment and the talent and so on, but I 
don't think he ever had the drive to go out on his own. I don't 
think Casey did either. 

They left when Tommy looked over the picture of the work and 
determined that what he really wanted to do was small jobs. [Jack 
Stafford left in January 1965] He didn't want to do any big 
commercial work or anything like that, hardly any. And also he always 


Church: said that his one indulgence was to take the jobs that he wanted 

and not to be obliged to do anything that he didn't want. He went 
over the whole picture with his bookkeeper and she said that he must 
choose between running a business or doing this; He wanted in other 
words to have his hand on everything and have the feeling that he 
was responsible for it. 

Walter is a superb draftsman, so he was a marvelous foil for 
Tommy. Jack--I don't believe that he was really trained in the 
beginning, I think he came out of the war and he was working in 
some sort of a plant [nursery] thing. The person realized that he 
was very, very intelligent. So they called up Tommy and Tommy liked 
him and took him. 

Casey is a charming person and his wife is darling; they were 
really wonderful. I don't remember when he left. I think it was 
when Tommy decided to make the office smaller and then that meant 
that Jack and Casey both must decide if they wanted to go out for 
themselves. Tommy urged them to very much because he thought that 
would bring them the greatest fulfillment. Indeed it did. 

And, of course, when Walter had to leave the office [January 
1947] --that was when Tommy first became ill—that was terribly 
traumatic. It was just dreadful, because he loved Walter. Walter 
is just like his left and right hand, and Tommy was just everything 
to Walter. That was a fearful moment. Then he had to take a job-- 

I don't know, he works for some nice people I guess, but it's nothing 
at all like Tommy. 

Riess: It seems like it would be very useful to have Walter right now. 

Church: Well, I guess he really couldn't afford to have both Walter and 

Grace. Tommy always paid awfully big salaries. That was what he 
felt he should do. He never paid any attention to what other 
people pay. Occasionally I hear what other people pay and I'm just 
staggered. Because that was never Tommy's idea. 

Riess: Is Grace a landscape architect? 

Church: No, she is not. But she is very intelligent and she's very 

artistically inclined. She has certain things that she can fulfill. 
She relies totally on Tommy. Well, I wish we could have Walter. I 
just adore Walter. He's a wonderful human being. 

Riess: I'm sure that more and more people are wanting to know who they should 
turn to [to have gardens designed]. 



Church : 



Church : 

That's very difficult because there just isn't anybody. Now Jack 
Stafford has moved down to Woodside, down in the country. There's 
just loads of work; or there has been, I don't think there is just 
now. But I've gotten the impression that people perhaps thought 
that they were going to get an image of Tommy, and they didn't, how 
could they? You know you can't pass that sort of thing that he has 
on to somebody else. Do you think? 


Who has ever been someone that absolutely stepped into the shoes of 
another person? I've never heard of it. Everyone feels Tommy is 
a unique person. I guess he is. 

he is.' 

We sit here saying that so coolly. Well, yes, of course, 

I guess so. I've often thought --everybody always thought that I 
didn't really appreciate Tommy. I d_o appreciate Tommy, but I've 
always turned away a little bit from what goes on in the profession 
an awful lot, wives who extol their husbands in every possible way. 

It's for other people to make those statements. You can either 
agree or not agree or look smug or do whatever you like, but don ' t 
make the statements yourself. Tommy would have hated it if I'd been 
that way anyway. If anybody's going to make those remarks, he'll 
make them. He feels quite confident about his work, what he's done. 

I think often wives don't know all the struggle, whereas other people 
observe it differently and see accomplishments as being much more 
triumphs than you would. 

I think that's absolutely true. I wasn't privy to all of his ideas 
and designs and things. Of course I saw a lot of them. I was 
awfully lucky. He told me a lot of the things that had happened and 
so on, and the people talked a great deal. Naturally I didn't know 
very many people that were unhappy with what Tommy had done. They 
wouldn't come to me necessarily. I suppose he had experiences that 
weren't agreeable. You couldn't very well be in business as long as 
he was and not. 

I realize now that I'm in this position [interviewee] that this 
work [oral history] if you can call my part of it work, is helping me 
to realize how much I have learned about his life and his work which 
I have never really just sat down and thought about much. I realize, 

too, that now I can identify certain things — lots of time I wouldn't 
have any idea why he would do a certain thing- -now I can see it and I 
can put it against other examples and so forth. Well, I've had a very 
fortunate life to have been exposed to all these things. 


52) A Beautiful Visitor 

Church: Oh, I must tell you a charming thing that happened just a little 

while before you came. I went out to put my car in the garage and 
the garage door was open. I was just going toward it to press the 
button and close it when I saw a taxi stop in the middle of Hyde 
Street. Two ladies got out. The taxi man was sort of gesticulating. 

The two ladies went toward the gate. They looked through the 

little window. As I was standing at the garage door I said to them, 

"Is there somebody you're looking for?" But with the noise of the 
street and everything, they didn't hear me. 

Then one of them opened the gate and stepped in. So then I 
went up to them. I said, "Can I help you?" I looked and the forward 
one, the one that was sort of taking charge, was Julie Harris^ 

I looked at her and you know it all happened so quickly and it 
was so strange because I've always admired her tremendously. I've 
never met her though I know she's a cousin of Betty Stephenson" s, 
who was Betty Gayley. I've known the family forever because it was 
Mrs. Gayley 's family. (She was Mrs. Gay ley's niece.) She was with 
a young woman that I presume is working with her or something. 

I looked at her and she was simply beautifully charming, and 
beautifully made-up. Her face was just absolute perfection. 1 I said, 
"But you are--" before I knew what I was saying. 

And she said, "I am Julie Harris." 

"But of course. I know you. And I've seen you and I admire 
you so much." I said, "I'm a childhood friend of Betty Stephenson." 
So she smiled and said, "Yes." I was so sort of amazed and really 
quite thrilled, and I didn't even say who I was. 

She said, "We're just making a tour of San Francisco and we just 
had a few hours this afternoon and the taxi man said we must see 
this place." 

I said, 'Veil please come in." 

She said, "Is this your house and garden?" 

I said, "Yes." Then I suddenly realized, I said, "I haven't 
introduced myself. I'm Betsy Church and my husband is a landscape 
architect." I don't think she remembered that her mother and father 
both knew Tommy. They they exclaimed [over the garden]. 


Church: Because Tommy was just about to go out and there was a lot of 

confusion, I didn't invite them into the house. But anyway, they 
did look in the garden. "Oh," she said, "isn't this beautiful. 1 " 
She was simply adorable.' And wasn't that interesting that it was 
the taxi man who brought them there? I'm so glad I didn't miss her. 1 
It would have been so easy to have missed her. -Extraordinary.' 
[Julie Harris was performing in San Francisco in "The Belle of 
Amherst ."] 

53) Frank Lloyd Wright 

Riess: I wanted to ask you about how Tommy got associated with Frank Lloyd 
Wright on the house in Carmel. 

Church: Oh, now that's a very cute story. Mrs. Walker, now Mrs. Van Loben 

Sels, a very elderly lady, and always a wonderful lady, shortly after 
the war she came to Tommy. She had acquired a really beautiful 
property at Carmel. 

The Walker family had owned for many years a whole town up in 
the northern part of California that was nothing but lumber, a 
lumber-town and they were always said to be sort of land poor. 
(It's Harriet Henderson's mother.) They weren't poor, but they didn't 
evidently have access to the millions that they now have. When all 
these things transpired and the lumber town was bought, and they got 
a lot of money, Mrs. Walker decided she wanted Frank Lloyd Wright to 
build a house for her. She didn't really know him, so she suggested 
to Tommy that he write him a letter. 

Tommy had met him, but [Wright] always sort of ignored Tommy. 
At any rate, Tommy wrote him this letter. It was quite long and 
detailed and Tommy approached him as if he were approaching royalty 
really, in a very dignified manner --"Yours very sincerely" or something 
like that. 

There was quite a difference between the letters, in fact 
Wright's was not a letter, it was a telegram. Tommy had said, "Would 
you consider it?" and so forth. 

The reply from Frank Lloyd Wright just simply said, "Dear 
Church: Why not?" I thought that was awfully cute. Frank Lloyd 
Wright was very witty, could be witty. Anyway, Tommy didn't work, 
you know, cheek by jowl with Frank Lloyd Wright, because that wasn't 
Frank Lloyd Wright's style at all. 


Riess: Was that a case where Tommy got in on the siting? 

Church: Honestly I don't remember. I don't really think he had terribly 
much to do with it. 

Riess: Just providing the introduction. 

Church: I think he brought them together. I don't remember his talking about 
being in on any conferences or anything like that. Really I think 
Mrs. Walker left it almost completely to Frank Lloyd Wright, with 
the result that it had some of the most amazing omissions and 
additions. [Laughter] 

One of the omissions was that there was no back door and no 
possible place for anybody to get the garbage or anything unmentionable 
out of the house except out through the front door. So the village 
carpenter had to be called in after Frank Lloyd Wright had left the 
job [laughter] and he hastily sawed a hole so the garbage people 
could get in and out. 

Then, the scale of his house is always minute because he was so 
tiny so he didn't think anybody required more. 

Riess: I didn't know that. 

Church: Oh, yes. He was quite small. He and Willis Polk were both minute 
and the scale of their houses is very much in their scale. The 
doorways are always very low. I used to hear people complain about 
the bathrooms, that they couldn't turn around and so on [laughs]. 

I guess Tommy helped with the planting. I would imagine that 
Frank Lloyd Wright sited that house entirely himself because it's 
just like a ship, you know, heading out to sea. As I say, I never 
heard of Tommy being in on conferences with him. Maybe he was. I'll 
ask him. He always admired him. He thought he was very entertaining. 

We never went to Taleisin. When I was down in Arizona I kind of 
wish that I had because I thought, "Oh, dear, that's one of the things 
one really should have seen in life." I heard about it so often. I 
certainly wouldn't have wanted to have gone and stayed there. It 
must have been a traumatic experience. His draftsmen were said to 
drag themselves more dead than alive to the drafting boards at night 
after they'd been through all sorts of plowing. And the wives made 
all the jams and jellies and goodness knows what that they consumed 
during the winter months, or the summer months or however the seasons 

Riess: It sounds like a Utopian community. 


Church: It wasn't Utopian. These young people paid a lot of money to go 

there. Today it's very expensive, and it's still run by his widow, 
who's sort of a fantastic character. There has to be a string 
quartet through dinner because he insisted on having music through 

There were awfully funny stories. Eric Mendelsohn told about 
going there and Frank Lloyd Wright showed him all over. They came 
to the door of the drafting room and all the boys were bending over 
their drawings. Eric turned to Frank Lloyd Wright and he said, 
"Well, Frank, I see you are making little Frank Lloyd Wrights." 

And Frank Lloyd Wright drew himself up to his full height and 
he said, "Eric, there are no little Frank Lloyd Wrights." [Laughs] 
But you know the sad thing is there's nothing but . No one has ever 
emerged from that school, has there? Has there ever been a really 
great, exciting architect that's come out? 

Riess: Isn't Soleri from that? 

Church: Yes. I told you I went there [Arcosanti] to see him. I didn't, 

however, go to see the great city. But I saw that he's doing very 
much the same sort of thing that Frank Lloyd Wright did. He has the 
students and they're all with the long hair and dragging around. The 
dust was blowing and it was all sort of half -finished and didn't look 
as if it would ever be finished. Things grew up out of nothing. 
There were caves. 

I couldn't get any real feeling about it. I was looking at it 
without Tommy. I really prefer to have him isolate what—because 
after all he is a trained expert and he could put his finger on 
things and I then in my foolish way could sort of fill in. I'm not 
a judge really. 

Riess: That is a result of training, that you can isolate the form of something 
Church: Exactly. I can't do that. No one ever has trained me. 

Tommy doesn't know Soleri. I guess they have a model and a book 
about Arcosanti. That was displayed here. Did you happen to see it? 

Riess: Yes. 

Church: Well, it was most confusing. The model was there, but I could not 

get anything out of it. And that night I had the most extraordinary 

nightmare. I really did. I never have a nightmare but I was just 
motivated by having seen that. I was in this weird house and I was 
trying to get out and I'd go out a window and then I- -I couldn't. Yet 
I'm used to looking at fairly new sort of things. 


Church: This man Lewis Ruskin [see pages 429-431] said Wright was a 

very gifted man, but he was utterly impossible. I've always heard 
that he was awfully difficult to work with. He's very bossy. 

I'll never forget being in Paris, shortly after the war, when 
Wright was being honored at the Beaux Arts. It was the first time 
that the Beaux Arts had ever asked a foreign architect to display 
his drawings. I was with this American woman. We got there and the 
students were all lined up outside because they were waiting for him 
to arrive. His car came and he got out. He was dressed in his cape 
and wearing his great big ring which he always had --and like a pope 
he used to extend it to kiss it. He had the proudest, most unappealing 
effect really. 

These students were so worshipfull that they really were ready 
to bend their knee. In fact I'm not sure some of them didn't, 
especially if they were going to catch him in a photograph or some 
thing. He never looked to the right or the left. He just didn't 
give an inch. He swept into the Beaux Arts and as far as I know he 
never spoke to any of them. It was so funny. 

54) House Beautiful 

Riess: How did your association with House Beautiful begin? 

Church: Well, Elizabeth Gordon got in touch with Tommy. She wrote to him. 

She had seen some things in Sunset or something. Then she began to 
publish Tommy very early. 

Riess: It is an eastern magazine. 

Church: Yes, it's a Hearst magazine. There were the two magazines: House 
and Garden and House Beautiful. House and Garden is Conde Nast and 
House Beautiful is Hearst. I always felt, and I think many other 
people did, too, that the old-fashioned taste, less of the dynamic 
exciting new things, features and so on, were in House and Garden. 
That was more the old things, and the houses and gardens and things 
that were photographed were apt to be established and very beautiful. 

Elizabeth Gordon was—and is, she's retired but she's very 
lively—very, very far ahead of her time. Her magazine, House 
Beautiful, brought out things that were going to be recognized. I 
saw a great deal of her because we traveled together and I was very 
much impressed and drawn to her. She was interesting because she 


Church: was so totally different from us, and yet she had this far-seeing 
understanding of Tommy's work. She is really a very brilliant 
woman, I think, but, you know, lots of geniuses are peculiar, and 
she just is a little bit peculiar. 

I think back over so many things that she said. They were 
very far, very far-seeing, very far ahead. She saw changes that 
were coming and brought them out in the magazine. 

Riess: In lifestyle? 

Church: Lifestyle, and she was very much concerned with the kind of living. 
She was crazy about California because she felt that was the way 
and of course she's been proven so right. She felt that Tommy was 
the exponent of that here in the garden world. Of course, that's 
really been proven. 

Riess: The exponent of the indoor-outdoor living kind of thing? 
Church: Yes, and the reduction of maintenance and all of that. 

Riess: I should think that if Sunset featured him first that that would be 
exactly what they would latch on to. 

Church: Yes, that is. She may have seen his things there at first. That 
I don't honestly know. 

Anyway, they met fairly early on, by the end of the war, and he 
did her garden in the east. Then we saw her a great deal. She used 
to come out here and visit. 

Riess: How about writing for the magazine? 

Church: Yes, he did quite a bit of writing. Then when he published the book, 
House Beautiful gave him all the prints, all the colored photographs 
and everything. They were just handed to the publisher. But then, 
of course, they ceased to publish it. 

Riess: Oh, they went from House Beautiful to the publisher- 
Church: --so we haven't got them. They said they couldn't reprint them. I 
don't know whether that was true. I'm told that it probably wasn't; 
they just didn't want to. Pretty soon the book world began to change 
and now the book people today don't want to reprint, they want to 
print something new because they think they have more of a chance of 
making money on a new item. 


Church: Now this book [Gardens are for People] is just so desirable, 

everybody wants it. It did go into several editions, but everyone 
said it should never have been allowed to go out of print. To me 
it's a terrible tragedy. I just wish it could be redone. But I 
don't know how. Also the publishers hold the copyright, which I 
understand isn't ordinarily done. That's not cricket. The writer 
usually has the copyright. But the copyrights do run out. So 
maybe this one's run out.* But I thought one time I'd take it to 
Japan and have it reprinted or something. 

Riess: In a talk in 1971, Tommy said about his work on the east coast, "After 
all I'm 3,000 miles away. They saw something in House Beautiful so 
the fact that my fees are twice as much as the local guy doesn't 
matter." In other words, that having had something published--** 

Church: Yes, it's quite interesting because there would sometimes be requests 
from—well, one of his jobs that was quite fascinating and thrilling 
at the time was a job in Salvador. She had seen his things in House 

55) "Who Else Worked That Hard?" 

Riess: It must have been a nuisance though, all the writing and the 

photographing. I mean there must have been reasons why other land 
scape architects don 't do that. 

Church: Now I don't know about other people really, but I don't think there 

was anyone that devoted as much time to his work as Tommy did because 
he was practically never home. There were many years when we rose 
from the dinner table and Tommy went down to the office. If he got 
going on something he'd be there until 2 o'clock in the morning. 
(And in those days we never locked the door and I'm sure he never 
locked the door of the office. Just imagine where the office is.') 
And I would wake up about 2 o'clock and he wasn't home. Then I'd 
call the office and if they didn't answer there, then I wouldn't know 
whether he had left or what. You know, it was really sort of eerie. 
But I don't think very many people that I can think of worked as 
hard as he did. And vacations and weekends. Saturdays and Sundays, 
my heavens, he was never here. 

*See Grace Hall interview. 

**Northern California Chapter, American Society of Landscape 
Architects, February 9, 1971. 


Riess : 



Riess : 
Church : 


In the same talk someone asked him, "You have established your name 
as a landscape architect on an international basis. Have you 
developed a formula of activity which led to this? A process or a 
program?" And Doug Baylis answered for him: "The moment that you 
have gardens made and some good photographs, it follows. He photo 
graphed his own gardens. He works and turns out gardens. Who else 
does that?" 

Isn't that cute, yes. 

And that does seem very pointed it seems to me. 

Yes, well I think he lived and breathed his gardens. I'm sure there 
must have been disappointing things in all of that that happened, 
but I never was conscious of it. And if there were, he never dwelled 
on them or he certainly never told me. 

Maynard Parker was the photographer for House Beautiful? 

Yes, he did a lot of photographing for House Beautiful and he became 
a great friend. I'll tell you who Tommy adored, though, in the early 
days, was Roger Sturtevant. He retired when he was very much too 
young really. He lives up in Glen Ellen. But he is a marvelous 

And Roy Partridge was another of the photographers? 

Would Tommy call these photographers or would the magazine commission 

I think Elizabeth had Maynard. She was a great friend and he was a 
great friend of hers. If she ever saw a photograph that she liked, 
well then she'd get it. But I don't think she ever ordered Partridge. 
I don't know that Partridge did too much work for Tommy. I really 
don't remember. 

56) Tommy the Photographer 

Church: Tommy was very interested in doing his own work. He's having a very 
hard time now because he wants to have a lot of things photographed. 
He has several people that have sort of offered themselves. They're 
going out and photographing. But I don't know that he's actually 
settled on anybody as yet. I think it must be awfully hard because he 
must see things that they don't. 

Interviewed , in Vol. I. 


Riess: I was interested, after having seen your travel books, to find how 
details Tommy had photographed have been used in this book [Gardens 
are for People] , like the lichen-covered ball on the top of the 
balustrade and the window in the chateau. 

Church: With the bird's nest in it? 

Riess: Yes, right, and a little bit of crumbling wall. 

Church: Charming. And years ago when we first used to go to New York I 
remember his photographing out of the windows the paving of the 
streets. I began to look at pavings. When I first lived in Paris 
I remember the cobblestones and how I adored them. Then people said, 
"Oh, we hate these cobblestones. They're so dangerous and your 
heels sink down into them." That never occurred to me; they were 
just so beautiful that I never would have thought of criticizing 

And then I always liked brick. I hated the smooth cement. Of 
course the brush cement with the pebbles, the concrete and all, 
that's very pretty. I thought smooth cement was just the most 
horrible material you could possibly use. I still think so. 

Riess: He was photographing the paving of the streets of New York or 

Church: New York. Yes, he used to lean out of the hotel window. We used to 
stay in the little hotel that was near the Metropolitan. Across, 
the sidewalk that runs along 5th Avenue, borders the park, has some 
awfully pretty either cobblestones or something like that. Maybe 
they're still there. I don't know. But there must be some 

And I remember one time we were in Guatemala and we watched some 
natives laying bricks in the courtyards. Tommy began photographing, 
and the man was just astounded. He just felt himself to be a humble 
artisan and Tommy felt he was a great artist. 

Riess: Well, then, he has taken care of photographing details through the 

Church: Oh, yes. Oh, indeed he has. I just can't tell you. He's working 
on these photographs now. He started doing that last week. He has 
a lot of them up here. Then, of course, he has tons more in the 
office. He keeps getting out all the photographs and sort of dividing 
them up, putting them into folders and so forth. So we've been going 
through quite a lot of nostalgia. [Laughs] 


57) -- And Poet, and Designer 

Church ; 

Riess : 



Church : 

Tommy had a letter recently from a man in Southern California 
contratulating him on the ASLA award. He said he had seen the 
slide show and thought it was wonderful. He said, "You won't 
remember me, but I was in some of your classes when you were 
teaching briefly at the University of California, and what a 
wonderful sense of direction it gave to us." 

He said, "I have a squash partner. We play in the evenings. 
He gave me a present the other day. It is a booklet that I'm sure 
you'll recall. It is called 'Beyond the Rim" by Thomas Dolliver 
Church. It was published in 1921." 

Have you ever seen it? 


Well, this is amusing. I'll see if I can put my hand on one. They 
gradually disappeared over the years. When he was 16 years old his 
poems were gathered together, his boyhood poems, and put in this 
cunning little book and privately printed. 

By whom were they put together? 

I don't remember. Maybe he did it himself. 

Oh, I think that's just excellent. 

It's awfully cute. I'll look for it and show it to you the next 

This man had said he had no idea that Tommy also was a poet. I 
wrote to him and said--I was answering his letter — that I was awfully 
pleased that he liked them. I said I_ was also surprised that Tommy 
was a poet because he never mentioned them to me. But I did find a 
clutch of them at the bottom of an old trunk one time. Anyway it was 
very charming. 

I scribbled a note to ask about the birdfeeder type design for the 
lighting fixtures in oak trees on the Stanford and Berkeley campuses. 

Those are not Tommy's designs. No, that is a light that I think he's 
used for a long time. He thinks it's the most harmonious. It's a very 
highly thought of and probably expensive light, but it isn't as if hje 
had designed that. 











Beyond the Rim 



TV COM /.. WMiamt Inuautr far Crm/tt EJuraio* 
TlaruW O«*<. UnMn. 

Beyond the Rim 

Voice from the silent mazes, 

Beyond the rim, 
Struggling for shape, dimensioi 

In the dim 

Unconsciousness. Be free! 
We know the fearsome fares, 
The awe — the glory/ 
In the unknown places 
We grasp, blindly, 
What force is this? — 
Or that? 

It does not matter, 
We are bound in one. 


My Masterpiece 
With great care I planned 
My masterpiece. 
With terrible accuracy 
I chose my words, my phrases — 
For it was to be masterful, 
It was to be vivid, delicate, 
Subtle, powerful. 

I would question the existence of things, 
I would tear down every belief of man and 

build again. 

I would thunder at the gates of the incredible 
And flood the world with a new light of 

And it would be masterful. 
Men would be amazed, 
The world would be amazed, . 
God would be amazed. 
And then — after weeks and months 
It was finished. 

I groped in vast untrammeled spaces, 
Found other worlds, other universes; 
Struggled with vague forces, 
Dared infinite gods — 
It was my masterpiece. 
I loved it and wept over it. 


But men shook their heads. 

Here was an idler 

With nothing to do but dream, 

And to question the very foundation 

Upon which they 

Builded their existence. 

They did not see my vision — 

They saw me, 

And so they shook their heads. 

I laid it away. 
Then one day 
With nothing else to do 
I let my pen wander, 

It was — I forget — something about sun 

And winds, and new-made nests, 
And singing flowers. 
An hour perhaps — and I forgot it. 

But men acclaimed a masterpiece! 
They depicted a subtleness 1 had not 

dreamed of. 
It was a vision, 
Daring, vivid, powerful. 
It. was my vision — 
It was my masterpiece! [ 23 ] 


Church: Now the lights that he did design are these lights in our 

garden. Have you ever seen those when they've been on? They're 
very charming. They were inspired by the sort of fun fair place in 
Copenhagen, Tivoli, and they have the smallest light globes possible. 

Tommy also designed our chandelier in the hall which you must 
look at. If you are ever driving by here at night, it's always on. 
You get the most charming view in that little pointed window; this 
thing just swings in the window so that from the street you see it. 
It's really very charming. 

Riess: Did he design any outdoor furniture? 

Church: There is some outdoor furniture that he designed for one of the 
gardens at the Fair. We always intended to have it made, but he 
never did. 

In the thirties there was this terrific thing of floodlights. 
People embedded a floodlight and then it shot up into the top of 
the oak tree and startled the birds in their nests and startled the 
people, too. I always thought they were perfectly hideous. I remember 
that when we went to Tivoli we had a conversation about that. I said 
to Tommy, "Oh, I find these so delightful"--! think they have the 
same wattage but divided amongst several globes instead of having 
just one terrible globe that always hits you in the eye. 


Interview #7 - January 27, 1978 

58) Tommy's Work in the Northwest 

Riess: Our discussion today should be about Tommy's work after 1950. 

Church: Most of the work that came through clients in those years was work 
on established things. Two of his great gardens in the fifties and 
sixties were the famous ones up in the Seattle area that Tommy worked 
on for many years, Wagner and Bloedel. Maybe there had been an 
original concept of them, perhaps stemming from the architect, because 
both of the houses were done by very good architects. 

While Tommy worked over different parts of them, he always had 
the main lines of the garden in mind with a view of the plant growth 
and the trees and all the surround of the Northwest, which was an 
area in which he hadn't really worked very much, I don't think. He 
hadn't worked in exactly that—he worked for [Pietro] Belluschi, he 
did some jobs with Belluschi when he was still in the Northwest, and 
another man, but those were modern houses, and it was still at the 
period when the great European influence had not expanded as later 
in the fifties and sixties. 

Riess: By the great European influence, you mean- 
Church: Almost like some of the parks. Well, those two particular gardens 

are very park-like. I mean, one is like a big English garden and the 
other one is like entering a French park. And they really are large 
pieces of property. 

Riess: And was there an earlier landscape architect associated with those 

Church: Other people had been consulted. The Bloedel house was designed by 

owner Bertram Collins, a decorator. And its terraces and the entrance, 
etc., were outlined by Collins in the manner of the French architects. 

The Wagner house was remodeled by William Platt of New York. 
That was a more informal, natural garden. It had the air of having 
been created by the original owner, a garden lover of great taste. 


Church: I remember that when Tommy was first working at the Wagners' 
Bill Platt was still doing the house over. 

Riess: P-1-a-t-t? 

Church: Yes, he was Charles Platt 's son. There are two sons, and I think 
they're still active. No, I'm sure they're retired, but they're 
the kind of people that would never stop working. They're absolutely 
marvelous. Tommy did many things with Bill in the New York area. 

Riess: And so it was through him that he met the Wagners? 

Church: No, no. He met the Wagners and the Bloedels through the Benoists who 
had become friends through the work at Almaden and Paicenes, who 
told them to call to get in touch with Tommy, and so they both did. 

Riess: In a garden of that scale were there new principles that he applied to 
that situation? (The old challenge had been to make a pleasant living 
space for a fairly urban situation.) 

Church: I have a feeling that that was just exactly what it was—deleting your 
word "urban" in this case. Pleasant certainly, and agreeable to the 
wishes and tastes of the owners, who were both blessed with great 
taste. (This may always have come first with Tommy.) But of course 
with attention paid to the prospect, which must please. 

The jobs he did in the East were often a little bit more elaborate- 
classic?--in a way, because it was usually the people with more vision 
that would have heard of Tommy and think of importing somebody from 
California. And possibly they had more money to spend. I remember 
in the early days it was often said that Tommy was very expensive to 
have in the East. Tommy found this amusing. It was the architects, 
in the twenties, before the Depression and before everything changed 
so extraordinarily, that "set" the house and did all the terraces and 
indicated what should happen in the garden. 

They did not have landscape architects then, just as they didn't 
here, really. They were very few and far between. The charming 
Italian man who lived on Long Island, Innocenti, he had an office 
that survived the Depression. But there were very few, two or three 
that I can think of, and Tommy brought sort of a fresh view, I think, 
to the picture. 

He did some of Ed Stone's residences. He worked in a diversity 
of--he had no one style, really. He did work on a lot of different 
kinds of projects. 


Church: But I started to say that out here the people that were beginning 
to build the houses that were going to house themselves and their 
families for "x" number of years really wanted a lot of things. All 
of them wanted a swimming pool, and they wanted tennis courts, and 
they wanted a variety of activities on the place. And if they 
happened to be particularly drawn towards gardening—everybody wasn't, 
and also it was a moment when people hadn't begun to have all that 
money, so they didn't think in terms of gardening either because, 
in the first place, you could hardly get gardeners, and in the second 
place, when you again could get them, they were very, very expensive. 
Even the Basque sheepherders turned gardeners had become very expensive 

Riess: This is, I think, the Wagners' swimming pool [Your Private World, 
p. 141].* 

Church: That's the Wagners' pool, yes. 

Riess: It looks like it could be just a small decorative pool in the middle 
of the garden. 

Church: Yes. 

Riess: And yet this is a swimming pool that's 40 feet from side to side. 

Church: It doesn't look so large, of course, because it's in that quatrefoil 
pattern, and it's all flat so that you just look at it practically 
from eye level. 

Riess: Is the whole garden done in this style, or are other areas quite 

Church: This is just one area. For instance she has a charming knot garden 

which I think was the last thing that Tommy did for her. That's off 
of the sort of garden terrace near the kitchen. 

Riess: Would he accept labeling this garden as truly classical and formal 
or would he feel accused? 

Church: I don't think Tommy ever felt "accused." Of course I never knew 

Tommy really as a client, but I never heard him denounce anything; 
I mean, unless it were really ghastly. If he made sort of a turning- 
away gesture, then it wasn't very obvious that it was ghastly, but I 
knew that he just thought that was beyond—but that didn't happen 
very often. 

*Your Private World, by Thomas D. Church, San Francisco Chronicle 
Books, 1969. 


Church: People used to say that somebody or other had copied Tommy. I 

don't think that was ever really true. But Tommy always said, well, 
he couldn't think of anything more complimentary because in the first 
place, he said, there is absolutely nothing that hasn't been done, 
you know, somewhere. 

Riess: Under the sun. 

Church: And the thing that is important anyway isn't that. He laid great 
stress on scale, and I think he tried very hard to teach that, and 
it's obvious that you just can't teach it because so few people really 
have it. 

59) More About the Garden at 2626 Hyde Street 

Riess: You said that you were never a client, but in a letter that I have 
from Joseph Howland, he says [reading from letter], "I have a hunch 
that the re-do of his own garden, as shown in House Beautiful under 
byline Thomas Church, really brought him the most pleasure. His wife 
was a super-demanding client. Or call her an impossible client. Yet 
the garden re-do pleased Tommy as much as it did her." 

Church: Isn't that amusing.' 

Riess: I think you'll have to respond to that. 

Church: That's awfully funny. I really don't remember that. You know, the 
things that I don't remember; it's just terrible. It shows how, oh, 
desperately important it is to write down. I don't care if you fling 
it out of the window at the end of your life, but you really should 
write everything down, because now so much of it is just gone. 

Riess: Well, but you probably remember the process of working on this garden 
out front. 

Church: I never had very much to do with any of the gardens. I really didn't. 
I really was a bystander, and I never suggested anything, because I-- 

Riess: But this garden was done for you. 

Church: Well, yes. I guess everything here, both the places, was done for me. 
I certainly appreciated it. It's funny, we had a hard time remembering 
the other garden; we have to be reminded of it by pictures. But yet 
I loved the other garden. 


Church: I remember John Yeon said a wonderful thing. When this garden 
was first done he came to see it and he said, "Now, Betsy, you have 
a formal entrance and an informal garden." And he said, "Before, 
what you had was a formal garden and an informal entrance." 

In the original garden, the front walk ran along the side of 
the flats next door and then attached to a miserable little staircase 
that came up like this [gestures], and then you turned to the left, 
and then you encountered the front door, so that the front door had 
no setting or anything, you know, and it always bothered me terribly. 
But then I never really understood why, but I thought that was a 
wonderful way to put it. 

Riess: Yes. Well, when did it become obvious that a new garden must be 

Church: Well, I'll tell you. One summer we were in France, and we had never 
been together at Fontainebleau and we went there. It's not at all 
like the Italian villas. It's not grandiose. It is sort of simple 
and domestic in a way. The staircase certainly was simple; it was 
almost that you could envision having it. And I said to Tommy, "Now, 
that to me is a pretty staircase. Wouldn't it be fun to do that at 
home?" And he said, "Well, it would." 

When we got home, he went out to a wrecker's and he found this 
double stair. It was an interior stair, this railing and all of 
that. I think it actually is golden oak or something underneath and 
it has that sort of turn-of-the-century decoration on it. 

He got that, and we had this wonderful old contractor that used 
to work for us, and Tommy said he just had to have him. He had 
retired to an old man's home, but he was allowed to come out in 
order to construct, to make the staircase so that it would work, with 
the entrance. And I think that was the thing that then brought about 
the change of the garden. 

Riess: And did Tommy keep checking with you, the client, on the details 
of it? 

Church: Oh, no. Oh, no. Never.' Oh, never.' [Laughter] 

Riess: Or was it just surprise? Well, isn't that funny that Mr. Howland's 
sense of you is that you were very demanding. 

Church: I don't know where he got that feeling that I was a dominant figure. 
Well, I'm flattered, but I don't think it's true. 

Riess: And he also said he always gathered that Jerd Sullivan was probably 
Tommy's favorite client. 


Church: Mrs. Jerd Sullivan. Well, I imagine he talked a great deal about her 
at that time. I don't think Tommy ever had a "favorite client." It 
was always the client of the hour, the one that he was working for 
at the moment. It's like a writer; their favorite thing is what 
they're working on right at that moment. 

And he had the most remarkable clients.' I can hardly think— 
I'm sure that other people—but, you see, the young people, the young 
men coming along today, they won't ever know that, that feeling, 
because first of all they don't get that kind of job, and in order 
to keep themselves alive I guess they have to do a lot of commercial 
work, which must be abominable. 

Riess: Well, it seems to me that one thing that would make a person Tommy's 
most favorite client would be that the person would be most involved 
in the process. 

Church: Exactly. 

Riess: I can't imagine most professionals allowing that much involvement 
from their client. 

60) The Garden Designer Women 

Church: Oh, they haven't got time, and they don't have that kind of a job. 
You know, really, much of the kind of work that Tommy did is now 
going to—well, have you heard of somebody called Jean Wolff? 

Riess: Yes, yes. 

Church: She has a lovely garden that Tommy did years ago. 

She's never been professionally trained. She's a perfectly 
delightful person who's always loved gardening. When her husband died 
and she sort of reached a turning point in her life, she found herself 
with a little gathering of the young matrons who didn't want to spend 
a lot of money and also they wanted to learn—just the way young 
people today want to learn about cooking— they wanted to learn everything 
they could about gardening. With some it takes; they become the most 
marvelous gardeners. With others it doesn't. 

But meanwhile Jean has provided this perfectly marvelous liaison. 
Big const ruction --when she got something that she couldn't really 
envision, she always brought it to Tommy. Sometimes they worked things 


Church: out together, and sometimes he worked on the constructed part of the 
job. In a way she is like Isabella Worn, who had the sense of the 
flowers and the plants. Have you ever seen Jean Wolff's garden? 

Riess: Yes. 

Church: Don't you think it's just beautiful? 

Riess: Yes. Well, of course. But it's Tommy's design. 

Church: Yes, but then she keeps it. To me it's like a--well, a shrine is 
being a little sentimental. But she keeps it alive and nourished, 
and it's so beautiful. It's always so beautifully kept. 

Riess: Yes. She really understands what she's doing. 

Church: Of course, she has a full-time gardener who lives on the place. She 
and her sister share the garden and then they share the gardener. 

Riess: Does she understand scale, though, in the way that Tommy really 
understands it? 

Church: I think she does, though that I'm not absolutely certain, I don't 
have too much experience. She would be the first to say that she 
did or didn't, because she's very modest, but she's very sure of 
what she does know. About ten years ago she started having classes 
and now it's quite a going thing in San Francisco. 

This last month two young ladies came to San Francisco without 
any warning. One of them just telephoned and said she was here, 
poor thing, in the midst of all the terrible storms and everything. 
She was an English girl who has been married to an architect and 
they're now separated and she has these children, so she's not in 
her twenties precisely, and she decided that she wanted to become 
a landscape architect. She's been going to an horticultural college 
or something in England and knows a lot about horticulture. Obviously 
in England that would be one of the big parts of your education, I 

Riess: Yes. 

Church: Anyway, she arrived for a week's stay and said that she wanted to 
see as many of Tommy's gardens as she could possibly see, and 
preferably the small town gardens. Well, the rain was coming down. 
Several times it was raining so hard when we were taking her around 
that we had to stop and go under a tree. You know, that storm was 
just unbelievable. 


Church: She had landed in Los Angeles and she'd come up to Santa Barbara 

and it was such a shame she had no preparation. Of course today, you 
know, people don't give out their names on lists of people with 
beautiful gardens or anything like that; the profile is very, very 
low here, both north and south. And so she was in Santa Barbara 
for two days and she couldn't see anything because we didn't know 
anything about her; she hadn't gotten in touch with us and we couldn't 
tell her. She had gone to the city hall; well, of course, they 
wouldn't have known anything about anything. 

Riess: That's true, yes. 

Church: It's so sad because there were several people that certainly would 
have been very happy to show her their gardens down there. 

And then the other day I met a most charming French girl, 
perfectably adorable, and she was here visiting her parents, and 
she wanted to see everything she could of Tommy's. We didn't have 
time to go around very much, but she went to the office and looked 
at a lot of the photographs. And she has this same kind of a job 
[as Jean Wolff] that she does. She has a little car. She has no 
overhead at all. Her car's full of tools and soil and herself, and 
she goes around to people's gardens. She lives in Orlando, Florida, 
and she's as busy as she can possibly be. She was just charming. 

Riess: But she's not a landscape architect. 

Church: She's not. You see, they're not really trained. I mean, their eye 
isn't trained, you see. Tommy always used to speak of the dirt 
gardener, and these are, well, let's say several steps up from that. 
And also their forte is horticulture, which Tommy's never was. 

Osgood Hooker, a darling friend of ours who was a tremendous 
horticulturist and a completely opposite kind of person from Tommy, 
always made the most terrific jokes about Tommy. He said that he 
barely could recognize a geranium. 

Riess: Who is Osgood Hooker? 

Church: Oh, he was an adorable person. Tommy did his garden in the old days 
down in Burlingame. He was really a superb person. He had graduated 
in architecture and worked as a gentleman architect, the last one 
that we've ever heard of, and the only one I ever heard of here, in 
Arthur Brown's office. He worked there for many years and never took 
a salary. His family was wealthy and they had everything all figured 
out. It was going to last forever; their world was going to last 
forever. And so Osgood never had to work, and by the time we knew him 
he had just about given up going to Arthur Brown's except if he wanted 


Church: to build an addition to his woodshed or something down in Hillsborough. 
Tommy worked for him and we were great friends and we traveled together 
a lot. 

He did laugh about Tommy, but Tommy made no bones about it. 

Naturally over the years he learned a great deal about plants, but, 

for instance, when he went to a place in the East, how could he 

suddenly know all the plants there in that short time? So, he had 
to rely on others and he did. 

Another friend of ours who was also very witty said that Tommy- - 
they were talking about how Tommy used to do the moving of stones, 
and he said that if you had a great big rock in your garden already, 
in the property, that he had to order that removed at hideous expense, 
but if you didn't have one, then he had it brought in. [Laughter] 

61) Architect Associates of the Fifties and Sixties 

Riess: I'd like your recollections of Tommy's response to working with some 
architects other than Wurster, with Esherick, for instance. 

Church: Maybe he did some jobs with Joe. I really sort of can't think of them. 
Riess: John Funk? 

Church: Yes, I think he did some work with him. I wonder what's ever happened 
to Funk. Is he still around? 

Riess: I don't know. 


Church: I was thinking about him the other day. I don't know why. But we 
used to see him a lot. Suddenly he disappeared. 

Riess: Mario Corbett? 

Church: Yes, he liked Mario and he did do some things with him. [Since 
died. E.R.C.] 

Riess: Would there be architects whom he really wouldn't work with for one 
reason or another? One reason might be the architect himself. 
Another might be that the whole thing would be too incompatible. 

Church: Maybe. I really wouldn't have known. 

Riess: I'll go through my list. [John C.] Campbell and [Worley] Wong. 


Church: He liked Worley Wong very much. I think maybe he did some things 

with him, but they always did quite a lot of commercial work. Tommy 
early stopped doing anything like that. 

Riess: I'm thinking of their residential architecture though I know they've 
done a lot of non-residential. Callister? 

Church: Warren Callister. Tommy knew him. Now, he may have done one or two 
things with him. His things were highly specialized and very 
intricate, and he was the kind of person, I think, that had one 
thing and just worked on it. He never had a real big flourishing 
office or anything like that, Callister. I think he kept a very low 
profile. [I really don't know about that. E.R.C.] 

Riess: Well, then, in the fifties and sixties were there other architects 
that Tommy particularly worked with? 

Church: He loved to work with Bill because, well, they were generally in 
accord with the project and with one another. But then, you see, 
when Bill came back from MIT, while he'd been gone his office had 
really changed quite a bit from the personal approach to clients as 
much as it had been before, which was Bill's and was the way his 
office started out to be. 

And Tommy adored Gardner Dailey. He loved working with him. In 
the beginning, as was the story of that period, most architects 
started out with more traditional things and then they moved into 
the modern, and that's what Gardner did. 

Bill, I feel, didn't do that so much. He did maybe just one or 
two things that were traditional, one or two examples in his very 
early days, and then he became modern. But then he moved back again 
a little bit into the more traditional. 

Riess: How about [Robert] Anshen and [W.S.] Allen and the Eichler home work? 
Church: Well, Tommy did do some Eichler-home things, yes. 
Riess: Now, was that because of the connection with Bob Anshen? 

Church: Maybe. I guess so. I really don't remember that. [Added by Mrs. 

Church in editing] Other architects Tommy worked with in the fifties 
and sixties were: Willard Rand (San Francisco), Quincy Jones (Los 
Angeles), Richard Kimball (Connecticut), Wallace Neff (Hollywood), 
Henry Eggers (Los Angeles), Goodwin Steinberg (San Jose), Cliff May 
(Los Angeles), Jack Warner (Santa Barbara). 


62) Japanese Gardens 

Riess: Joseph Rowland says, "I always thought California and America 

suffered a large loss in design thinking because Tommy and Harwell 
Hamilton Harris never really seemed to work together, despite a 
tremendous respect each had for the other." 

Church: Well, I don't believe they really did, and I don't see how they could. 

Riess: You don't believe they really worked together, or that they had this 
tremendous respect? 

Church: I don't think they ever did work together. I never heard of them 

doing so. Well, maybe they did have a great respect for each other. 
I imagine they did. 

Riess: Harris, he says, brought Japanese-type design to the west coast. 
Church: Yes, somewhat. 

Riess: Do you think that working in a Japanese garden style would have been 
something that Tommy would have resisted? 

Church: Yes, I think he would have resisted it. I think he never wanted to 
be held down to any particular kind of thing. 

Riess: Did Japanese gardens ever fascinate him? 

Church: You know, he's always been funny about Japan. Yesterday the doctor 
and his wife came to see Tommy. They're going to Japan to give a 
lot of lectures because in Japan they have certain areas where there 
are extraordinarily large numbers of people with this same [disease] 
as Tommy has. And they were asking Tommy, didn't he have lots of 
opportunities to go to Japan and make lectures and so forth, and 
Tommy nodded, and he [the doctor] said, "Oh, you should have gone." 

Tommy went like this [gestures, indicating disagreement]. 

But he never really wanted to do that. He didn't want to become 
too immersed. I think I heard him say one time that he almost feared 
the impact of maybe just being thrown off his base or something. 
Maybe he thought he was too old to take such a- -now, I'm making it 
sound awfully serious. In a way, I always felt it was rather serious. 

All through those fifties and sixties people would come through 
San Francisco from Japan and have a few hours and they'd call us up. 
And we've sat here with more wide-eyed people just off the plane saying, 
"Oh, Tommy, how can you be a landscape architect and not go to Japan?" 


Church: And I just would also sit here thinking, "If you'd only stop 
saying that. 1 We will never get to Japan" If one more person says 
that to Tommy, he'll never go near Japan." [Laughter] 

I do think that's a very foolish assessment, don't you? I mean, 
you can't say to somebody, "How can you be so-and-so without ever 
having been to Japan?" What did they want? 

In the first place, Tommy always said this about himself --now, 
when I've repeated this I've never had anybody that even faintly 
agreed, but I do see what he means. He said that he feels that the 
basic principles in his work, in his thinking, were very much like 
the Japanese because their architecture was a certain way, and it was 
applied to a certain kind of a landscape, and the garden had the same 
principles that he tried to apply to the—I'm not describing it 
properly. But maybe you see what I mean. 

Riess: Well, I always think of a Japanese garden as being an "outdoor room." 

Church: That's right. 

Riess: Rather than a space that goes off indefinitely, it's very contained. 

Church: And it's close to the house. 

Riess: Yes. 

Church: And, as you say, it's a kind of an extension of the house. Now, the 
things that most people think of as the Japanese gardens are the 

Riess: Raked stones? 

Church: No. Well, those are very special. In fact, they have a sacred 
significance, those sands and stone and those things. But the 
beautiful plants and the horticultural part of the garden are what 
most people think of when they think of a Japanese garden. They don't, 
most people don't, look at the plans of a Japanese garden. They are 
now published in books about Japanese gardens, but I don't think most 
people look at those. 

Riess: That's interesting. 

Church: I don't think they look at that. I don't think the plans mean very 
much to them. I think what means a tremendous amount to them are 
the details, the fantastic bonsai and the hundred -year-old this and 
that and the specimens. They have specimens. And apparently to go to 
a Japanese nursery in Tokyo is just one of the great experiences you 
can have. 


Church: I feel that that is sort of what people think of when they 

think of the Japanese garden. They don't think of the relation of 
it to the house and to the site, which, of course, is what the 
garden j^s. At least I think that's always been what Tommy felt. 

Riess: I think of an area like that [Your Private World, p. 167], for instance, 
as suggesting— 

Church: [Looking at picture] Yes. Now, I think that's very Japanesque. 
But, you see, now people here wouldn't think that. They wouldn't 
feel—I've never heard anybody say to Tommy that, " were 
influenced in any way by [Japanese garden design]." 

Riess: The way he used boulders and specimen plants — it's never occurred to 
people to say that? 

Church: I don't think so. 

June Campbell, who worked for many years in Tommy's office, was 
one of the early people that was attracted to the Orient, and as soon 
as she got a little bit of money together, she always went to the 
Orient. And she would come back absolutely in an hypnotic trance of 
Japanese gardens, and I think this used to annoy Tommy very much 
indeed. [Laughter] 

Riess: Now, look at that. 
Japanese garden. 

[Your Private World, p. 65] That looks like a 

Church: Isn't that totally? 

You know, it's funny, I don't know that I've really analyzed it 
so much. My analysis comes about through talking [laughter]. So 
much of it is also running off at the edges, but I think you do 
analyze when you're talking, at least some people do. 

I've never really thought about that as much. But I've often 
thought that that continual talking about "you ought to go to Japan" 
seems— oh, and Elizabeth Gordon, the House Beautiful editor, she 
went to Japan and just sank absolutely below the surface and she's 
never come up from that. She hounded Tommy continually, and finally 
she said to me, "I'm not going to speak about it any more. I see he 
just has a fixed idea." 

Well, I honestly think, now as I'm just sitting here talking 
of this, that probably the reason he did get sort of a— oh, he didn't 
have a fixed idea. It just never worked out exactly, the moment [to 
go] , I mean, he did have lots of offers to go there and teach but 
in the first place, he didn't want to teach, and in the second place, 


Church: he didn't want to spend so much time away from the office. And then 
we had this pull towards Europe, and our daughter was there, and 
the Academy, and Rome, and all kinds of things, like that that really 
drew us more than starting off for the Orient. 

Tommy did suggest a trip once--and I blame myself for not having 
accepted that, I argued against it. Air France was opening an 
inaugural flight from Tokyo to Paris, and he suggested to me we fly 
to Tokyo and have about ten days in Japan and then take the inaugural 
flight. And I said no, because I felt that it would be so overwhelming, 
and only to have 10 days, I wouldn't feel that it was- -now this was 
25 or 30 years ago and you see how thinking has changed, you wouldn't 
hesitate today. 

Riess: I know. 

Church: But I could see myself getting all tangled. Of course I was thinking 
about myself. Now Tommy can go to a place for a weekend and just 
get so much that he doesn't have to stay any longer. In fact, he 
often said that, that he thought you should stay either a very short 
time, or months, where you were really going to sink into the thing. 
Now, that ten days probably would have been a perfectly wonderful 
thing to have done. Anyway, we didn't do it. I'd like to go to 
Japan, but I will have to go probably without Tommy, but I'll be 
thinking all the time "what would he have thought?" and I'll never 
know. I'll never see it in the right way because all my thinking is 
so superficial. 

But as you point out those things in that book, now nobody has 
ever, ever, in any pictures of Tommy's, suggested that there was 
anything that was in any way like a Japanese garden. But I see that 
instantly. It's striking. The use of wood. That's another thing, 
you see, and he began that early. 

And of course we did have a lot of Oriental artifacts here in 
this area. You know, Tommy was, and is, a very understated and in 
many ways a very unassuming person, very. And I think he would just 
think it was so funny that nobody ever called that to anyone's 
attention, and he would be the last person who was going to bring it 
to their attention, you know? 

People always sort of drew their mouths down at the corners and 
said, "Oh, perhaps Tommy only likes such-and-such French gardens." 
Of course, he never did anything that was even faintly like a French 
garden, really, except maybe little bits and pieces. But wouldn't 
it be funny if in years to come he became known as the first Western 
Japanese gardener! After all these people who have steeped themselves 
in the Japanese design. 


Church: Gardner Dailey always said that that very famous Japanese garden 
in Saratoga was much better than any Japanese garden that you would 
go to in Japan. He took a dim view of Japanese [gardens]. He didn't 
care, Gardner didn't, I don't believe, and I do remember on two or 
three occasions his making somewhat light of Japan and its much-touted 

In the early days in Berkeley I remember that a lot of the big 
gardens—and lots of people's gardens were very large in those days-- 
usually had a Japanese gardener, but he was ordered to keep his own 
gardening talents way down. Usually you went through a little 
wicket fence gate, and this poor soul in his off hours was able to 
tend his little stones and bonsai and so forth. 

63) Spain: The Moorish Gardens 

Church: Oh, I was going to tell you about Elizabeth Gordon (Elizabeth Norcross) 
They've just been in Spain. It's the first time that either of them 
have been there. 

Riess: This is a married name? 

Church: Norcross she is. She's now retired, and she travels all around on 

these retired persons' trips, and they're fantastically inexpensive. 
She went to Japan on that. That's probably what I should do. I 
should go on one of these. It's a plane-load of retired people, and 
you don't ever have to speak to them again after you get off the plane, 
and you don't have to speak to them on the plane if you don't want to. 

But on the same retired people's thing they rented an apartment 
in southern Spain, in Seville, and they had a car. They spent a lot 
of time at the Alhambra, which she had never seen. When Tommy first 
swam into her orbit, she knew very little about the Alhambra. And 
that's the first thing I remember about Tommy talking about the 
Alhambra and the beautiful Moorish gardens there, because they are 
just fantastic, and they're so Oriental, really. 

Riess: Did he see the Alhambra, then, in his first year abroad? 

Church: 1926 or 1927. Somewhere in there. For the first time. And it went 
through him like a double-edged blade. 

Riess: Well, on that subject, Howland says Tommy, "...always credited his 
initial interest in the Spanish influence on architecture as having 
the greatest effect on his own design interests." I was surprised 
at that. 


Church: Tommy always said to me that when he came from California and first 
went to Harvard and then went to Europe, he had always understood 
that the great influence on California gardens and in California was 
the Italian. Beginning at the turn of the century, when so many of 
our lovely big gardens were created in California, particularly in 
the south, like Santa Barbara and those estates, they were completely 
Italianate. That was the direction the people were going back and 
forth [from the East Coast]. Then instead of going to Italy, they 
came to California. They had lived in Italy, and they were deeply 
immersed in it. And that's what they recreated here. 

But Tommy felt when he came to Spain that that was California. 
Italy of course was much more organized for tourism, to open up all 
these things that people, visitors, would see and be influenced by. 
Spain was not, and I think in those days--oh, Tommy's descriptions 
of some of the trips in Spain that they made, all those boys together, 
off in the wilds somewhere, and their train wouldn't go--the conditions 
were very primitive. There weren't nearly so many people visiting 
Spain in those days. People were not so immersed in Spain as they 
were in Italy. 

Tommy has done a couple of pools, I can't think where they are, 
but they're long narrow pools, and the Alhambra has that, it has a 
long narrow pool. 

The French have, really in their simple gardens, what they call 
a piece d 'eau, a piece of water, and it has hardly any border. It 
has maybe a very narrow cut stone border. But usually the grass 
comes right up to that, and really what it is is to have water to 
scoop up and use in the garden. And you find it really in quite 
small gardens. Tommy did one of those up in one of the Seattle places. 
I've forgotten which one now. It could be a swimming pool; it's 
a long narrow pool, and the proportion is lovely. 

Isn't it wonderful the way we've gotten away from those hideous 
pools of our childhood? They were the ugliest things that anybody 
could possibly have. 

Riess: Yes, they were certainly not for looking at. 

65) Gardens Are For People; Revising, Binding, Loaning 

Church: Now Tommy's working very hard every day with Grace on the revision of 
Gardens Are for People. He always wanted to do that, and to annotate 
all of his swimming pool work, and so that is being incorporated into 
a new edition. 


Riess: Is Your Private World based on the articles in the Chronicle? 

Church: Yes. They appeared in the Sunday Chronicle over a period of a couple 
of years, I think. Many people, with typical frankness, said that 
they didn't think it was nearly as good as the first one. Well, I 
said, "It isn't." I mean, you really can't compare them. It's not 
the same sort of thing. 

The first thing was just the essence of Tommy and his thinking 
and had a lot of wonderful naive things too about it, I think. And 
the second one was just these little vignettes that he did. They 
appeared, as I say, over quite a long period in the Sunday Chronicle , 
and most of them were based on experience. The first book is really 
a man's philosophy, I think, isn't it? 

Riess: Yes. I think the first book is the most generous kind of outpouring 
of everything that Tommy knew and thought at that time. 

Church: Well, yes, I think that's a very good description of it. 

It was about the first of the period of that kind of a book, 
really. It's hard to believe that's true, but I think I'm justified 
in saying that. One reason I feel it very strongly is that had it 
been done a few years later, it would have been done in a handsome 
manner. It's a very cheap binding and it's poor paper and the 
reproductions are poor. All the color plates were given to them by 
House Beautiful, and Tommy did all the layout, which he wanted to do. 

I want to show you the volume that I had bound by Mrs. Florence 
Walter (Nell Sinton's mother). [Hands book to interviewer.] This 
was the only successful present I've ever given to Tommy J [Laughing] 

Riess: How beautiful.' 

Church: She took the book out of the other miserable, cheap binding, and she 
did this. 

I called her up one day and I said, "Would you do this?" And she 
said, "Well, I'm just sitting here in bed looking at Tommy's book 
this very minute, and I can't think of anything I'd like to do more." 
So, she did. 

Riess: Oh, let me read this into the machine, because I was trying to think 
of how I could describe it, and here is the description: It says, 
"Bound in yellow tan levant morocco. Multi-colored floral mosaics 
designed from triangles with gold-tooled designs in straight lines on 
both covers. Title gold-tooled vertically on spine. Doublures and 
flyleaves of yellow calf. Illustrated paper guards." It is just 


Church: Isn't it really fabulous? 

Riess: Yes. Weren't you clever to think of doing it. 1 

Church: Goodness.' Well, I'm glad I did. I'm so thoughtless that I haven't 
really thought of anything proper. But I'm awfully glad. 

Riess: And this has been in bookbinding exhibitions, I gather. 

Church: Yes. 

Riess: It really is choice. 

Church: David Magee estimated its worth at about $1,000. 

Riess: And did she make the paper used on the box? 

Church: It's handmade paper, but she didn't make it. I think it came from 

It was the only time that I have ever given Tommy anything that 
was such a total success--his face fell. He was really quite 
overwhelmed. Because he is a very hard person to give a present to. 
The children always used to say, 'Veil, if Papa wants something, he 
just goes and buys it, so there's nothing left for us to give." 

Riess: And to think of the copy that I carry around from the U.C. Library 
that is just totally dog-eared. 

Church: Well, you know, we latch onto those copies wherever we can because 
they are few and far between. Every now and then somebody dies and 
they haven't allocated their copy to some descendant, so we get it. 

Riess: Every time I go to an old bookstore I should start looking for them. 

Church: Oh, you should, you should. And, in fact, if you get more than 
you want, why then you could always tell me. I would take any 
overflow. [Laughter] 

Riess: Now, what do you intend doing with them? 

Church: Well, I have so many people that have "loaned" their copies, and 

they never get them back, and I'm always wanting to give people some 
extra ones. In fact, the most famous borrower is Mr. Agnelli, the 
head of the Fiat. The person that loaned his copy is a friend of 
ours, the architect of Fiat, in Turin, and he loaned it to Mr. Agnelli, 
and he can't ask him for it back. So, he's never gotten it back. 


Church: The wife at one point wanted to employ Tommy to make her a 
swimming pool. She was going to have a modern swimming pool. 
Tommy went to see the place where she proposed to put it, and he 
just almost died because it was the most beautiful setting, and 
in that she wanted to have a modern House Beautiful swimming pool. 
Tommy said he couldn't do it. 

Riess: Did he influence her otherwise? 

Church: No, not at all. [Laughter] She's uninf luenceable. 

Riess: Who is Alice Irving? 

Church: She was a client in Santa Barbara. Now, that was a very Japanesque 
garden, come to think of it--all those stones and moss. The house 
was done by Lutah Riggs, who is a very interesting architect in 
Southern California. I believe she's still busy in Santa Barbara. 

Just when the war was over and people began again to spend money 
on building, or could build, she had an office of these young, 
dynamic, modern architects, and they all conspired on things like 
that Alice Irving house. And then the other quite big elaborate 
house that they did was the [Pardee] Erdman house in Montecito, and 
Tommy did the gardens for both of those. 

65) Eero Saarinen and the General Motors Technical Center 

Riess: There was certainly a lot of work in the fifties and sixties that we 

haven't even gotten to. [Eero] Saarinen, the General Motors Technical 
Center—what do you recall of Tommy's participation in that as 
landscape architect? Did he spend a lot of time in Michigan on the 
site. How did that all work? 

Church: Well, he went there a good many times. 
Riess: And was he working closely with Saarinen? 

Church: Very. Yes. They became intimate friends, and afterwards he did other 
work with Saarinen. He adored Saarinen. Oh, that was a terrible blow 
when Saarinen died. Tommy felt that. We used to meet him in Europe. 
And then when we went to Finland--! guess that was through Bill Wurster, 
who had known the father. 

Riess: Eliel. 


Church: I think Tommy did know the father too, but he hadn't known him as 
long as Bill had. I don't believe he knew him at that time. But 
he gave us all sorts of letters of introduction when we went to 

Riess: And did you travel with Saarinen? 

Church: We traveled with him sometimes in Europe. We didn't know him at 
the time that we went to Finland. He was quite a bit younger, I 
think, than Tommy. I'm sure he was. And he was married to a very 
charming girl whom we knew in the early days. Then he married the 
lady architect. What was her name? I think she was with the New 
York Times or something. 

Riess: Aline. 
Church: Aline, yes. 

Riess: Well, do you think that the contact with Saarinen influenced Tommy's 
architectural thinking? 

Church: I feel it must have. I don't know how many small things they did 
together. I believe they did do some work together in this place, 
Bloomfield Hills where his office was. 

Riess: At the General Motors Technical Center, Tommy wasn't being asked 
to do anything that was remotely like anything he'd ever done 
before, it seems to me. 

Church: No. 

Riess: I mean, it's hardly intimate in any way. It's allees of trees and 

Church: Yes. I was looking at pictures of that, though, not too long ago, 
and it sort of suggested something Finnish. Those trees. Aalto 
used so many of those alleys of trees that almost looked as if they 
were the forest, and sometimes the building would appear to have 
been cut into an opening in the forest, in a way. 


66) University of California Campus Master Planning 

Riess: In the sixties came the University campus planning. 
Church: Yes. He loved that. 

Riess: Did he seek that out? And what did that fulfill for him, do you 

Church: Well, I think maybe it was sort of nostalgia. He always had a love 

for that campus, and I think he may have felt that he assisted in 

bridging certain gaps that might have widened with all the renewed 
building and various changes. 

Then apparently he had always wanted to change certain roads 
that he'd always said were wrong in the campus. 

Riess: You mean even before he had been given this job? 
Church: Oh, before he even became a landscape architect. 

Now, perhaps I'm wrong about this. It seems to me there was 
a road--I have never been back to see it. But the library, which 
Tommy always considered a very beautiful build ing- -wasn 't that 
John Galen Howard? 

Riess: Yes. 

Church: But wasn't the road too low or something of the sort? 

Riess: The road just went b_y_ it. 

Church: That's right. But now doesn't it change in some way so that you get 
a view of it? 

Riess: Yes, it really sweeps up to it. 

Church: Well, now, you see, that's one of Tommy's fortes. Now, those are 

the things that people don't realize because they are so right when 
they're done that you never can imagine that they've been done any 
other way. But I have the kind of mind that when they're done the 
wrong way, I can never imagine them being done the other way. 1 To me 
it is still the most extraordinary surprise to think that you really 
could manipulate-- 

Riess: Well, that's interesting. Even before he was a landscape architect 
he saw things that way. 


Church: Oh, yes. He fought like mad for the Faculty Glade, because there 

was a moment when that was going to be obscured, and he begged that 
that be preserved. 

And then, you know, he worked very hard on the campus at Santa 
Cruz. The early plan was to put all the buildings down by the 
entrance where the meadows and the cattle grazing form a bucolic 

scene. He said, "Don't start the building here." Now, you see, had 
they done that, the colleges might never have been developed 
dramatically in the redwoods as were the early buildings. 

Tommy begged them to put the college buildings in the redwoods, 
and leave this wonderful effect with the cows grazing which is so 
beautiful today. Of course, who knows what the future of that poor 
college is going to be. It's very sad at the moment. Reagan reduced 
the funds so that they really didn't have enough money to do anything. 

I looked out of our house one time in Santa Cruz and saw Tommy 
digging up a whole bed of some very precious thing that I had there 
and I said, "What in heaven's name are you doing with it?" And he 
said, "I'm taking it down to the University because they can't afford 
to put plants around the new building." 

67) Comments on Friendships, Clients, Decks, and Influence 

Riess: Tommy kept his office small in the fifties and sixties, yet he 
apparently wanted also to work on a larger scale. 

Church: Well, I think those consultations on a daily or even hourly basis 
were all through the architects, and he relished very much his 
connection with some of the great architects. That was a very happy 
and satisfying thing. 

Riess: Being around architects. 

Church: Yes. After all, he really presumably had more in common with the 

architect, naturally. That was a more natural relationship than with 
the gardeners. 

Riess: Oh, yes. 

Church: Although he loved certain gardeners. 

Riess: Well, but more of a relationship with the architects than with the 
landscape architects? 


Church: I really think so, yes, I do. Well, he was very close to Vaughan, 
very close. They remained always completely devoted. 

Riess: Then the ones who came out of his office, he was very fond of all 
of them and saw them. Tommy really didn't have much time for any 
kind of fraternizing or social life. You know, he never did that 
sort of lunch business. When the Villa Taverna opened across from 
the office, he did have a place to have lunch that was almost like 
belonging to a club. 

Years ago his name came up on the list of the P.U. [Pacific 
Union] Club, which was a great surprise because we'd always been 
told that several people had to die, and you practically had to die, 
to be able to be invited to join it. So, he was approached and 
they gave him a certain amount of time to think it over. During 
that time, we had dinner one night with an old friend, and this man 
was really being sort of funny. (Tommy was so grateful to him.) 

This man said, "Tommy, are you really going to use this Pacific 
Union Club?" And Tommy said, "Well, honestly, no, because I never 
take time to have lunch in town and I'm out of town most of the time." 

Then this man said, "And you aren't going to invite us to lunch 
and pay for our lunch?" Tommy said, "Certainly not. 1 " 

And then this man said, "Well, we don't want you." [Laughter] 
Tommy said, "Thank you so much for making up my mind for mej" 

People always thought of Tommy as being such a self-contained 
person and somebody that never had any inner doubts. I don't know 
whether he did or not. But I do think that it must be wonderful for 
a young person starting out as he did, and relatively unknown, to 
have such tremendous areas of enthusiasm when the going must have 
been rough lots of the time. 

Riess: Areas of enthusiasm on the part of people for his work. 

Church: Yes. And I think, as we were saying about his favorite clients, 

it seems sort of a superficial thing to say, but I'm sure it's true, 
that the enthusiasm of some of these people was a tremendous 
[nurturant] --well, you'd just see somebody flower under it, you 

Riess: Yes. 

Church: Now, those two girls in the Northwest, those two particular girls 
that I speak of so much, the Wagner and the Bloedel girls, they 
were a marvelous influence in Tommy's work. Although neither of 


Church: them—and they'd be the first to admit it--could possibly have seen 

the things that he saw when he first saw their places. I mean, there 
were a lot of things there that just had to be changed. I wouldn't 
have seen them either. In the Bloedel garden, for example, the road 
comes in beside the pond so that the house is first glimpsed over 
water. Have you seen a picture of that? 

I'm going to make a note of that, and send it to you. Mrs. 
Bloedel has a picture of it that she sends for Christmas cards. I 
used to take it with me when I went to Europe, and I'd show it to 
people, and they'd say, "It is not possible that this is in America." 

And I'd say, "It isn't only that it's in America; it's in the 
Northwest.'" which was just considered the-- 

But Mr. Merrill, the father of these two girls, had the 
intelligence, really, in the early part of the century, to get 
Charles Platt from New York to come out and design a house. It 
houses the family foundation. Nobody lives in it now. But it's 
where the girls grew up. 

Riess: So you say that they're a great influence. It sounds like saying the 
Medicis were a great influence on Michaelangelo. 

Church: I think so. I really do. They're both people of perfect taste. 

They're girls that never went to college, they didn't need to go to 
college, and really, in a way, they're uneducated. But they have 
absolutely perfect taste, those two women. 

Riess: That's fascinating. 

Church: Yes. I think you're just born that way. 

Another family that he has worked for for years and has always 
been very inspiring is the [Kenneth] Van Strums in Hillsborough. He's 
done many jobs for them. 

Riess: As the fifties began, Tommy was just about fifty too and sure of his 
ability, and I wondered what he really wanted to do at that point 
with the years of creative work ahead of him. It seems significant 
then that he did choose to do some of the large-scale things like 
the University. 

Church: Yes. He worked ten years on the University of California, I think. 
And in that time he took on the University at Santa Cruz. 

Riess: Because landscape architects were moving into more large-scale planning? 


Church : 




Church ; 

Yes, I'm sure that entered largely into it. But I do think Tommy's 
career fitted harmoniously into the times or maybe that was his 
adaptability to them. It probably was, but then the times made use 
of his natural talents, didn't they? 

Once you mentioned that Tommy had done some work free. 
be the kind of job he would deem worthy? 

What would 

What he "deemed worthy" perhaps was a combination of the client and 
the completion of the plan — they must be "worthy" of each other-- 
though I'm afraid this is not too clear. Over the years there were 
many examples of this which I never knew of from Tommy but have learned 
of later from the client. Just the other day an old client sent a 
very large check with a note saying he had never paid Tommy what he 
owed him. 

And today [added in editing] I met Mr. and Mrs. Milton Esberg, Jr. 
who said that years ago they asked Tommy if he would come out to see 
the new property they had just bought, to advise them what to do with 
the landscaping. Tommy went there and looked over the property. The 
clients said, "What should we do?" Tommy said, "Nothing. It's 
exactly right as it is. I couldn't improve it." He never sent a bill. 

You know, so much of Tommy's importance for certain people is the fact 
that he was the great teacher. 

Yes, though he didn t like formal teaching. 
Well, I don't mean that. 

I know what you mean. His influence on other people. And it was 
quite an amazing thing to watch. I think I have described to you 
how often I would meet somebody that he'd just employed, and I 
wouldn't see how--they seemed so unformed and so young. And then if 
they were subjected in the proper manner, not subdued but subjected 
to his influence, they emerged. He drew from people. I think he 
really is a great teacher because he draws from you, without your 
being aware of it, really, all your best qualities. 

Once I went to a Pablo Casals master class at the University, and 
that was just one afternoon, but I realized then what the great teacher 
does, because here were these unformed creatures with horrible squeaky 
sounds emerging from ghastly instruments, and then all of a sudden, with 
two or three sort of phrases from Casals, and showing the wrist and a 
few little things like that, they drew a proper string, and then the 
next time they did two, and so on. And I did think about Tommy, I felt 
that was very much like Tommy. 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

Thomas D. Church Oral History Project 

Maggie Baylis 

Interview Conducted by 
Suzanne B. Riess 

1978 by The Regents of the University of California 

TABLE OF CONTENTS -- Maggie Baylis 

1) Tommy Church's Influence on Doug Baylis 521 

2) Publications: Garden Books and Magazines 536 

3) Some Thoughts About Tommy, Betsy, and the Past 545 


Maggie Baylis 
June 27, 1977 
Interviewed in her home and studio on Gerke Alley, Telegraph Hill 

1) Tommy Church's Influence on Doug Baylis 

Baylis: Doug was born in the East, in New Jersey. Came out here to Long Beach 
when his father died, when he was about 16 years. Went to high 
school and he was there during the earthquake in Long Beach in '33. 
Then finally he decided that he would like to get into landscaping, 
because he had worked with a man in Long Beach who was a landscape 
architect, a man named George Carpenter. 

He came up to Berkeley after having had a couple of years at a 
junior college down there and working with Carpenter in construction, 
maintenance, and learning about the whole process of landscape 
architecture. This man, Carpenter, was the old-fashioned kind of 
landscape architect. That is, it was a time before even the title was 
much used. He was more likely a landscape designer. 

So Doug developed an interest in it and he went to Berkeley, 
finished in '41, had three years there, and he came off with, 
"modestly she said," came off with the highest grade record for anyone 
who had worked in the landscape school. And this was his thing. He 
loved it. The rest of the things which were a part of college didn't 
mean much to him, but that really was something. 

Riess: How did he account for his great love of it? Had he always loved 
flowers and things like that, or what aspect? 

Baylis: No, something that just was a part of his nature. He liked the out 
doors. He worked outdoors. He worked with his hands well so that he 
had this feeling of the plants. He was fascinated, probably more 
than any other factor. Never considered any other profession; as far 
as he was concerned, that was it. 

So he wrote Tommy a letter. He obviously had a chance to go 
to Harvard, but he decided against it, he actually turned down 
Harvard. Tommy got the letter and he said it was the stuffiest letter 


Baylis: he had ever read. He said he a Imps t didn't hire him. But he finally 
allowed him to come over and be interviewed because Doug was so 
serious. Doug had a marvelous sense of humor which through the 
years became even more delightful. But at that time he took himself 
very seriously. 

Well, he was with Tommy from '41 until about 1943. Then Tommy 
literally kicked him out. He said, "Now look. I can't do anything 
more for you." He needed to develop socializing. He really hadn't 
come to that. So it was an interesting kind of thing that he went 
to work for the Housing Authority in San Francisco. 

Riess: Now I'm going to stop you a bit because it's all going so very fast 

and I've got lots of questions. At what point do you enter the scene? 

Baylis: I did not meet him until '46. 

Riess: Oh, okay. Because I wondered why he would have written to Tommy and 
what Tommy stood for. 

Baylis: Well, one thing which entered into it was that Punk Vaughan, Leland 
Vaughan, was teaching at Berkeley. Punk and Tommy were very good 

I think there was a legend that was built up about Tommy because 
he in his own way was more concerned with the whole process of how 
people live and what he could do to make living better. This appealed 
to Doug who felt that classic landscape architecture was stuffy, that 
it was all regimented and it was like classic architecture, that it 
related to "what did it look like?" rather than "what did it give 
one?" I think this was the thing that appealed to Doug when he 
discovered slowly through Punk and through hearing stories about 
Tommy, that this was the man whom he really would like to know. He 
decided that that was the one place he was going to work. Even when 
he was still in school, he had made up his mind that inevitably he 
would go to Tommy Church. 

Riess: But his interest was still mostly in residential. 

Baylis: It was residential at that time because Tommy was not doing anything 
that was commercial. He had done the place down—is it Pasatiempo?-- 
the place down in the country. But that wasn't commercial. It was 
primarily residential because again it was the intimate aspect of it. 

Again, to repeat, I think this is where Doug saw that he was 
going, but he wasn't sure enough of himself because he wasn't sure of 
himself socially or how he would get along with people, how he would 
handle himself with people. He had to learn that. 




That's interesting, 
of activity? 

And he wasn't gathered in by the Telesis kind_ 

Riess : 

Baylis : 


Riess : 


No, not at all. He was aware of all these things, but he was never 
a joiner. Doug simply refused to join organizations. It was quite 
awhile before he finally joined the landscape architects. I think 
he was negatively influenced because Tommy had been turned down by 
the ASLA because he had his own contractor (not an accepted custom 
by ASLA) which you've probably heard along the line. Doug felt this 
was unfair. And he just wouldn't join. Finally, he decided that he 
ought to join because he might have some influence, and he worked 
toward that direction. Then there's more of that story later. 

So he was hired, though Tommy, you said, thought the letter was so 
stuffy. But then the interview was-- 

It was all right. I think Tommy liked him but recognized that here 
was a young man who had some problems. So Doug drafted for him. He 
hated to draft. And he did a good job. But he just hated drafting. 
I always teased him because I was sure he married me because I knew 
how to draft. [Laughs] 

There were a couple of women in there? Didn't they draft for him? 

Yes, June Meehan was there at that time. And Marie Harbeck, both 
good draftsmen. As I remember now, Marie was a plant expert. 

Then when Doug left and went to the Housing Authority, he was 
involved in looking for sites for war housing. That was personal 
development because he got out in the field and he met lots of people. 
It was quite something. ,It wasn't until late '45 after the war had 
ended that he made up his mind to open his own office. He opened 
it just a block from Tommy, and with Tommy's blessing. Tommy fed him 
work. In fact, all of the people who worked with Tommy were always 
very lucky because the jobs would come along and Tommy could well 
have handled them, but instead he would pass them along. Larry got 
his start, his help that way. Bob Royston, all these boys. 

Well, Tommy couldn't handle them indefinitely. 

No, that's right. And the thing was that Tommy always kept his office 
size under control. He wanted to personally be a part of it. Doug 
followed in that direction. We tried a larger office and came back. 
He said, "I don't want it. I want to personally be involved in these 
things. Otherwise there's no point in doing it." Which was a choice 
that I think we both agreed was the right one. 

You think that's something that he learned from Tommy or do you think 
he had felt that always? 


Baylis: I'm quite sure that it's something that he learned working in Tommy's 
office, that the real joy of this profession was to be involved. If 
you got to the point that you were of size and you had 40 people, 
you were ar. administrator. You no longer did the things that you 
enjoyed doing. This was very definitely influenced by Tommy. 

Riess: You said that he did drafting for Tommy and that was not his favorite 
thing. What else? 

Baylis: And he photographed some of Tommy's gardens and details, too. But 
Tommy was primarily the photographer of his own things. In fact, 
when Doug got his own office he bought himself a camera. He was 
very excited, bought a 5 x 7. And he went out and photographed one 
of Tommy's gardens out on oh, the north end of the city. The garden 
was completely bloomed with tulips. 

Doug went out and shot the whole thing, the first time he had 
done it. And he had the film processed and they made a mistake and 
processed it in black and white. It was such a monumental disappoint 
ment that he never used the camera again and finally gave it away. He 
just couldn't believe it because it was something that he had looked 
forward to for such a long time. This is a little clue to his 
personality, that he wasn't impatient, but he demanded the best. 

Again, this was in a good sense too what Tommy offered; he 
recognized in Tommy a person of integrity, a person whose follow- 
through was effective, and who did something that no one else could 
do. Doug was very much influenced by this man. 

Riess: Do you think Punk Vaughan's teaching was just so very much in line 
with Tommy Church's practice? 

Baylis: I don't think it was. A lot of Punk's teaching was still related to 
the earlier time because it was a matter of the older method of 
teaching people how to use tools, that you had to go through all the 
rudiments in order to do anything, you had to know how to use all 
this information. So it was deeply ingrained in the students then. 
They had to learn all the plants. They had to learn how to use 
them, where they would grow. But more than that, that the plates 
that they did, and the things that they did, were of a more traditional 

I know that Doug was influenced by the fact that Tommy would 
take the back of an envelope, literally, and make a little sketch. 
Because Doug was that kind of person. He wielded a very soft pencil. 
He was criticized several times in early, early moments by architects 
who would be annoyed by this great big, black pencil. But this was 
the way he thought. It was again a thing that Tommy did, that Tommy 


Baylis: worked loosely in making his designs. There were great sheafs of 
that yellow manila, that sheer paper, which were filled with ideas 
and sketches. This was not the typical way for earlier landscape 
architects to work; they xvorked tight. 

Riess: If you have a man like Tommy who works loosely, his dearest hope 
might be that he'll get somebody as an associate who will come in 
and round him out. But he had a lot of creative people coming in, 
and careful drafting was probably the last thing they were likely 
to want to do. Do you think that also applies to Royston and 

Baylis: I think so, yes. But I think they were more disciplined in many 
ways than Doug was. Doug was somewhat undisciplined. When he 
finally swung over and opened up, his discipline was quite a 
different one. It was a personal kind of thing where if he made a 
commitment, he would complete a commitment. That was that part. 
But he was relaxed about what he did because he really liked it. 

I would say that toward the end of his life, he changed. He 
was looking for new directions. He had felt that there were other 
things that he ought to be into in relation to how people live and 
what people do. We got into a great deal of publicity. We did a 
lot of magazine and national publication work also. Oh, not as 
much as Tommy did with House Beautiful, but certainly he contributed 
to all the national magazines and developing ideas, where Tommy 
would present actual accomplishments, and particularly in House 
Beautiful, things that he did there. 

Riess: Developing ideas then that people read? 

Baylis: Could read and be influenced by, like the kind of thing which suggests, 
"I can do this." It's a motivation kind of thing that he was involved 
in. I think his whole later life was dedicated to motivating people 
to do something. It didn't matter if it didn't turn out well, but 
the important thing was, "don't just sit there, do something." Tommy 
had that in the way that he handled people. He got people to accomplish 
things, where Doug did not. There were lots of times he didn't reach 
that, he didn't seem to have that thing that Tommy had. 

Riess: Do you mean getting the clients involved? 

Baylis: Getting the client involved, or getting the client to build, and 
getting the completed kind of thing. Tommy, through the years, 
because of his personality, because of his abilities, attracted a 
great many people who had the wherewithal to go right ahead and do 
something. Not that they wouldn't complain about money, but that 


Baylis: they did it. Where very often Doug would get involved with people 
who had less amounts. Then there was always that cutting back or 
holding back kind of thing. 

Riess: Doug didn't have exposure to the east then? 

Baylis: He did in later years. He didn't do anything in foreign countries 
but he did jobs in various parts of the country. 

Riess: The reason I bring that up is it occurs to me that Tommy had his 
association over all the years with the American Academy and 
apparently really firmly believed in that chance for people to get 
almost the classical background. I wondered whether he presented 
Doug with that option and suggested he get more background. 

Baylis: Never that I knew about. Doug never talked about it if he did. I 

know that Tommy and Doug had an excellent friendship kind of relation 
ship where Doug would see him often and then not see him for a long 
time. But they did have a kind of mutuality. When Doug died, Tommy 
wrote a note saying that of all the men who had worked for him he 
felt closest to Doug. Oh, it was a beautiful, beautiful card. 

Riess: When did he die? 

Baylis: He died in November of '71 so that was quite a time ago. But it's 
a rather remarkable thing to contemplate because at no time did 
either Doug or Tommy express words like that. They didn't need to 
do that. They had very good feelings about one another but neither 
one of them felt it necessary to make a statement about it. 

Riess: Well, that's nice that he had a chance to make it then. 
Baylis: Yes, I thought so. I felt very pleased. 

Riess: So when Doug went to the Church office apparently there was no 
contract for the future, or plans? 

Baylis: Nothing, no. The other thing was that you see he finished in June 
of '41, and war was declared December 7th of '41, so he had only 
been with Tommy a short period when the war started. Then, of course, 
was this whole bit about, "would he be drafted?" Doug was an 
asthmatic and so all during the war period he was on the line: would 
he or wouldn't he be called? He lived temporarily. During the period 
it was always thought, "well, eventually, like with Royston, Doug 
would go." 


Baylis: So when nothing happened by 1943, Doug indicated Tommy felt, 

"There's nothing more I can give you" because he recognized that 
Doug had certain abilities but that he needed something else. He 
needed to be pushed out of the nest and really face a lot of things 
he hadn't faced . 

Riess: Tommy was working on Parkmerced then? 

Baylis: Yes, and Doug worked on Parkmerced, and on Valencia Gardens. 

Doug was influenced very much by Tommy and what Tommy produced 
and how he produced it and how he felt about spaces. 

Riess: Can you illustrate some of that? 

Baylis: Not really. I can't tell you except that I think many of the early 
residential jobs--Doug carried as many as 40 at a time — that the 
design would be simple and not formal. He did some formal, but really 
not many. He thought in, and seemed to produce design in relationship 
to what he had picked up from Tommy's influence. 

Riess: And the use of form, then, would be the first interest. 

Baylis: Yes, that's right because although function dictated the form, yet 
form gave it validity. Doug was also interested in the way Tommy 
used materials, the variety of materials that he used, how he handled 
privacy, how he managed to get trees planted—because that was 
something that Doug worked very hard on always on jobs, to get the 
trees in. 

Riess: You mean he did something more than just dig a hole? [Laughs] 

Baylis: Yes, Doug actually appeared on the scene when things were going on 
because he felt the urgency to. 

Riess: No, but I mean how did Tommy manage to get trees planted that were 
different than other people? 

Baylis: Well, I think that very often again with smaller budgets people 

would withhold planting trees because of cost, that they would put 
in something for immediate effect, but the trees take awhile before 
they get to the point where they're important. People say, "Well, 
I'll do that later." Of course, every time they did that they lost 
time in the growth of the trees. 

Riess: Gosh, that must be a blow to the landscape architect to hear your 
client saying, "Let's take care of that later." 


Baylis: Well, Doug went back to a job not too long before he died, that he 
had done 20 years before. He resented what he saw. He said, "This 
proves I should never go back to these old jobs." The people had 
not put trees in. He said it was the saddest place, just had 
absolutely no personality at all. 

Riess: Yes, because the trees make the space. 
Baylis: Yes, that's right. 

Riess: Let's see, what was the atmosphere of the office during this couple 
of years? 

Baylis: I think the couple of years he was there it was interesting that 
Doug never thought of himself as anything except just a beginner, 
where Royston was a very important person. 

Royston was there at that time, and Royston felt and acted as 
though he knew where he was going. According to Doug, Royston was 
to come back and work with Tommy after the war, and Tommy would 
consider making him a partner or an associate. 

Riess: That's interesting that that was clear to Doug, and it sounds like 
it was clear to Royston, too, but I don't know. 

Baylis: Yes, but that Royston made the decision to set out on his own and 
turn his back on Tommy. 

Riess: But he went with Eckbo? 

Baylis: He went with Eckbo, that's right, I think. 

Riess: Which is not exactly going on his own. 

Baylis: No, but this was the thing that really caused a lot of comment. Then 
Larry appeared on the scene, Larry being a brilliant young man with 
a great many talents. Somehow or another he seemed to be the coming 
person, which he proved in many ways later, but a completely different 
personality. I don't know, I never heard anything, any gossip at 
any time, which would lead me to question that there would have been 
problems there. But Larry finally decided then to go on his own. 
He moved into an office on Commercial Street. (Doug had his own 
office on Washington Street.) 

Riess: He [Larry] decided to go on his own, but he didn't say that Tommy 
asked him to? 


Baylis: No, and I never did hear anything to that effect. So I don't know 
whether it was that kind of a break or not. I rather think that 
Tommy did the same as he did with the others, that Larry just on 
his own decided to go and then Tommy fed him some jobs. Because 
I remember conversation that there were some jobs that Tommy had 
passed along. 

But Larry had extra space. He only had a couple of people at 
that time, and there was a young man sharing Doug's office by the 
name of Gordon Drake. Gordon was an architect whom we had met and 
known and loved, a young man who had gone through all of the Marine 
assaults in the Pacific, came back, and then in untimely manner was 
killed in a skiing accident in 1952. Gordon did the re-design of 
this house; this is the only re-model that he did, and he died just 
as we were starting it. 

Anyhow, when Doug realized that he was going to have to leave 
that office on Washington Street, that was the reason that we decided 
to buy this old house and we put the office downstairs. Then Gordon 
moved in with Larry and was with him for about two months before the 

I think Larry finally at that point was beginning to feel more 
strength and he began to develop and go his direction. I know 
that there was great respect on both sides, but they were quite 
different people, Larry and Tommy. Larry was a powerful man and he 
had a powerful ego, he has a powerful ego. I think he's mellowed a 
great deal. I admire many things he's done, and I've worked with 
him on projects. But at one point he came to Doug and said that 
perhaps they should join. That was when Doug was in this office. 
Doug decided no, he did not want to do it. Again, Doug's personality 
perhaps again was the softer like Tommy's and he just knew it 
wouldn't work. 

Riess: Yes, well actually it sounds like it worked out remarkably well 
considering what a small town San Francisco is. 

Baylis: Yes, it has, it's been rather quite remarkable. When Doug finally 
got into the landscape architects, as I said, into the ASLA, then 
he began to work with them as a group and with Ted Osmundson and 
some of the others. They got the licensing for the profession. 

Then in the late fifties Doug got involved with one of the 
conferences that was held at Big Sur. Now I am skipping some, but 
it's an interesting kind of thing because one of the things that 
he was interested in was breaking away from what he called the 
"fuddy-duddies." He felt it was very essential, that the Bay Area 







landscape architects had developed a style that was unique, and the 
East was slowly but surely becoming aware of it, but in many, 
instances had not accepted it nor would they accept these mavericks 
on the coast. Doug felt that this was the direction that the 
profession should go and it was very important to reaffirm, to 
develop self-awareness. 

He put together a program for this particular meeting with some 
of the people from Esalen. It was a wild thing to try because 
Esalen had only been active for about three years and they weren't 
sure where they were going. Mike Murphy was into this thing and he 
knew he had something, but there was so much yet that had to be 
expounded and developed. So of that meeting about a third of the 
members came away really feeling good about it. The rest of them 
were not very happy. 

Well, or just confused. 

And just confused. But it was at that period then that Doug got 
more interested and he went to several of the San Francisco Esalen 
sessions. He didn't ever go to Big Sur, to any of their meetings. 
But I think it had a great deal to do with helping him also with his 
own self in relating to others during his 40s and 50s. 

Well, that's just absolutely fascinating. 

He really opened up and he developed affection and was able to show 
it for lots of people where for many years he was not a social person. 
Doug didn't drink; he'd take one drink, but he just didn't enjoy that 
kind of thing. He didn't like small talk. I think that it was rather a 
remarkable time watching him blossom because I am naturally gregarious; 
I like people and I like going out. So it was an unfolding of the 
complete individual. 

In watching him and Tommy then, in these later years when I saw 
them together, I saw the great affection that they felt because 
the warmth was showing. 

One other strong person was in there in Doug's life, and I'll 
just say it now, and that's Walter Doty. We can come back to that. 

Oh, yes. Well, I think he must have gotten into the Esalen thing 
just exactly at the right time because it sounds like what he would 

I thought it was remarkable. 

Now, you said he wasn't small talk and all of that, 
think Tommy is a small talk person? 

I wonder, do you 


Baylis: No, I don't think he is. I think Tommy was always a person who 
somehow or other would not necessarily talk if he didn't have 
something to say. Tommy had none of those habits that businessmen 
have when they're together about discussing certain situations. 
I always felt that Tommy was quiet socially and yet he was very, 
very much revered. 

Riess: It's interesting that he always made everybody feel so comfortable, 

Baylis: Yes, it was a marvelous, marvelous sense, feeling comfortable and 
feeling in his presence that he cared about you at that moment and 
he was pleased to see you. He showed it in his face. Yet there 
was never a lot of conversation, didn't have to be. It was good. 
There were marvelous Christmas parties. I'm sure you've run into 
those, too. 

Riess: June mentioned the Christmas parties when I was asking about the 
atmosphere of the office, whether it was a pressured place. 

Baylis: I never had a sense of pressure when I walked into that office. I 

knew there was a great deal of work that was produced, but never had 
a sense that things were chaotic. The thing about it was that June, 
who ran things beautifully for the office, handled people in a way 
that was quite remarkable, because she was able to take telephone 
conversations—and people always want to talk to the principal—and 
she could manage this thing so that if they didn't get to talk to 
Tommy, they weren't offended and weren't upset by it. She had a knack. 
Of course, she and Doug didn't have much to say to one another all 
through the years. And yet they respected one another. But I think 
that again this was part of Doug's intolerance of people, for curious 
reasons, certain people. He was a quiet person himself and, like 
Tommy, didn't talk unless there was something to be said. 

Riess: Oh, yes. It always sounds like the right way to be, but I realize 
how unlike that I am. 

Baylis: Well, I, too, because I'm a space-filler. 

Anyhow, the Christmas parties were a most successful thing. 
Belinda [Church] always would sing which made it special. She would 
come home from Europe and would be a part of it. There were the 
people from Wurster's office and Milono's office, all of the people 
would want to come back. The parties were given over and over again 
each year. You knew people came because they wanted to come to 
Tommy's, that was special. 

Riess: That's interesting. I hadn't known that they came from the other 

offices, and that was after Wurster had moved to Montgomery Street. 


Baylis: Yes, after Wurster had moved, yes, even until the very end. In 

fact I think the last time I saw him, they had difficulty carrying 
him up the stairs. He was so determined to come. 

Riess: Well, I heard some of the nostalgia for it when I was talking to 
Roger Sturtevant. I kept asking him questions like, "Why did you 
do this" and "Why that" and he said, "Oh, because we loved everything 
we were doing." He had just had this sense, unself conscious , 
that things just happened. 

Baylis: Well, lots of things did just happen. Roger was an offbeat character, 
one-of-a-kind. Ron Partridge was another. Ron was also one of that 
group who would just drop in to Tommy's office and would then get 
involved in something that Tommy had been involved in. I think he 
photographed several things of Tommy's. But there were lots of 
characters that were around. There were interesting people, all of 
them, each in his own way or her own way, delightful kinds of people 
that Tommy seemed to acquire in his life. 

Riess: Yes, well that team of Church and Wurster, and I guess it's right 
to think of it as a team-- 

Baylis: It was, without being official. The one thing I remember Doug talking 
about was that Wurster and Tommy discussed the possibility of buying 
402 Jackson. They had a chance to buy it for ten thousand dollars and 
Wurster said, "No." When you think about what that property is worth 
today. 1 But the same thing is true of Tommy's house where he lives on 
Hyde. He rented it for years and years and years and never bought 
it until it reached a point where it was ridiculous. 

Riess: Do you think that architects particularly have trouble with possessions? 

Baylis: There is something about that. I don't know why Wurster felt it 
was not a good thing to do. Because certainly Doug never could 
explain it. I asked, too. He said, "No, I don't know why they 
didn't do it." It's just as simple as that. 

Riess: Maybe it was wise. Maybe he felt that they had been thrown together 
so much that this was a form that their throwing together shouldn't 

Baylis: Yes. Well, then Wurster 's office was beginning to get bigger and 
bigger projects to do. He needed engineers. He needed to spread. 
When he left and went down to Montgomery Street into Larry's 
building, I know that at that time there still was a close relation 
ship between Bill and Tommy. 


Riess: But it was Larry's building first? 

Baylis: Larry bought the building. The thing is that his wife, the Schumann 
family, were involved in it. But Larry bought it. Then Wurster 
moved down. Then there were several designers who moved in. 

Riess: What jobs in particular did Doug work on when he was in Tommy's 

Baylis: Well, I think that there was still work going on at Pasatiempo. He 
worked in Parkmerced most of the time when he was there. I think 
that was it, and I think he may have worked on one of the Gallo 
projects. I'm not sure. But I know that Doug was familiar with the 
jobs because we talked about it a lot. 

Riess: The year that Aalto came out was he there? 

Baylis: Oh, well, Aalto was here. Yes, in fact Doug and I were married in 
'48. Doug was in business for himself then when Aalto came out 
because Tommy made an arrangement for Aalto about getting furniture. 
So he said to Doug, "Anything you want?" So our first furniture was 
Aalto furniture. 

Riess: Have you managed to hang on to it? 

Baylis: My mother has it. She just loves it. It's very funny that it has 
gone through all the years and yellowed, but it's still basic kind 
of furniture. We reached the point where we decided we were not the 
Scandinavian style, much more eclectic. 

Also when Burle-Marx came from South America, Tommy put together 
an evening. I guess that was the early fifties. We all got to meet 
Burle-Marx. It was a wonderful, wonderful evening in which he talked 
at great length about landscape architecture in Brazil. 

Riess: Do you think that an event like that really is a pivotal kind of 

Baylis: I think it is. I think it does have an effect that certainly, for 
those who heard it, I'm sure they would never forget. It was one 
of those things that did have an effect. Tommy seemed to have met 
quite a few people of that kind, with that outreach that Marx had. 

Riess: Yes, he was a real world traveler. 

It's interesting that there's a certain integrity then about 
everything Chuch does. Where do ycu see Burle-Marx in what Tommy 


Baylis: Not at all, no. 

One of the marvelous stories that Marx told that night was 
the fact that he'd had problems of cne sort or another, but one 
problem that really disturbed him was that he had done this 
marvelous garden and the ghosts came in and ate the plants. And 
somebody interpreted afterwards what he was trying to say was the 
"goats." It made it sound like "ghosts" that ate the plants. 

Riess: And you all sat there spellbound. 

Baylis: Spellbound trying to think the ghost of what! [Laughs] 

Riess: Do you recall other things like that? 

Baylis: Oh, an interesting thing was that Tommy went to Sweden. I specifically 
remember that when he came back he had ordered some Reda units. I 
have one over here. They're glass drawers that fit into a little 
cabinet. They're now made out of plastic. 

Riess: Yes, what are they called? 

Baylis: Well, this is called reda, R-E-D-A, they're Swedish. The thing 

about it is that Tommy ordered one and they sent him eight. So he 
said to Doug one day, "Would you like one?" Doug said, "Sure." 
So we had it for years until we remodeled this house and then were 
able to just build a place for it. I've enjoyed it so much. I was 
very pleased that I got that at the time when it was all glass. Yes, 
very special. I'm trying to think of other things that came into 
our life because of Tommy. 

Oh, when Doug told him he was going to marry me, Tommy said, 
"Veil, if you'd like to have the house down in the country, you can 
have it for the honeymoon." Doug didn't tell me what was going on. 
We were married on a Saturday afternoon up in Sonoma, Glen Ellen 
country, and drove down to Tommy's. He then told me. 

We arrived late at night and there were mothballs on the bed. 
The house hadn't been used for a long, long time. Then the next 
morning we were invited to go to the [Charles] Martins, who had a 
place at Aptos. Betsy was there and Tommy. They had come down for 
the Sunday. So we drove up and Tommy came up and put his arms 
around me and gave me a great big kiss and Betsy couldn't figure out 
what was going on. 

Then she was so upset when she found out that we had been to 
the house, "it was awful, it wacn't cleaned," and nothing was 
right. She apologized. And I said, "Betsy, we had the most marvelous 





breakfast. We had coffee that was there. There were coffee beans 
which we ground. There was a can of grapefruit. And there was some 
dry zwieback." I said, "This was our wedding breakfast." 1 It was 
very funny. But Tommy was so pleased that he had put this thing 
over and hadn't told her. It was his little secret. It was a 
wonderful thing. So we had four or five days there. 

But Doug being an asthmatic, developed violent attacks in the 
evening. We couldn't understand it. Maybe he was allergic to me 
or something. We decided we'd have to go back to the city. The 
bedroom was upstairs and coming down the stairs I slipped and fell 
and bounced down on my spine, and at that point the adrenaline shot 
into Doug to such an extent that the asthma disappeared. There 
wasn't anything wrong. As soon as he found out that I was okay, 
the asthma came back. It was one of those strange things that can 
happen. So we left, but what turned out was that it was the acacia 
which was in bloom and with the heavy fogs every night the fog was 
holding the pollen down. It was just really doing him in. He had 
never had that problem before. 

That's interesting, 
the mothballs. 

I thought you were going to find out it was 


Well, I thought about that you know. Because I cleaned the house 
thoroughly the next day. I thought, "Well, this is silly. Let's 
go ahead and make it right." So it was a very special and a very 
memorable honeymoon because it was such a beautiful place. It was 
in January. The weather was just superb. It was warm and wonderful 
so we did enjoy it. I got to see the Gregory farmhouse at that 
time which to me was such a superb structure. 

Also at that point Tommy's house, they had been working on it 
a lot. It was an old place, but it was so well put together. 

This is the one in Scotts Valley? 
Yes, Scotts Valley. 

A little Franklin stove, and in fact we have a Franklin here. 
I'm sure it was related to the fact that at that point it seemed like 
such a wonderful kind of way to heat. 


2) Publications: Garden Books and Magazines 

Riess: This is the Martin house, isn't it? [looking at cover of 1948 
San Francisco Museum of Art Landscape Design catalog] 

Baylis: That's the Martin house, right. 
Riess: So that was in the process? 

Baylis: Yes, it was in the process. The deck was in when we were there, '48, 
Then we put this book together. I did the layout for it. 

Riess: Why did that happen? 

Baylis: Just that there was a national landscape architecture meeting here 
in California in '48. It was held in the San Francisco Museum. 
There was an exhibit of landscape architecture at the museum. So it 
ended up they decided to put out this booklet. Doug and I put it 
together and got it published. 

Riess: I wish it said that. 

Baylis: It says something in the back. I think there was a credit line at 
the very back or not. Is there? 

Riess: No. Oh, wait. Yes. "Catalogue, layout and design—Maggie Baylis" 

Baylis: I'd been involved in advertising before so it was one of those 

things I could do. Then when Tommy wanted to do his first book I 
worked with him on it. I did layouts for him. We put kind of a 
rough together for the book. 

Then he went off to New York, talked to publishers, talked to 
Elizabeth Gordon, and she said, "Well, that's silly." She said, "I 
can pay you more than you're going to get out of that book." So she 
took the material and that was the first batch of things, as far as 
I know, the first things that appeared in House Beautiful. 

Riess: I_ had thought that the book was based on the magazine. 

Baylis: The book that came out, Gardens are for People, was really not the 

original book. This was another book that was finally put together. 
And Tommy put that together because by that time he had the feel of 
how he would put the book together. He went ahead, and I didn't 
have anything to do with that. But the first one was more because 
of my background that I could help on this thing. 


Riess: The first one is called Gardens are for People, isn't it? The other 
one is Your Private World. 

Baylis: Yes, but the book I mean was before the first book. There was a 

book before that is what I'm trying to say, before Gardens are for 
People, that was put together and then became magazine articles. 
Then the first real book that came out, Gardens are for People, was 
the one that Tommy put together himself. And did the copy on it, 
did the whole thing. But he was getting the feel of how you did 
this, how you did the mechanics. And that's why I was a part of it. 

We loved Tommy and it was just so much fun to work on it. It 
never occurred to me other than, "This is just great. I'm delighted 
and I'm flattered to work with him." It was such a pleasure. He 
gave you that feeling. It was just marvelous. 

Riess: Then the format of that real first book, the organization of it and 
the inclusion of all the historical references, was that Tommy? 

Baylis: That was Tommy, then. That was Tommy because what he did was take 
from the original thinking that he had and he was able to put that 
all together. He wrote the whole thing as far as I know. This was 
his contribution. And it was his decision about what would go in 
and what pictures would be used and how they would be used. Tommy 
fell into a situation. All he needed was a little direction and he 
could take hold and he could make it. And he did. He did a beautiful 
job I thought, that first one. 

Riess: It's a great book. And it's interesting that at this real peak in 
his career that he would want to take the time to do this. 

Baylis: Well, the thing was he had so many photographs. It made it worthwhile 
to do this. There must have been some other reason. I think because 
of what appeared in House Beautiful, that the publishers were then 
much more aware of who Thomas Church was. 

In the same way that Sunset really did more toward educating the 
public to what a landscape architect is, more than any other medium, 
meant that they actually led the way. Tommy had quite a few things 
published in Sunset before he had things published in the east. That 
was because Walter Doty, who was then the editor of Sunset, was so 
aware of what Tommy was doing about the business of how people lived. 

This was Walter's whole concept; this was the thing that he 
really kept working on for Sunset. And the Lanes were not the least 
bit happy about it. They were satisfied to keep on a Better Homes 
and Gardens pattern because that's where Mr. Lane senior came from, 
both he and his wife. 


Riess: Better Homes and Gardens just is more of a showing of things and 

Baylis: Yes, well it was at that time. They always said that if they put 
either roses or apple pie, on the cover, they could just sell a 
million copies. It was that kind of an attitude about life. Life 
was just as simple as that, which of course it never has been. 

Mr. Doty was an experimenter. He kept looking for and seeking 
out the young people, the people who were doing things both in 
architecture and landscape architecture, which were concerned with 
how people live. Doug and Doty were extremely close, did a lot of 
arguing over the years, but still both going in the same general 
direction. Walter recognized in Tommy this remarkable subconscious, 
I think, unforced kind of approach to the garden. 

Riess: Yes, that's interesting. It sounds as if Tommy, like Doug, felt 

that the message was really important. And it was important for him 
to get out the message. 

Baylis: I think this is probably why he was motivated. I don't think there 
was any other reason. He really felt it was time to bring forth 
this western approach to the profession and what was happening here. 

Riess: Oh, but you don't look at Gardens are for People as a western book, 
do you? 

Baylis: No, it's not a western book, but the gardens that are in there are 

simply not gardens that you think of in terms of south or east. So 

I only use the word "western" as a description. It's not that 
acceptable obviously. 

Riess: Certainly he solves problems that are western problems. I've not 
looked at the introduction to the book to see whether he localizes 
it in that way. 

Baylis: I don't know either. It's funny, I don't remember about the 

introduction in that book. Been so long since I've looked at it. 

Riess: It's really a remarkable book. He attempts an enormous amount. 

Baylis: Yes, that's right. And in the east James Rose, who was a friend of 
Tommy's, produced a book also. But that was the eastern viewpoint. 
It was interesting seeing the two books to contrast the subtle 
differences of what Tommy presented. Although both of them were 
working in a field where there was money, where they could produce 
results, the results were strikingly different. But the people in 
the east began to recognize when House Beautiful pushed this trend 


Baylis: to such an extent that they were fascinated by what was happening. 
People in Texas and the people in Connecticut were all beginning 
to knock on Tommy's door because they saw something they admired. 

Riess: I guess so much of it I sort of take for granted. Was there 

something in Gardens are for People that was new to people who 

picked up that book? Or was it already historical, when it came 

Baylis: A lot of the things had appeared in Sunset or in House Beautiful 

before the book came out. But I think that Tommy was able to furnish 
some fresh photography for it, some fresh philosophy also. So it 
was newsworthy; it was interesting. 

Riess: I often ask whether Tommy really was a theoretician or whether he 

just is dealt with by historians and then he's seen as the theoretician. 

Baylis: That's interesting. It's a question I couldn't answer. I really 
d on ' t know . 

Riess: In general I don't think of landscape architects and architects as a 
particularly articulate group. So the fact that he chose to be so 
articulate, maybe you've just given the answer, that it was just 
really important for him to get himself together and educate people. 

Baylis: I think it was just literally to get himself together. I had that 

feeling. I don't think it was ever expressed that there was a motive 
at the time that he decided. It was just, "Hey, it's time to do a 
book. I really ought to get this thing out. I've got so much stuff 
here. I ought to get a book out." That was the impression I had, 
that it was naive as that. I don't know any more than that. 

Riess: Yes, because even for a modest man, that is a little naive. 
Baylis: Yes, it is. 

Doug and I did a book on Gordon Drake. It never occurred to 
Doug that he ought to get a book out or he ought to have his name 
on something, but rather here was something that we really ought 
to get printed because it was so damn good. So we did a book with 
Reinhold. They were going to do a series on architects. They 
decided to use that as their stepping stone. 

George Sanderson was the editor of Progressive Architecture at 
that time and a friend of Gordon's, so it worked out extremely well, 
and we did do a book. And again, not as something that was a showoff 
piece, but it was "This is important. Somebody's got to see this." 
Strangely enough through the years I have had many people come and 


Baylis: tell me they still had a copy of this book. There were only 5,000 
printed. But what an effect this man had had on--I should say, 
architects have said what an effect it had had upon them as 
professionals. It was a marvelous thing. Particularly since Doug 
has died, I've had several people come and knock on my door and say, 
"I've got this book." It's a nice thing to think, "Well, yes, you 
did say something" or "you did do something that did leave a mark 
on someone else." I don't know whether Tommy felt this or not, but 
I'm sure he was told it. Whether he did it intentionally or not, 
I don't know. 

Riess: Yes, it really is a treasured book. Betsy says the plates were kept 
by House Beautiful. There's no way of reprinting it. 

Baylis: Speaking of that, there was a man named Sam Newsom, who lived in 
Japan for many years, and he collected some marvelous things from 
Japan and put together a book many, many years ago. He was a 
landscape gardener. It was a superb book. All of the plates were 
destroyed; I guess it was during the war in Japan. So then they did 
issue another copy but they had to make a copy of a copy. It was a 
rather poor imitation of the original. But these things must be 
reissued, even in modest form, for the future. Out of nowhere something 
strange can happen. It seems such a shame not to reprint because they 
were wonderful records of a time that's gone. 

Tommy probably has most of the photographs, you know, copies 
of the photographs. But to produce it again would be much too 
expensive. In those days you could put out a book at a price that 
was within reason; today, you're into the $25, $30 cocktail table 
kind of thing, if you want to get out something like Gardens are for 
People. And there just isn't the market there. 

Riess: Your background is in advertising? 

Baylis: Actually, I started out to be 'an architect. Then I had to give it 
up. I got involved with advertising. Then during the war I worked 
with the Army in Hawaii as a civilian doing graphics. So I got into 
that facet. I was interested in it. I came back, opened a little 
graphics studio. Then I met Doug, who proceeded to get me the job 
at Sunset . I worked at Sunset for four years. 

Riess: Oh, so that's why you're so familiar with Sunset . 

Baylis: Yes, that's why I'm very familiar with that period. I was assistant 
art director. There were only two of us. Now I think they have 
seven or eight people, you know, the magazine has grown to such size. 
I was there from "47 to '51, which was a growth period for them. 





Then they decided to move down to Menlo when they built that 
building, and they wanted everyone to move. Incidentally, Tommy 
did the site planning and overall landscaping of Sunset 's property-- 
and it has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors through the 
years. I was not about to move so that was the period that I went 
to work with Doug. We bought this building in '51. That worked 
out very well. 

I would say that Sunset had a very distinct effect on my_ life, 
that working with these people, working with Mr. Doty, I certainly 
learned more about writing than I have from anyone else. I was 
extremely lucky. I was also lucky to fall in with Doug's profession. 
It wasn't mine, yet I had an awareness of where he was going and what 
he was doing and could work with him. It was a good kind of training 
ground for what I've done since he's gone. 

I wonder when the Lanes hired Doty if they had some inkling of a new 
direction to go when they gave him that editorship. 

I really don't know whether they had any idea, 
a rare editor. 

They just had found 

Doty was an account executive for Lord and Thomas advertising 
agency. He'd been in advertising, but he had a kind of drive which 
I think fascinated the Lanes. He fought for what he believed in. 
He was always fighting to get these things. He did more to develop 
young architects, as well as landscape architects. 1 He was always 
working on it. He realized that the magazine didn't have much money 
so he was looking for people with ideas: where is it going? what's 
the direction? Particularly after the war there was that whole new 
thing, what is going to happen? where are we going to land? 

In 1951, when I left, the current editor came in, Proctor 
Mellquist, and Walter was then sort of kicked upstairs. Mellquist 
developed the magazine as it is today, with emphasis on actual 
recording of western living, rather than as an idea source of how 
living might be improved. Doty performed a lot of promotional work 
for them in later years. Then slowly pulled himself away. He still 
is connected with Sunset but he then took on the job of editor for 
Ortho Books and he's been responsible for all of their recent 
successes, setting their direction. It's been fascinating. It 
wasn't until he was 79 that he put his name on a book. Because the 
Lanes didn't want him to have his name attached to anything. They 
really raised hell. 

Riess: His name isn't on the Ortho books? 


Baylis: No, it's only one book that it's on. It's All About Vegetables. 

That's the only one. It has sold over a million and a half copies. 

Riess: You know, I never see Ortho Books around. I almost feel like the 
disbributors have it against-- 

Baylis: The whole thing is the problem with distributors. So they're doing 
a lot of changing. They're going through a big thing now. But 
Walter is now 82 or something like that and almost blind, and 
they're looking for someone young to take over. Yet, here's this 
man who still has the keenest mind imaginable. 1 He is fabulous. 
He's just a amazing guyj Have you talked to him? 

Riess: Yes, I talked to him. I think he's an amazing guy, and he doesn't 
seem to be daunted by any of that. 

Baylis: No, he's lived by fire his whole life. He just keeps on going. 

Riess: I can see that his push for people to publish and to articulate 
their ideas must be very significant. 

Baylis: It is significant, right. 

Riess: Tommy sometimes even had what looked to be a byline in Sunset. 

Baylis: Well, they would mention his name. Doug got a great deal of 

business because whenever anything he did was published in Sunset , 
we would have people call us about gardens or garden plants, what 
have you. 

Doug finally pulled away from residential and I would say for 
the last 12 years of his career he did none. He just didn't want 
to do residential. He preferred to do industrial, commercial, for 
the very reason that he was interested in so many other things, that 
he began to feel that when he did a residential --as with Tommy- - 
there's a personal kind of thing. But he was always dealing with 
the husband and the wife, each of whom had different ideas and goals 
and very often, in the beginning, a marriage that was about to break 
up. "Let's buy a house and then this will save the marriage." It's 
like, "Let's have a baby. It'll save the marriage." 

In those days building a new house was the common thing to do. 
You looked for something different, to change the environment, maybe 
everything would be all right. And there were still the family 
problems that were being solved. He said, "I find I'm being a 
psychiatrist. I don't enjoy that." 

Riess: I've heard that before. I've experienced it myself. [Laughter] 
Everybody says that Tommy is the only one who could do it, get 
through that. 







Yes, that's right. Somehow or another, he is the one man who 
managed it. I don't know what his magic was. Except that he was 

Yes, really. Well, it sounds like with that kind of magic, he 
could have been in any sort of business. 

I'm awfully glad that I just had this [1948 San Francisco 
Museum of Art Landscape Design catalog] lying here. 

Well, I'm delighted. There was another one that came out, then, in 
1958 which we put together, but the credit was given to Burt Litton 
at Berkeley, because he had to publish or perish. It seemed like 
one of those logical moments, "Okay, here's a chance for him." Well, 
then they hired someone professionally to tie it together at the last 
minute. That was fine, it didn't matter, but it was another good one. 
There was some talk in '68 of trying to do another one because of 
the 10-year spacing. 

I was pleased to read the quote.* 

It really did seem like a fairly strong statement, 
that out enough? 

Have we padded 

Well, I would say in relationship to the photographs that I'm sure 
Tommy's recording his work was a strong influence on Doug to 
photograph his own work and others'. 

And all through his life he continued to take photographs, 
primarily of things related to landscape architecture. He would 
take some open landscapes, but basically he wasn't interested in 
anything except seeing what others had done and also recording some 
things that he had done. I have about 3 or 4,000 slides to go 
through. That's on my agenda when I get back. So it will be very 
interesting. There are many duplicates so I'm in hopes that I can 
put together two or three sets. One of them I know goes to Cal Poly; 
I've already promised. We'll see where else. Somebody would like 
to have them, I'm sure. 

*In the interviewer's letter to Baylis she quotes Doug Btylis' 
answer to a question of TDC's formula for success: "The moment 
you have gardens made and some good photographs, it follows. He 
photographed his own gardens. He works and turns out gardens. Who 
else does that?" 


Baylis: But he did not get involved in the physical business of dark 

room that Tommy did. Tommy did so much of his own darkroom work. 
Because this was something he enjoyed doing. 

Riess: When you said that both Tommy and Doug worked with a soft pencil, and 
that they were happy with the back of the envelope, do you think 
that they are more oriented to the artistic side of things? 

Baylis: I doubt it. I think, for instance, Larry primarily was interested 

in the sculptural, the art form, that sort of thing. I can only 

really speak for Doug. I can't speak for Tommy because I don't 
know him that well. 

But I know that Doug was influenced more, and everything he did 
was, "If I put this here and put that there, what result will happen? 
Does this mean that it's easier for someone to do something he or 
she would like to do?" It was related to how people live. This was 
the real structuring. The form then was related to what is the 
ultimate result, what's going to happen. It was the building of the 

Literally, what both Doug and Tommy did was that they built a 
framework. Within that framework you could keep changing the picture, 
but it was still a damn good garden, even if there was nothing there. 
This was what both of those men seemed to me to produce, where I think 
some of the more formal, some of the more advanced designs say that 
Royston and the others have done, are concerned with the design 
concept of the garden. 

But I don't know that they ever thought in those terms, that it's 
as simple as that. It's just like if you build the right house, it 
doesn't matter what you do to it, it's still a great house. The intent 
was, for both of them, to produce a living-in garden which, no matter 
what was done to it, would still be a good one—and in Tommy's instance, 
a great one. 

Riess: No matter who lives in it. 

Baylis: No matter who lives in it, right. There's a house that Doug did 
over in Belvedere that's had several owners. Each owner moved in 
and did different things within the garden, but still it's such a 
basic, simple thing. The woman who lives there now is in her 70s. 
She owned it, sold it, bought it back, brought back her favorite 
plants, loves it. 

It's one of the nicest things to think about that you can do 
something so simple, but that it works. That you think, "Veil, 
this is good." I think this is probably the mptive, the thing that 


Baylis: both of them strove for. I don't know about the others. As I say, 
I've seen other gardens and seen many photographs and I keep coming 
back and I find an empathy with what Tommy does and what Doug did 
during the period that he was doing them. 

3) Some Thoughts About Tommy, Betsy, and the Past 

Baylis: I had one little story. It's an odd kind of thing. I was going to 

remember to tell you. About two and a half years ago perhaps it was, 
I was asked to deliver a plan on Sansome Street, one of Doug's plans 
for something he had done some time ago. As I walked down Jackson 
Street I walked past Tommy's office and I saw him up there. I had 
the strangest sensation, "If I don't walk in and see Tommy right now, 
I may never see Tommy again." I've never had that happen to me. It 
was psychic in a sense. So I went in and I talked to him for 20 

Tommy was feeling fine. It was before the onslaught of this 
thing. It was such a marvelous, warm, friendly moment, you know, 
because it was just one of those things where I didn't have anything 
to offer Tommy. It was just that I wanted to talk to him. I was so 
pleased. And I thought about it after and often. Because it never 
occurred to me that this tragedy would strike Tommy's life because 
he was durable. He was just going to go on and on. There wasn't 
anything like Tommy. He was so special. He just seemed to be without 

Riess: That's very good that you did that. I can see that. 
Baylis: Well, it's so rare. As I said, it never had happened to me. 

Riess: I've gathered from some people that they didn't feel that they really 
knew him. I don't know. Now I feel like asking you, but it's really 
sort of hard, you know whether you really felt that you did have a 
personal relationship with him. 

Baylis: I knew Tommy with feeling. I felt good about Tommy. I felt I knew 
a lot about him. Yet, when you mentioned this and when the letter 
came, I thought, "Oh dear, I really don't know very much. I don't 
know anything about his personal life, his habits, and these things 
that are part of a man's life." But I felt close to Tommy always 
when I was near him. I still do, even though I haven't seen him. 
I feel a tremendous impact has been made on my life because of this 
man. Always there are some people who will touch you. You know. 
I felt that and I feel it. 


Basils : I think the private Tommy was something else. You see, Dpug 
was a private person, too. I recognize there were areas that were 
his areas which had to be respected. It was very important. Tommy 
must have had similar kinds of areas. 

I remember the joy when he had his fiftieth birthday. There 
was a party. Something about going to Paris. Did Betsy or anyone 
talk about that? I think they went to Paris for his fiftieth 

Riess: No. I had a feeling they went to Paris practically every year. 

Baylis: Well, they went to Europe often. But this was one of those special 
things that he was going to go back. Because he had been there 
earlier, and then he'd gone to Sweden. He had this marvelous visit. 
That's when he met Aalto. That was much, much earlier—there was a 
20 year period or something in between there. 

But he and Punk had both come out from Ohio together — 
Incidentally, have you talked with Mrs. Vaughan? 

Riess: No, I haven't. 

Baylis: Well, Beulah is a psychiatrist, I think I'm right in saying. She's 
retired and lives in Point Richmond, in their home. She may have 
some wonderful stories about this. 

Riess: She was Punk Vaughan 's second wife? 

Baylis: Yes, the second wife. A very remarkable woman in her own way. She 
probably would be able to give you some insights into the Church 
situation because I'm sure Punk may have talked to her through the 

Riess: It sounds like a good idea.* David Streatfield comments that after 

Doug and Royston and Halprin, "Tommy never hired any highly creative 
people again." 

Baylis: As far as I know, there were always special people who worked there 
but not to match the early era. 

Riess: I would like to know why. Do you think that the nature of the people 
who wanted to come and work in the office changed? 

Baylis: I would guess that. I would guess that it was a rare period, as 
sometimes happens in history, where you get a group of people who 
will come along in one period, all of whom are strong and individual 
personalities, and then you'll go through another period of drought. 

*" the time we were married in the early 1950s, his working 
relationship with Tommy Church had been over for a long time. Although 
we remained personal friends of the Churches, we actually saw very 
little of them. I have no first-hand knowledge of anything concerning 


Baylis: I think this is it, that these were very competent --Casey certainly 
was talented and Jack also — but I just have a feeling that the ones 
who made the mark were all of that, one period. I think it's, as I 
say, that there are times in history, as in music or anything else, 
that there are groups of people who become outstanding. 

Riess: Do you have any impressions of Marie Harbeck in the office? 

Baylis: I don't have any impressions of her at all. Only from what June 
has mentioned. Doug never talked much about Marie. But then he 
wasn't really conscious of women particularly. That was the period 
that again Tommy recognized, that it was time that he got out. [Laughs] 

Riess: That's very interesting. Well, of course you feel very fond of 
Tommy because of that connection also. 

Baylis: Yes, I really do. I've been very grateful to him that he did what 
he did when he did it. 

It's too difficult to know whether what one says has any value 
because all you can do is ramble and hope that it contributes a 

Riess: Well, you ramble so convincingly that I have questions that I haven't 
needed to ask because your rambles are as much to the point as my 

Baylis: It seems quite unorganized, but it's difficult to look back. 

I have just received a questionnaire from the Fellows at ASLA. 
They asked me if I would fill it out about what Doug did. It's 
difficult to pinpoint times even though I always thought I kept 
track of dates. Doug was an Art Commissioner here in San Francisco 
for eight years. Before Tommy took over the University of California, 
Doug was the landscape architect on the campus for three years. But 
then when Tommy came on, he took it, the whole thing. He took all 
the campuses. And managed and put that thing together. I thought 
that was quite a remarkable job at this time of his life. He had a 
very strong hand in what happened to the various campuses. It was 
a tremendous contribution to the University of California. 

Riess: It JLS_ remarkable, isn't it? 

Baylis: Yes, I know because of how hard Doug worked for the three years 
for one campus, to establish order, to introduce fresh ideas. 

Riess: Well, he must have had an ability to pace himself and not feel pushed. 

Tommy's career that isn't known to everyone, and actually have a 
rather sketchy knowledge of even Punk's professional activities in 
the early days. I did, of course, hear occasional anecdotes, but I 
think the best person from whom to get a real flavor of those times 
would be to interview Harold Watkin..." Buelah Parker Vaughan 


Baylis: Yes, and I think that's another facet of Tommy. I don't think 

people could push him. I remember one funny incident right here in 
our neighborhood. A woman wanted him to come because Wurster had 
remodeled her house. It's up on top of Russian Hill. She wanted 
Tommy. He wasn't about to come. Finally, he grudgingly said he 
would come . 

Of course, she was just so annoyed because he came and said, 
"I don't think you can have a tree." 


And she said, "But I've got to have a tree." 

"All right," he said, "We'll get the tree here, 
you where to put it." 

Then I'll tell 

They had to get a big piece of equipment, a great gadget to 
lift the tree up. Tommy stood across the street and kept motioning 
this way, that way and the tree went in and that was it. [Laughter] 

She never has quite gotten over it. She was the head of the 
Waves during the war. She was a woman of rather remarkable abilities 
herself. But she never could quite accept the fact that Tommy 
wouldn't do any more than the back of the envelope kind of drawing. 

Tommy wasn't one to be pushed. This is marvelous because he 
could still endear himself to most people. All through the years he 
could handle these situations in a way that no one else probably 
could have done it. It's Tommy magic as far as I'm concerned. 

He has said the minority group that he felt sorriest for is the very 
rich or something like that. 

Baylis: Yes, and he always said, "I love ladies with big hats." 

I know that even with personal relationships that I watched on 
rare occasions, that Tommy could handle a conversation, but he could 
move away from the conversation and into another. This in itself 
is a feat because 1^ always have found it difficult when I'm with a 
group of people and I suddenly get trapped. Tommy somehow managed 
to always talk to everyone at the Christmas party. He moved from 
group to group or from people to people. But it was personal. And 
every time he stopped, you had a feeling he was really listening to 
you. I think that was very important. 

It is funny. Of all the things I can think about at the 
Christmas parties, I see there a great plate of the most delicious 
deviled eggs. Betsy would always bring a plate of deviled eggs to 
the party. That was the first place I would reach because I knew 
that they were special. 


Baylis: Betsy is a superb cook, as you probably know. She studied 
cooking. She handles it well. I know that she had a strong 
influence in my thinking in the way one served food, that even if 
it wasn't very fancy, if you served it attractively on beautiful 
dishes or in an interesting way, it didn't really matter what you 
were serving. Flavor, of course, is important. Betsy did influence 
me because her kitchen was such a superb working kitchen. 

Tommy was marvelous with spur-of-the-moment [cooking]. Doug 
and I were there one night and he said, "Stay. I'll fix you some 
eggs." He did this marvelous egg thing with herbs and eggs in an 
omelette, a little cream. All of a sudden, we were sitting at the 
table eating supper. It was just so simple. He, too, had this kind 
of awareness. He let Betsy have all sorts of wonderful things. She 
had marvelous antiques that she picked up and things. But he 
appreciated them. 

Oh, and then when they remodeled that house and he went out to 
the Western Addition where wreckers were pulling down all of these 
old buildings, he kept finding wonderful wood artifacts, carved 
things, so they could add them to the house on Hyde Street. This 
was an avocation; he just loved the idea of going out and scrounging 
and then bringing back these things, which produced this perfectly 
beautiful Victorian they live in. 

But I know that Betsy, as I say, had a strong influence on how 
I learned. When I first came to San Francisco there were many things 
to learn. But from Betsy I learned how people lived with style and 
taste in this gracious manner which she offered. 

Riess: What was her reputation, apart from that, when you first came? 

Baylis: I remember Doug talking about Betsy, that he admired her taste. I 
was conscious of the combinations of things that she had and the 
way that she used them. I was, ohj enamored of this marvelous woman, 
you know, what she had done and what she is doing right now. And, 
of course, I was so grateful to have the place for the honeymoon. 
That was fun--the little house down there. 

And Tommy did hooked rugs at one time. Did anyone ever tell 
you that? Several were there in 1948. 

Riess: Yes, somebody told me that, Fran Violich told me that. Now what was 
that all about? 

Baylis: He hooked rugs, rag rugs. They were in the house down in the 

country. Doug thought it was a neat idea. Here Tommy had designed 
and executed all these marvelous rugs, abstractions, very tastefully 
done. They represented a facet of this man completely apart from his 


Baylis: professional side. The rugs were small so they'd just be picked 
up and you could shake them to clean them. 

And, of course, he planted the grapes all the way around 
the little house, he had his own little vineyard, and that was a 
loving touch. 

[Added in editing] 
Riess: Want to expand on this ending? 

Baylis: After all these words, there are always moments when one wants to 
redo them with more careful thoughts. But I'm very grateful for 
the invitation you offered me, Suzanne, because it forces me to 
vacuum out the dusty spaces and to look with fresh expression on 
not only Tommy, but also others who have added much to my life. 

Thank you—and not only for myself, but for all others who come 
who will have a rare opportunity to know this Tommy Church who 
brought his profession to a new stature. And also gain insight into 
a beautiful human being, through the sharings of his admirers. 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

Thomas D. Church Oral History Project 

Jack Stafford 

Interview Conducted by 
Suzanne 8. Riess 

1978 by The Regents of the University of California 

TABLE OF CONTENT -- Jack Stafford 

1) Post-War Study of Landscape Architecture, U.C. 551 

2) The Church Office 555 

3) The Design Process 561 

4) Including the Arts, and Working with Architects 562 

5) The Life-Style Factor 564 

6) House Beautiful, Photography, Travel 567 

7) The Evolution of a Garden, and Costs 568 

8) Master Planning 572 

9) Pruning and Writing 573 


Jack Stafford 

February 23, 1976 

Interview held at his office in Palo Alto 

1) Post-War Study of Landscape Architecture, U.C. 

Riess: Let's talk about your early history first. Where are you from? 

Stafford: I was born and raised in Wyoming and spent the first part of my 
young life taking pre-med at the University of Wyoming and then 
went into the service. I was in the Air Force. And after I got 
discharged I began to wonder what to do. In those days everybody 
said, "Oh, gee, we ought to get a job with the airlines because 
we've done all this flying and we're so good," and so I went back 
to Wyoming and was fortunate to get a job with an airline, but 
after six months realized I didn't like that. 

While in the Air Force I had married. My wife was from San 
Francisco so we said the heck with this and we packed up and moved 
back to San Francisco. And somehow in the back of my mind I had 
always thought I might be interested in the nursery business, so I 
started looking into that and I traveled all over the Bay Area for 
two or three weeks talking to nurserymen- -even in Sacramento where 
we had some friends. And most everyplace I went the nurserymen 
were a little reluctant to recommend it as a great business, as far 
as making a lot of money, but they were all very helpful and gave 
me a lot of tips on what I should do about going to school. 

As I went around and talked about the nursery industry, the 
subject of landscape architecture was presented to me. It was a 
profession I had never heard about, so I got the bulletin from Cal 
and decided, "Gee, that sounds kind of interesting." Then 
fortunately, right at that same time, in January of 1946, I was 
able to meet Mr. Church and find out what a landscape architect was. 

Riess: How did that come about? 

Stafford: Well, it was arranged through somebody that I met, who knew Tommy. 
So, from then on I was sold—on him and the profession. He was 
able to tell me about some people that I could find a job with in 


Stafford: the field, which was the best experience I could have gotten 
before going back to school. 

Riess: What was Mr. Church like to talk to? 

Stafford: He was very encouraging and very kind and understanding of my 
situation and right away said, 'Veil, we ought to put you to 
work. Come to the Peninsula with us on a field trip." Then after 
one or two other conferences with him he said, "When you're through 
school I'd like to have you come to work for me," something like 

Riess: Did you go into a graduate program? 

Stafford: No, I entered as a sophomore, and I had so many credits in 

chemistry and that type of thing from pre-med that I had to start 
over with the undergraduate course that they offered. But it was 
easy, much easier than before. The difficult thing was learning 
to draw and draft because I had never done any of that sort of 

It was hard for me to begin to understand the design field 
and the way people thought about design, architects — it was all so 
new. Fortunately somehow or another I absorbed the philosophies 
of Mr. Church and some of the other people that helped me a great 
deal to realize what it was all about, because unless you start out 
thinking you're a designer, you have to learn to be one, and to 
think like one. And that was the hard part for me. 

Riess: You got a lot of help out of the school, how about in the school? 

Stafford: Same thing. Professor Vaughan was head of the department at the 

time—he and Mr. Church were very good friends and worked together 
for some years—and he was very helpful and very understanding. 
I suspect part of it was the fact that in those days there were a 
lot of people coming back out of the service and almost everybody 
was knocking themselves out to help the students as much as possible, 
And the students in general were older, so most of us knew that 
this was something that we were serious about, rather than taking 
a course just because it sounded easy. 

Riess: Were any of the younger professionals teaching then, like Royston? 

Stafford: Royston was teaching part time, and then the second or third year 
he was teaching some of the major design courses. 

Riess: And was it substantially different to take the courses from him, 
one of the younger people, than it was to take them from Vaughan, 
or Gregg? Did it make landscape architecture into another kind 
of field? 


Stafford: It was quite different, particularly with Mr. Royston, and that 

was a very interesting experience for me. My last year in school 
I was working part time in Mr. Church's office, and I had been 
working summers in the field for a contractor who built a lot of 
his gardens, Floyd Gerow, so I got to know his techniques and his 
philosophy quite well and it was interesting then to have to be 
taking a course under Royston. [Laughter] But we got along fine. 

Riess: Was there a different philosophy of design there? 

Stafford: Well, of course Church is credited with being the forerunner of 
the new techniques in designing gardens, or the new philosophy, 
whatever you want to call it. He was never as vocal about his way 
of doing things, possibly, as Royston might be, but of course there 
Royston was an instructor and Church was practicing, so it's hard 
to know what Church might have said if he'd been a professor. 
Although over the years I've listened to him speak to clients and 
people of all kinds about design and it's hard to explain, I wish 
I could explain it, but he's different, a different personality 
than Royston. Royston was a very intense person with lots of new 
ideas. Have you met him? 

Riess: Not yet. 

Stafford: Once you meet him I think you'll understand what I'm trying to say. 
He used to be very ethereal, with a far-out sort of philosophy 
about things. Mr. Church is down to earth. He always used to say, 
"It doesn't mean a thing if your design is the greatest-looking 
thing you've ever done unless it all works properly." By that 
meaning that people could live in it and it functions to fill their 

Riess: So he was more the servant of the client, would you say, in that 
way, than Royston? 

Stafford: I don't know. I know that he took great pains to make sure the 
client got something that they wanted or thought they wanted and 
that it worked properly for them. 

Riess: I think we got into this because I wondered whether you felt you 
were getting two messages, between your schooling and your 
apprenticeship with Church? 

Stafford: At the time I was getting two messages and as I say it was kind 
of a unique position to be in. But we got a message from almost 
anybody we talked to, you know. Professor Shepherd, the man who 
taught plant materials courses, his philosophies of design were 
quite interesting too. He was an older man. But we learned from 









everybody that we talked to. I think Gregg retired right after 
the first semester that I was there, so we didn't have much 
contact with him. Vaughan, and Mr. [Hurt] Litton came along about 
that time. 

But looking back, and talking to some of the students 
recently, they had an excellent course at the time. We learned 
the fundamentals of the engineering portion, the plant materials, 
basic design and ideas and philosophies, and it was well done. 
It was probably much better preparation for being able to go out 
and get a job and really understand how things are built, and 
why, than maybe the students have now, at Berkeley at least. 

Because the profession has gotten so diffuse? 

That's my guess. And the city planning and regional planning 
field has become so important at Berkeley. 

When you were a student, what gardens were you taken to? 
of field trips did you do? 

What kind 

A lot of the old gardens in Berkeley and some in San Francisco. 

How about early Church work, such as at Pasatiempo. 
pointed out? 

Was that 

Yes, they had a summer field trip program that you had to participate 
in at least one summer of your time at Berkeley and I think that 
lasted three or four weeks at least, and we toured quite a bit. As 
I remember we went all over--San Rafael, down the Peninsula, East 
Bay, and it seems to me we went up to the Napa area, and we saw 
lots of things. 

But that was not the rule during the school year? 

They used to encourage us to go on field trips of our own, and we 
used to go once a month at least with Shepherd on a plant identifi 
cation type course. We'd go out and look at some of the old 
gardens and see what the plant materials were like when they were 
thirty years old. 

Like the McDuffie garden in Berkeley? Can you recall others? 

I don't remember the names of them, but I would guess most were 
gardens that Shepherd had done; there were a few gardens that 
Church had done, and others. 


Stafford: But it was a very well-organized curriculum. The civil 

engineering, plant materials and the opportunity to take an art 
course and dabble around in paint, learn how to draft- -you see, 
we took basic architecture courses as well. It was all very 
well-integrated, and just what I needed. 

Riess: It looked like a department that had a good time; everyone was 

Stafford: Yes, they always had a picnic every spring, and the students all 
got along well. Several of us had children at that time. 

Riess: Did you all expect to get into offices when you got out? Was it a 
boom time? 

Stafford: Oh yes, I think for the three or four years that I was at Berkeley 
nobody had any problems getting jobs. 

2) The Church Office 

Riess: When you started in with Church who else was in the office? 

Stafford: I started in January 1950 and the other people were Casey Kawamoto, 
June Meehan, Larry Halprin. And then very shortly after that two 
architects were working with Mr. Church—George Rockrise and Gerry 
Milono. They actually designed some houses as employees of Tommy's 
for Tommy's clients. That was an interesting experience, they did 
some very nice things. 

Riess: People were calling Thomas Church Associates for a whole- 
Stafford: Complete design. 

Riess: I thought that sort of grand thing was what he was trying to avoid, 
that he wanted a small, personal practice. 

Stafford: Well, he gave it up quite rapidly after he realized what a 

complicated thing it got to be--not complicated, necessarily, but 
how much work was involved for him. 

Riess: To supervise all of that? 

Stafford: Yes. 

Riess: How did the office run when it was that large? 


Stafford: Each person had certain projects assigned to them to do. Casey 

and myself, being young and right out of school, our abilities were 
limited, so we mostly did working drawings and planting plans and 
blowing up base maps, sort of the more fundamental, simple things. 
June had been there since before the war. She answered the phone 
and took care of client relationships as well as designing. 

Riess: Did she work with Tommy's sketches, or did she design herself? 
Stafford: Both, but he did the preliminary designs. 
Riess: Was it a sketchy sketch? 

Stafford: Sometimes, but they were certainly well thought out. Most of the 
grades would show, and types of materials. He was a very prolific 
guy when he got a pencil in his hand and many Monday mornings we 
would come to work and he had designed two or three gardens over 
the weekend and everybody had more to do than they could handle. 
So we were kept very, very busy. 

Later he had to get a bookkeeper --no, he had a bookkeeper, 
but a secretary. June used to try to do the secretarial work as 
well as drafting and answering the phone. The secretary could 
also do a certain amount of drafting. 

Larry was only there about a year. And I think Rockrise and 
Milono about a year. After that there were still the five of us. 
The last two or three years there were a few other younger fellows 
who were hired. 

Riess: When Halprin was there, how did he work with Mr. Church? 

Stafford: Well, I wasn't exposed to them long enough --Larry was just out of 
the service too, and he must have been there about a year my last 
year in school. He and Mr. Church understood each other and got 
along very well. They had a great rapport. But it was pretty 
obvious that Larry had some definite ideas of his own, philosophies 
of design, which was great, I think they both learned from each 

Riess: Was a partnership contemplated? 

Stafford: No, although they operated almost as partners, I think. Later on 
June and Casey and I were called associates, and after five, six, 
seven years of experience there we all began to be pretty reliable 
people, I think. Tommy would go away for a couple of months and 
leave us alone; we'd carry on the operation of the office. 


Would a job come in directly to you? 


Stafford: Sometimes, although we were usually so busy that we never had time 
to take on a new job without him knowing about it. Once in a while 
we'd contact him and ask him if it was all right. We usually 
didn't do much in the way of final drawings until he had a chance 
to look at it. 

Riess: How long were you with him? 

Stafford: Fifteen years. 

Riess: When did you leave? 

Stafford: In 1965, January. 

Riess: Why? 

Stafford: I felt a need to stop tearing around the Bay Area so much, and to 
have my own office. 

Riess: Did he replace you? 

Stafford: Oh yes, he had, up to five years ago, the same number of people, 

Riess: Did Casey Kawamoto stay? 

Stafford: No, Casey left before I did. He opened up his own office a year or 
two before I did. 

Jerry Henderson was hired, I think, when Casey left. And 
then Walt Guthrie was there for about a year when I was there. 
Then there were several other people in the office that I didn't 

Riess: When you were through school, did you give any thought to the other 
offices around? 

Stafford: No, I was so happy to be able to get out of school and go to Mr. 
Church's office. 

Riess: Would the other off ices --Osmund son's for instance --have been alien 
to what you thought about landscape architecture? 

Stafford: Not really alien. But for me Mr. Church's philosophy and way of 
doing things was just right. I probably would not have enjoyed 
the profession nearly as much had I gone in with another office, 
particularly Roys ton ' s- -whom I admire quite a lot—and I guess that 







is because I didn't understand him. And yet some of my classmates 
went with him and have been there for years. I doubt if I'd been 
as happy working for Larry Halprin. It's hard to explain. I spent 
so much time in the field [working for the Church office] and that's 
the thing I really enjoy still today. And so it was the most 
wonderful thing that could have happened, you see. 

The picture of him designing a couple of gardens over the weekend -- 
and I've heard he worked a 16-hour day--could he not say "no" to 

Well, I think it was hard for him to say "no" to some people, and 
other times he did say "no." But he was the kind of a guy that 
just had to do it. He'd work nights and weekends and holidays. 
He moved very rapidly. He had the ability to analyze a problem 
right away quick and come to a solution, so he did an amazing amount 
of work in a short period of time. 

But on top of that he was doing a book, and traveling, and the 
social life. I don't know how he did it. 

The social life? Is there a lot of that? 

Well, with his family in San Francisco, yes. 

I understand that he did have remarkably good client relationships. 

Right, that was one of the unusual things about both Mr. and Mrs. 
Church. They liked people and they met people very well, and people 
liked them. They made a great number of friends, all over the 
country, and people were sincere about being friendly with them, 
and they realized that, so it was a rewarding experience. 

Did Mrs. Church travel with Tommy? 

Yes, especially on the eastern trips. And it was a good thing, I 
think they both enjoyed it and it gave them time to be together. 
Because around here their time was quite limited. 

I was amazed at his ability to take off for Fort Worth, Texas, 
on a weekend and meet a client, sit down and analyze the problem, 
and make sketches and studies and solve all their problems and know 
what plant materials would work in that locality, and then hop on 
the plane and be back in the office on Monday morning, having done 
a new garden over the weekend in a strange place. I used to go 
with him once in a while on those trips and I'd be exhausted by 
the time I got home. 


Riess: It's hard to reconcile that high level of energy with the easy 
going nice quality that he has. 

Stafford: Well, he always had that easy-going quality. Once in a while he'd 
get nervous if somebody was obviously going to wreck his schedule. 
Sometimes he'd be on schedules—he "d sit down and make out his own 
airline schedule for a trip in the Mid -West where he'd be gone for 
ten days and was going to see a half a dozen people, and if somebody 
wasn't cooperating, one of his clients, and he was going to miss a 
plane, he would be upset. Other than that, he just loved to do that 
kind of thing, and he'd be all over the country. 

Riess: What did he do on the plane between clients? 

Stafford: Oh, reading, sometimes sleeping, or making notes about what was 
said, so that somebody in the office, when he got back, could 
follow up and take over the drafting. Or many times it was a report 
to the architect on what he'd said and thought. All kinds of things. 
He kept busy, always had a tablet in his briefcase, always doing 

Riess: Was it a relief to have him gone from the office, the pressure off? 

Stafford: Oh, yes, many times it was good for him to get away from the office 
because we could get a lot of work done that was piling up. I can 
remember times when I'd have five projects to do the working 
drawings on piled up on my reference table. 

Riess: So, so long as he was in the jobs would be piling up? 

Stafford: Either that or I'd be out in the field with him and wouldn't be able 
to get much work done. Or people coming and you'd have to drop 
things to talk to them. And long coffee hours. Birthday celebrations. 
And lots of interesting people in and out all the time--artists , 
photographers and friends and clients. 

Riess: Why were artists coming and going? 

Stafford: Just friends of his, and friends of Betsy's, and June's. Or 

architects or people from out of town dropping in to see him or to 
say hello. He had so many friends in the design field plus all his 
clients that there was always something going on, it seemed like. 
So with that kind of a situation, many times it was a relief when 
he was away; it gave us a little more time to get our work down. 

Riess: It's surprising he would give that much time to the visitors. 

Stafford: Well, quite often it was pre-arranged. People would call and arrange 
a date or time. And the convenient thing would be the coffee hour 
at ten. Sometimes they'd arrive with five or six people and a great 


Stafford: big tray of donuts and they'd be there until 11:30. It was always 
so enjoyable, and so many interesting people, I used to have to 
pull myself away and get to work. The phone would be ringing and 
things would be going on, and all in a relatively small office 

Rless: I'm interested in what people keep around them? Did Mr. Church 
have pictures, or objects, or what around on the desk? 

Stafford: Hm, nothing comes to mind. I know he always had a bottle of 

bourbon in the bottom drawer and a carton of cigarettes in the 
second drawer. A bunch of pills in his briefcase. He did have 
some interestings things on his desk and I can't remember what 
they were now. It seems to me there were some small sculpture 
items of some sort that he always had, a paper-weight type thing. 
And he loved flowers. The girls always used to bring bouquets in 
the spring, that type of thing. 

Riess: Did client conferences take place in the office? 

Stafford: Quite often, but he spent a lot of time visiting the clients at 
their home, too, and a lot of time on the site. 

Riess: I'd like to go back again to when Rockrise and Milono were in the 
office. Why did that stop? 

Stafford: Well, I think it was beginning to be just too much work for Mr. Church 
and probably he wasn't making any money at it. 

Riess: What was the financial setup? Was it profit-sharing? 

Stafford: Well, the associates usually, as I remember, every year shared in a 
percentage of the profits. 

Riess: Otherwise you were on salary. 

Stafford: Right. And at the time, as I remember, the salaries were quite 
adequate compared to what other offices were paying. 

Riess: When architects come into offices right after architecture school 

usually they get terribly badly-paid jobs and it's seen as training 
for a long period of time. 

Stafford: When we started that was true. We started at an hourly rate. But 
the first three or four raises came along as the result of Mr. 
Church's desire to give us more money. 


As you became more valuable. 


Riess: I have talked to architects who felt that despite all the 
schooling their training really began in their first job in an 
office. Does that hold true in landscape architecture? 

Stafford: Yes, and it did in my case too. I didn't really know very much 
but I had a lot of confidence in that I'd had the background from 
Berkeley plus the field experience --nine months in the field before 
I went to school and then summers. 

3) The Design Process 

Riess: How did he tell you what he wanted? If he gave you a sketch and 
something you did was not right, would he make a note, or was it 
a verbal communication, or what? 

Stafford: He'd make copious notes, sometimes on the working drawings, sometimes 
on a piece of tracing paper on top of it. Sometimes you'd be working 
on something on a Friday afternoon and by Monday morning you'd come 
in and it would all be changed, but that was slightly unusual. As 
I say, he worked so fast and did so many things all at once that 
once in a while he'd come back to review them and make changes. But 
it was usually in the form of drawing or a note. 

Riess: I guess he could have an idea, and you could develop the sketch, 
and with it visualized he could see that it would not work. 

Stafford: Yes, the best time to change it is when it is on paper. [Laughter] 
Riess: Were wounded egos the result? 

Stafford: No, you wouldn't have been able to last if it wounded your ego. 
After all, it was his design and his office and his way of doing 
things. Just because you'd finished the working drawings on 
something and he wanted to change it, sometimes you'd say, "Well, 
okay, but somebody else is going to have to wait a day or two." 

Riess: How about if you had ideas you wanted to incorporate into a 

Stafford: Then you'd do a little overlay study and ask him to look at it and 
see what he thought. Many times that kind of thing went on because 
a problem of topography or something else would come up that he 
hadn't seen or hadn't known about. And then many times the clients 
would change their minds. 


Stafford: Usually he'd send the studies or get together with the clients 
and review them and they'd think about them, and then they'd meet 
again. It was an ongoing process of design, sometimes years before 
something was firm. And then other times something would be firm 
right away quick and then other times it would all be changed on 
the site, during construction. So it was an exciting, fast-moving 
way of life. 

Riess: I guess that's why Floyd Gerow, and other contractors who really 
understood, were essential to the process. 

Stafford: Yes. Mr. Church had his own crew of men for many years when he 
first started out and he loved to work in the field himself and 
help build gardens and plant and prune. That's an exciting part 
of it really. I was fortunate that I was able to participate in 
that for many years, in the field. He had no qualms about coming 
out to the job and, as Floyd used to say, "throw the planting plan 
away." Place the plants and tell the fellow where to put them all. 

4) Including the Arts, and Working with Architects 

Riess: In a 1948 catalog from the San Francisco Museum's Landscape 

Architecture show there was a comment that landscape architecture 
should include architecture and painting and sculpture. Was that 
all just theoretical, or did Mr. Church include the arts deliberately? 

Staff: There were some gardens and some projects where the architect and 
a sculptor and an artist were involved, along with the landscape 
architect. It actually was rather unusual. 

Tommy used to work with Claire [Falkenstein] a lot, and Addie 
Kent, and they were good friends. And he liked to use sculpture. 
Painting, not too much, unless maybe a mural got involved. But I 
don't remember in the design of the gardens him saying, "Well, 
there's got to be a piece of sculpture just at this particular 
point." If the client had the money and liked a certain type of 
sculpture, then it would be incorporated, but it usually was secondary 
in the overall concept. 

Riess: How about color itself? (I think of the Royston garden that looked 
like a Mondrian painting.) How important was that? 

Stafford: Relatively unimportant compared to form and to the overall relation 
ship of the garden to the site. He had a very good color sense, in 
his choice of plant materials and other materials that he used in a 


Stafford: garden. It would be hard to say that his designs related to 
color more than abstract art or painting. 

Riess: Do some landscape architects sketch their designs in color, and 
others work in black and white? One oriented more toward color 
than another? 

Stafford: Yes, I think so. Particularly Royston used to do that a lot. I 
don't know about Halprin. 

Riess: And Church? 

Stafford: Mostly black and white. But excuse me, he did color his presentation 
drawings. But that was mostly to show that the concrete wasn't 
green and the plants were, or that the bricks were bricks. 

Riess: Another quote from that catalog interested me. In an article by 
William Wurster, who I know worked with Mr. Church, he seemed to 
be saying that landscape architects were in danger of taking over 
too much of the design end of things. Would you say a bit about 
how Church worked with Wurster and with the other architects you 
may have seen in contact with him. Did they come to his office, or 
he to theirs? 

Stafford: Both, and they worked back and forth very well together, depending 
on what the project was. They leaned on Tommy heavily for his site 
planning abilities and his input on orientation and what might 
happen to a given project in relation to the site and the existing 
trees and grading and the overall concept of the structures on the 
site, that type of thing. As well as details; they used to spend 
a great deal of time, I remember, talking about textures of the 
house and the garden, and paving materials and other materials that 
were to be used, as well as color. Wurster, Ernest Born, Gardner 
Dailey and others worked very closely together. 

I think I can remember that the architects tended to try to 
control the scene. In other words, I think Wurster "s statement 
is probably true that at times Mr. Church or other landscape 
architects might have tried to dominate, but with most architects 
it's pretty hard to do. 

It would depend a lot on whose client it was too, to start 
with. Because sometimes the person would hire the landscape 
architect before the architect. Then, who's the leader? 

Riess: Then we can assume the landscape architect would influence the 
choice of architect. 


Stafford: Oh, yes. Many times. And in the fifties there was a lot of new-- 
I shouldn't say new, but dif ferent--techniques in house design 
going on. Some of the houses were rather controversial maybe. 
The new materials that were being used, the flat roofs, the great 
expanses of glass, were all things that had to be thought out in 
relation to the total site. 

5) The Life-Style Factor 



How much would Church conceive 
the style of the house? 

the style of the garden to go with 





Well, there was a period where I think his gardens were related 
to the indoor-outdoor sort of living that was being talked about 
in Sunset and House Beautiful. He adapted his design to make this 
type of life work for people living in areas where they could be 
outside in the evening, wanting to barbeque, wanting swimming pools, 
and all that. So there was a lot done at that period with the 
requirement by the client that they be able to enjoy the outdoors. 

The indoor-outdoor living was a sign of the times more than it was 
a Thomas Church conception? 

Yes. I think people may have been led toward it more by the 

And don't these same magazines advocate "doing it yourself?" 

Sure, but I don't think they've taken away business, let's say, 
from the average office. 

But people were getting the concepts of outdoor living from 
the magazines and other printed media--lots of newspaper articles. 
I'm not sure who was behind it all, or started it all, but it was 
an interesting phenomenon, really, Architects were designing 
houses with lots of glass. You could get out of the important 
rooms at one or two places, and as long as there was some place 
to go and something to do, it all worked. 

In one of Mr. Church's books he starts out saying that he has 
lived through several revolutions in design. Can you recall any 
movements or changes in what was happening in the office that would 
constitute a revolution? 

Well, the main one was the one we were just speaking of, where the 
average homeowner could have a house and a garden where he could 
get out and enjoy the garden and live in it. Hopefully it would 


Stafford: be a restful, peaceful experience for him. The designs in those 
days did that, they would allow for that type of use and 

Later on Mr. Church's designs began to reflect a more formal 
or axial solution and yet the houses many times were the same 
contemporary architecture and the outside use areas were there, 
but the large expanses of concrete, the curving lines and free- 
form type design was omitted. He began to go back to the more 
formal symmetrical, or axial, solutions. And I think that was 
reflected a lot in some of the large pools that he did. 

Riess: What time are you speaking of? 

Stafford: The thing I'm talking about probably started happening more in the 
late fifties. And many of the larger houses then became more 
axial, and more symmetrical. 

Riess: In a larger house- 
Stafford: --a different scale is involved, depending on the site again. 
Certain projects came through where people were building quite 
large, expensive houses on what you might think of as a medium- 
sized piece of property. Land was getting scarce and the 
topography presented more problems. 

Riess: Like Woodside-- 

Stafford: And the Hillsborough area. At one time there was hardly a good lot 
in Hillsborough to build a house on. All the good properties had 
been built on. 

So all those kinds of things began to dictate more and more 
the design concepts. You see, at one time many of the acre lots 
in Atherton and Woodside were avilable and they were good -sized 
gentle sloping pieces of property, so the restrictions on the 
designer were less. And many of the free-flowing solutions to the 
design were easier there than where you had steep slopes. 

Riess: Do you think a lot of the people who buy and build there are after 
a kind of grandeur that would pre-determine the solutions? 

Stafford: Sometimes. I would say that 50 percent of Mr. Church's clients 
were in the upper-income brackets, at least. Most of them had 
pretty good ideas of what they'd like to have in the way of a home 
and a garden. 


Stafford: Many of his clients were very avid gardeners, and those were 
the kind of people he loved to work for because he could do things 
that were exciting and enjoyable in the way of planting and design, 
as against the person who would start out saying, "I don't know a 
thing about gardening and I don't want to learn. All I want is a 
good-looking garden with no maintenance." There was a period 
where so many of the clients said no maintenance, didn't like to 
garden, wanted a pool. 

Riess: When was that? 

Stafford: Fifties, early sixties. 

Riess: When was the gardening-loving client? 

Stafford: Oh, all along, but proportion-wise there were at one time more of 

the people who didn't like to garden. And it's kind of interesting; 
a lot of those people have learned they like to garden and they are 
now doing other homes and gardens in a different style for a 
different way of life. 

Riess: Mrs. Church said once that Tommy was often able to "save the day"-- 
mediating between the architect and client. Did you observe that? 

Stafford: Oh, yes, he was excellent at that ability to analyze the problem 

and come out with a clear solution where other people hadn't. And 
when he had an idea and he knew it was right and knew it worked he 
stuck to it and he was able to convince people without upsetting 
them or making them angry—they usually ended up thinking he was the 

Riess: There are so many options open to someone who decides to built a 
new house. Wurster, I would think, would make the decisions for 
the client. 

Stafford: Yes, I think you could say that about Wurster. He was a very good 
designer and very careful about a house that worked for the client, 
and he had very strong, definite ideas about how it should look 
and how it should relate to the site and the surroundings, and yet 
he worked with Tommy closely on the site work. They [Wurster, 
Bernardi, & Emmons] at the time probably were one of the better 
offices in realizing what the site problems were in building a house. 
They were very careful to make sure it fit. 

Riess: It seems like the obvious thing to do. 

Stafford: These were engineering and aesthetic problems. During the 

preliminary design of the house the site limitations were very 
carefully considered. 


6) House Beautiful, Photography, Travel 

Riess: Mr. Church was a busy man, yet he took time to write articles for 

magazines and newspapers. Was that out of a wish to educate the 
public, or make money, or what? 

Stafford: I would guess it was a combination of those. And the fact that he 
got along with and liked Liz Gordon so much. She, Elizabeth 
Gordon, was at that time the garden editor of House Beautiful. 
She came out here very often and she and Tommy and Betsy became 
very good friends. I suspect—though there again I'm guessing-- 
that he may not have had as much time as he would have liked to 
devote to this kind of thing, but because of their friendship she 
probably urged him onward. And I think it was a good thing business- 
wise. Plus, there is a certain satisfaction in writing a nice 
article that explains your philosophy, and having it published in 
a national magazine. Tommy was very good at explaining his ideas; 
his ability to express himself verbally, as well as in writing, I 
always felt was quite unique. 

Riess: Landscape architects aren't as a rule that articulate? 

Stafford: Many of us aren't. 

Riess: Often you don't have to be. 

Stafford: A lot of it has to do with whom you're working, and your background 
and education. 

Riess: And what do you think the influences on him were? Did he keep up 

with magazine and journal articles? 

Stafford: I really don't know. 

Riess: What do you think he admired particularly? 

Stafford: I can't recall specific --he used to admire so many things, I can't 

recall any particular things. He used to relate more to experiences 
and people, I think, and maybe natural countryside. Although I am 
sure he probably was enthusiastic about all kinds of things that he 
saw in his travels. I can't remember them, that's the trouble. 

Riess: He took photogtaphs and slides? Did he share them with the office? 

Stafford: Yes, lots of photographs. 


Stafford: He's just recently done some very interesting things, closeups 
of colors and textures of buildings somewhere in South America. 

I know he enjoyed France and Italy. And he always spoke very 
highly of the Scandinavian countries and the things he had seen 
there. That was another amazing thing about Mr. Church. At one 
time he was importing furniture from Scandinavia and was the local 
dealer for Alvar Aalto's furniture. 

Riess: When was that? 

Stafford: Possibly 1947 to 1955. I'm not sure. He had printed brochures in 
showrooms and furniture houses, and shipments went directly to them 
or to the buyer. 

Riess: Why? Was that in lean times? 

Stafford: I think it was something to do, and I think he met Aalto on a trip. 

Riess: And he encouraged clients to have it? 

Stafford: It was in an era where modern furniture was coming into its own. 

When I first met him in 1946 he had the same office he's in 
now. The front third of it was his office. He had a little coal 
stove and his desk and his drafting board, and one other board for 
June Median—she was the only other person. The rest of the office 
was vacant. Some sculptor types had been using the back rooms. 
It was just like an old warehouse. 

7) The Evolution of a Garden, and Costs 

Riess: What was Mr. Church's approach to a new job and a new site? 

Stafford: He would walk around the site and not say anything, just look, and 
hopefully get the people to talking about what they had in mind and 
what they'd like to do, what they'd like to spend. As they talked 
and he looked around, little by little you could almost feel the 
wheels turning and the ideas evolving, and at one point he'd stop 
and sit down and tell the clients what he thought and what they 
couldn't do and shouldn't do, and where their ideas might not fit, 
and why. It was always a very enlightened discourse on the site, 
related to the climate and to the sun and to the surrounding areas 
and the existing trees and vegetation. And that would be the 
preliminary conference. 


Stafford: If they liked his ideas, they'd hire him and he'd start 

working these things out on paper. And then at some point the 
house plan and location, the grading, the ideas for garden would 
become firm. Quite often then there wouldn't be much more done 
in the way of landscape plans until the house was framed. Then 
they would review and relook at some of the ideas, possibly make 
changes. Then the garden plan would be finalized, and built. So, 
that kind of thing could take from three months to a year, depending 
on the size of the house, the weather, and what else was happening. 

If this first meeting took place on a Thursday, let's say, 
then the following Saturday afternoon he might conceivably spend 
roughing out a preliminary which would be printed and shown to the 
client. Later then, there were drawings that we might need for 
grading or for the architect's information, one of the associates 
might do that drawing, and later on another final design plan might 
be evolved. And often that would be a drawing that one of the staff 
would take and firm up, make sure the grades worked, etc., another 
step in the process of getting more detailed. And at that time it 
would be good to make the coat estimates. 

Riess: When were the actual plants named? 

Stafford: Usually the major trees and shrubs would be named on the preliminary 
drawing. The smaller things would come later. 

Then at the working drawing stage one of us would take over 
and do those drawings based on the final preliminaries. Those were 
usually three, four, or five sheets of drawings, and the layout 
for the grading, irrigation systems, structural details, and the 
planting plans. Many times the planting plans weren't finalized 
until the construction phase was over. Then another conference to 
re-review the planting.' 

It's very difficult to sit down and in a short period of time 
make all the decisions that you need to make involved in building 
a house and a good -sized garden all at once. People don't have 
that much time to be together, for one thing, at any given time. 
And so you end up doing it in stages. The more ideas and concepts 
you can get initially, the better it is for the designer. 

It seemed like it was always spaced out in different phases, 
though once in a while there would be a meeting and a concept evolved 
and the exact plants described and that would be it. The thing 
would just be done like that. Though that was more likely to be a 
project where you just were designing a swimming pool, for instance, 
and there was only one place to put it, and everybody agreed on how 
big it should be, and what should be around it.' 


Riess: Once the garden construction was done, could it have been a 
pleasant area even without plants? 

Stafford: It could have. Many of his gardens were designed where planting 
was secondary to anything. 

Riess: It didn't need the plants to work. 

Stafford: Right. And that was one of the ideas, or concepts, being evolved 

at one time, that you did it without planting. People used to call 
landscape architects "pansy-planters." Even today some people just 
don't realize that the structures, walls, and fences, the man-made 
things, are equally important in the situation as plant materials. 

Riess: More so, in a Church garden? 

Stafford: Yes. But on the other hand Tommy had a great knowledge and love 

of plant materials and did beautiful gardens where plant materials 
were the dominant theme and the value of the plants and trees on or 
near the site was recognized . 

Riess: A next stage was getting the bids from the contractor? 

Stafford: Tommy used two or sometimes three contractors that he knew and 

relied on and that understood him and that he knew were honest and 
did the work properly. They would receive the drawings and come 
back with a price to build what was on the drawings and if it was 
within the client's budget the contracted job could go ahead. 

Riess: Did he send the plans to several of them, to get competitive bids? 

Staff: Sometimes it would be that way, other times no. Depended on the 
project, where it was, whether the client insisted on competitive 
bids or was willing to work with just one person. 

Riess: How and when were fees worked out? 

Stafford: The fee was worked out right at first so that the client would know 
what costs he was getting into. 

Riess: Would there be a consultation fee? 

Stafford: Usually not. For residential work they'd call him and he'd come 
down and look at the site, or they'd meet somewhere, and see what 
was involved, and then talk about ideas, ways of doing it, 
suggestions, sometimes sketches-- 


But no charge for that meeting? 


Stafford: Usually for that first meeting there wasn't. And then if people 
said, "Well, we'd like to have you do it," then he'd quote them 
a fee and write them a letter and he'd either be hired or not. 

Riess: Then he had to worry about the contracting? 

Stafford: No, this would be just the design fee. Later on, once more drawings 
were evolved, we'd make estimates for the estimated cost of 
construction of the garden and review those with the people and if 
they felt it was within their budget then we'd get firm bids from 
contractors. Usually it worked out; quite often they'd have to 
chop things down to get into the budget. 

Riess: Where would the corners be cut? 

Stafford: It's hard to say. Each job varied quite a bit. Usually in the 
type of material you'd use, the major paving materials, or any 
wall materials. Sometimes a whole new design would evolve because 
of costs. A lot of gardens were done in stages, too, because of 
budget problems. Part would be built one year, part five years 

Riess: 1 have read that he likes to give people completed looking gardens. 

Stafford: Well, also sometimes it was more the quantity of plant materials, 
rather than the size. There was a tendency for a while to over- 
plant gardens. 

Riess: On the part of everybody, or on the part of the Church office? 

Stafford: On the part of the designers and on the part of the clients. They 
wanted an immediate effect. Lots of times the end result was 
plants being put in too close together. So you had a really good 
effect within two or three years, but then around ten years later 
you had to start taking things out. 

Riess: Did Church have any ways of getting around this? 

Stafford: It was a problem, still is. Tommy felt proper and timely pruning 
was the best answer. 


8) Master Planning 






What major projects was he working on when you were there? 

When I first started we were doing smaller projects at Stanford, 
and then later he started doing master planning for both the 
Berkeley and Stanford campuses. And later the master plan for 
U.C. Santa Cruz. 

He must have had to take time away from his clients, 
he liked the large projects? 

Do you think 

Oh, yes. And he took quite a bit of time off when he wrote his 
book. But we were all busy doing things at the time. There again 
it was his ability to get great quantities of work done. 

No, I think he enjoyed doing the master planning for Berkeley 
and Stanford as much as anything I've seen him do. The master plan 
that he evolved for Stanford is quite a beautiful plan, as such. 

It hasn't become reality? 

Not all of it. Same with Berkeley. 

At Berkeley he did a magnificent job of getting them to clean 
out certain areas, especially along the creek, and cut their 
maintenance down so that what maintenance they were doing was 
worthwhile. And many very nice areas were opened up and made useable 
and visible as a result of a very thorough going-over of the whole 
campus. Taking out things that were overgrown, or in the wrong 
place, or not well cared for. 

Did he bring the office along? 

We used to go out with him a lot. Later on we were so busy we 
didn't have time to go with him. Whenever possible he would take 
one of us along, especially if he knew we might be the one that 
would be working on that project. That way the associate that might 
be handling that job would meet the client and see the site. 


9) Pruning and Writing 

Riess: Once the garden is built, it's all potential, and yet it's out 
of your hands. 

Stafford: Well, he revisited a client frequently. After the garden was 
installed, many times he would drop by, unannounced, just walk 
around, prune a tree, ring the bell and tell the client they ought 
to be watering something, or why don't they add something here? 

Quite often if we were on a trip on the Peninsula, for instance, 
we would just drop into some garden maybe five years old and just 
look around and see what it looked like. Sometimes people would 
invite him for lunch, say, 'Vhen are you going to be down next? Can 
you come for lunch? I'd like to see you, and I have a little 
question, and I'll give you lunch." He was very fond of that 
association, particularly in the spring, when things were blooming. 

He tended to keep his eye on things as much as possible. After 
a while there got to be so many gardens he couldn't possibly go to 
all of them, but his favorite clients and his favorite gardens he 
would visit often. 

Riess: Did he have any favorite gardeners? 

Stafford: Yes, especially in the city, a man named Alec Cattini. It would be 
nice if you could meet him. 

Riess: Does he work on his own, or does he have a business? 

Stafford: He's retired now, but at the time he worked by himself, did 

gardening and some garden construction for Tommy. When they had 

a particularly tough project and needed help, many times I'd be sent 

out to help Alec. 

Riess: Digging? 

Stafford: Digging, and pruning, and planting, and moving soil in buckets to 
third-story gardens, all kinds of things.' 

Down here Floyd [ Gerow] was the landscape contractor that he 
leaned on the most. 

Tommy knew a lot of the old gardeners that people had on their 
estates or property for years, and always got along very well with 
those kind of people. 


Stafford: Of course one of his greatest assets is that he could get the 
workmen and the people who were taking care of things enthused 
about what they were doing, and also enthused and interested in 
his ideas. I found it a very difficult thing for me to do when I 
first started in my office, but Tommy, in just a few minutes, could 
be over talking to the workmen and getting them enthused to do 
something the way he wanted it done, but in a way where they were 
excited and perhaps they thought it was their idea. 

He had that quality about him; I think he was that way with 
almost everybody, but particularly with the workmen. He was their 

friend. They all got along great, and it made a difference, too. 
People would tend to plant things properly and take pride in their 
work. And he always knew pretty much what he was talking about, 
so that he could explain to them, and tell them why, and show people 
in the field how to do it and why it was done a certain way. 

When I started out there was no labor force. Most of the young 
men were still in the service and those that were getting out weren't 
thinking about digging ditches or planting plants. They were all 
headed to business school or engineering, so there was a shortage 
of people willing to get their hands dirty working in the ground. 

Riess: "Jack Stafford has shouldered the task of holding our practice 
together in one of our busiest years." That was 1955. What is 
implied there? 

Stafford: Who made that quote? 

Riess: That was in Mr. Church's book. 

Stafford: Well, I think that was because he had had to take a certain amount 
of time off to write the book and so I was able to do 90 percent 
of the field work supervision, and I think that's what that was 
about . 

Riess: Did he deliberately take himself out of the field to write the book? 
A kind of enforced sabbatical? 

Stafford: Yes, it took a lot of time, a lot of hours, getting it together. 

Riess: Did he get all the quotations and stuff together, or did he have 
somebody doing research? 

Stafford: The secretary and June Meehan both did a lot of research for him, 
the secretary particularly. She was very good at it. But then 
once the thing got moving he had to spend eight hours a day on it, 
you know, for several months. 


Riess: But it was really a compilation of stuff he had written. 

Stafford: Oh, yes, he had files and files of things he was planning to use, 
but his ideas of how to put it all together weren't gelled. Then 
Casey did a lot of the drawings that went into the book. 

It's hard to know how much work is involved unless you've 
done it. I remember it took a long time. And the publishers' 
ideas on how to get it all together influenced him, I think, and 
he had to redo certain things that he had started on. 

Riess: "A Thomas Church garden," is almost a by-word, not that everyone 
can afford one, by any means. 

Stafford: Yes, except a lot of the designers that are in practice now are 
using some of the concepts and ideas that Tommy evolved in the 
early fifties; they've also thrown out some of the things too. 

Riess: Are you now doing the kind of work that his office was doing? 

Stafford: Pretty much, yes. I find I've changed my thoughts on ways of doing 

some things. I don't have the same clientele Tommy had, and although 
I have some of the wealthy people, my practice is not nearly as 
large as his. 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

Thomas D. Church Oral History Project 

Lou Sch en one 


Interview Conducted by 
Suzanne B. Riess 

1978 by The Regents of the University of California 

TABLE OF CONTENTS -- Lou Schenone 

1) Pacific Nurseries: History. A View of Trends 576 

2) Thomas Church: Above the Trends 578 

3) Bringing the Clients to the Plants 579 

4) Spotting Good Value 580 

5) The Nurseryman's Guarantee. Experience, Training 582 

6) Tommy: Unchanged, Unpretentious 585 


Lou Schenone 

February 23, 1976 

Interview held at Pacific Nurseries, Colma 

1) Pacific Nurseries: History. A View of Trends 

Schenone: The Pacific Nurseries were started in 1869 by a fellow by the name 
of Ludemann. The nursery was at Chestnut & Baker—Baker Street 
between Lombard and Chestnut Street — in San Francisco. Shortly 
thereafter the growing grounds for the fruit trees and roses and 
things of that nature were at Millbrae where the Green Hills Golf 
and Country Club is now. There is still a road that leads up from 
El Camino Real, called Ludemann Lane, that leads up to the golf 

Mr. von Kempf purchased Pacific Nurseries about 1909 or 1910 
and he had worked for Ludemann in San Francisco. He purchased 
the nursery and then he purchased the property here in Colma, 
moved the nursery, including the greenhouses, to Colma, and it's 
been here ever since. So the nursery is 107 years old at the present 

Riess: Is that the story of the nursery you have there? 

Schenone: No, this is an old catalog. I got it because I didn't know what 

Ludemann "s first name was. F. Ludemann, but I don't know what the 
F. stands for. 

Riess: Do you suppose he supplied McLaren? 

Schenone: He supplied many, many cities, municipalities, gardeners, estates, 
even the state with plant material. 

Henry von Kempf developed Pacific Nurseries as a retail and 
wholesale business here in Colma. Then in 1947 his son Paul von 
Kempf purchased the nursery — formed a corporation and purchased 
the nursery. After his father died he purchased, from his mother 
and his sister, the balance of the business and was the sole owner. 


Schenone: In 1976, this year, I purchased it, with two old-time friends, 

and I am now the president of Pacific Nurseries and Paul von Kempf 
is not associated with us anymore. It is out of the vop Kempf 
family. My two sons are with me here, and the old crew and so on. 

Riess: Do you have plans for major changes? 

Schenone: No, not major changes, but expansion. I think Pacific Nurseries 
has been noted for many, many years for its quality and service. 

I have been here for 25 years and for the last 12 or 15 years 
I have had the first right of refusal to purchase the nursery in 
case it was ever sold. 

Riess: When I talked to Jack Stafford this morning he said that when he 
got out of the army he thought he might like to be in the nursery 
business so he went around and talked to some nurserymen and he 
said that they didn't encourage him. Actually it made me wonder 
how much landscape planning nurserymen were doing 25 years ago. 

Schenone: I started in 1935 and we didn't know what a landscape architect 
was at that time. Obviously there were some around, but not too 
many. There were mostly gardeners and some nurserymen who would 
landscape a home, not design it necessarily, but somebody would 
call up the nursery and say, "I have a new house. Will you come 
out and landscape it for me?" 

Riess: Did you refer it to someone else? 

Schenone: No, what we did then was just send someone out to take a look at 
it. Then he would come back in and load the truck with a bunch 
of plants and trees and take them out and plant them. In fact I 
recall in 1938, 1939, that era of San Francisco, people would call 
up from the Avenues and of course those were adjoining houses, 
and you'd know exactly what their house looked like, so you didn't 
have to go out there and look. You'd say, well, we got a call 
from a certain number on Geary Street. Okay, so you loaded up 
with a couple of Irish yews, a couple of Escallonias, plants that 
you knew would thrive out there and that people wanted, put them 
on the truck, went out, and just planted them. 

Riess: Nobody wanted to look that different from their neighbor, I guess. 

Schenone: This is it. That's why a lot of the houses at that time all 

looked alike. They still look alike and I would imagine the same 
Irish yews, the same plants are there. 


Schenone: And Ingleside, during the thirties, the Spanish influence 
was established out there, so you had a lot of things that were 
related to the Mexican or Spanish. Dracaena palms and phorniums 
and things of that nature. It's changed since that time. But the 
industry goes in stages. We had the Spanish influence during the 
thirties, especially in San Francisco and in the lower San Mateo 

Then right after World War II as you recall we got the 
Japanese influence because our guys had been over in Japan and 
they liked what they saw and so we got into the Japanese situation 
with the bonsais. And everything had to be a little bit crooked- 
"plants with character" rather than the symmetry that we had known. 

After that people started thinking that the gardens of Europe 
were not that bad, they were pretty good, so then we started back 
into the use of more symmetrical type plants--boxwoods. Boxwood 
hedges became the vogue. 

Riess: Are you still thinking of the do-it-yourself gardener? 
landscape architects moving in these stages? 

Or were 

2) Thomas Church: Above the Trends 

Schenone: Landscape architects were influenced. I think the only person who 
was never influenced by the Japanese gardens or the trends was 
Tommy. He had his style and regardless of what happened he just 
went along his own way and used boxwood hedges. He used them back 
in the late thirties and early forties and he still uses them today. 
I think he probably was one of the instigators of the curves in 
walks and terraces and things of that nature. 

He had a style, and modes and things like that didn't change 
his thinking. I doubt very much if he ever did a Japanese garden, 
or even tried to attempt it. I don't know. 

Riess: But do the landscape architects do these things because their 
clients see pictures of them in magazines and demand them? 

Schenone: Well, I think in Tommy's case they called him because they wanted 
him to tell them what they should do. They didn't say, "Look, 
Tommy, I want a Japanese garden." Or "I want a garden as they have 
on the Italian Riviera." Or Tivoli Gardens on a small scale. I 
think they just relied on him to look at the situation and say, "We'll 
do this," or that, and "I'll design the garden for you." But I think 
he was very aware of what people thought. 


3) Bringing the Clients to the Plants 

Schenone: Tommy was the only landscape architect that I know of who would 

take his clients in here and say, "I'm going to show you plant 

materials," and then he would start to listen and he would start 

to say, "Well, do you like this?" And if they didn't like it, 

Bingo, would move on to something else until he found something 
that they really liked, and then he would incorporate this into 
the plan. 

Riess: The others don't work that way? 

Schenone: Most landscape architects that I know, and I've known a lot of 
them, would visit the site and then go back to the office and 
design and say, "We'll have a maple tree here," and so on. But 
I think Tommy was a little different. He would get the plot plan, 
the layout, and he would design the paths, patios, pool if there 
was a pool, lanais, loggias, whatever, arbor, but when it came to 
the selection of plant materials, he left it sort of blank. 

He would come in here with the client, open up the plans, 
walk around, and look at materials with the clients. They'd say, 
"Gee, Tommy, I like this," and he would find a place for it. 

Riess: Then you might say that the plant materials weren't all that 
important to him. 

Schenone: Well, only as far as his client was concerned. If he would say, 
'Ve're going to have a flowering plum over here," and his client 
said, "Gee, I don't like flowering plum because my neighbors have 
it"--and all of this. Then he would say, "Fine, we have other 

choices, we have flowering cherry, flowering crabapple." Didn't 
mean that much to him as to whether it was a flowering plum, or 
whichever. It meant he gave them a choice of a flowering tree, and 
he allowed them to select the kind of a flowering tree that they 
liked because after all they were the ones who were going to have 
to look at it all those years. 

He knew plant materials. In fact I think Tommy would have 
been a tremendous nurseryman. I think he would have been a great 
nurseryman and I think this was really his first love. He loved 
to fool with plants, even in his own garden. He had a place in 
Santa Cruz. I've never been up there but he used to talk to me 
about it and he would stop in occasionally and pick up some material 
that he was going to take up to Santa Cruz. He thought the world 
of this; he just loved to get out and garden. He liked to tinker 
with plants. He had the pair of shears hanging on his belt all 
the time. 


4) Spotting Good Value. 

Schenone: There were plants that I would throw away- -he would make something 
out of them. 

Riess: Yes, that's a special love of plants. 

Schenone: That's right. I recall oh, 15, 18 years ago he stopped in at a 
nursery in Palo Alto and saw some plants there that I guess he 
thought he could do something with. So he called me and asked me 
if I would buy them for him from this fellow, go down there and 
pick them up. They were an Eleagnus. So I said fine, I'd do it. 

One day- -I live in San Carlos--! was down there and I asked 
the—the nursery isn't there anymore incidentally--! asked them 
about these Eleagnus [Eleagnus pungens] that Tommy Church had 
looked at. 

So he showed them to me and when I looked at them I said, 
"No, these can't be it." I would have thrown them away. They 
were overgrown, big, scraggly, but Tommy just looked at them and 
I think he figured he could do something with them. 

Well, I didn't buy them. I just picked up the phone and I 
called Tommy and I said, "Tommy, I'm down here. And are we talking 
about the same plants?" He said, "Yes." 

Well, the guy knew that Tommy wanted them. They were plants 
that I would have sold at the regular 5 gallon price, but this guy 
hiked it up about six times. That's why I called Tommy too. I 
said, "Tommy, do you realize how much these are?" 

And he said, "Oh, my God," but "Get them, because I think I 
have the spot for them." 

So I got them but I didn't have the heart to put any more on 
it; I just sold them for what it cost me because they were so 
expensive . 

But he had a hell of a memory. Three or four years later he 
said, "Remember those Eleagnus that you said you would throw away, 
you should see them now." He pruned them, worked with them, made 
a great plant out of them. 

He had a tremendous eye for value. He'd come in and we would 
have trees that were in big boxes and worth $300. We'd have the 
same tree in a smaller box that was worth $125. We'd have the same 




Riess : 

Schenone : 

tree in a 15 -gallon container, worth $25. And he would look at 
them and say, "Don't you think this is the best value?" 

And of course to me the 15 -gallon can is still the best buy 
in the nursery business, because it's an established plant and 
it has maturity to it, and in a couple of years it is worth the 
$125. That's good interest on your money. 

He was looking at value. If it took one year to go from the 
24" to the 30" box, that's $100 difference. So he'd buy the 
smaller one. 

But he didn't have to do that for his clients. 

Well, he did. He appreciated value. Many times he would look at 
something that was big, like a big evergreen elm, and it was $250 
and I'd say, I've got some "24s" that are almost as nice for $125. 
Well, he was very appreciative. He'd say, "Let's get these." 

So he wasn't trying to sell his clients—and most of his clients 
were affluent and could afford it--but he wasn't trying to sell his 
clients the big stuff just to make money on them. He was trying 
to give them value. 

How could he follow through that much on every job? 
that was unusual? 

Do you think 

Well, of course I don't know how his fees ranged, but if he came 
here with a client he charged them the time that he spent here. 

And when he was picking out plants for them. 

Oh, sure. Many cases although he charged them for the time he was 
down here he would say, "I could be back in the office making $100 
an hour at the drafting table rather than being back here." But he 
just loved to come into the nursery. 

He would park his car out there and he would take about a 
five-minute walk and then come in and say, "You've got some new 
stuff in," or "Gee, you're sort of low." He could remember seeing 
things. He had a tremendous memory for plant material. He would 
call on the phone and say, "Last time I was down there I saw an 
evergreen elm in a 24 inch box out in the back. Do you still have 

He didn't take notes, but he had an eye and a mind for plant 
material. Sometimes he would tell me I had something I didn't even 
know I had myself. He'd say, "Yeah, you have one way out in the back 
there and it's behind such and such a tree." [Laughter] "Tag it. 
I want it." 


Riess: What's the other extreme in working with landscape architects? 
That they wouldn't come out at all? 

Schenone: We are, or have been, in a very favorable position with landscape 
architects, in as much as they would specify plant materials on a 
job and then it would go out to bid to various landscape contractors 
and if the landscape architects knew the plant materials were from 
here they wouldn't come down and inspect. I'm talking now about 
the landscape architects of Tommy's era. Nowadays-- 

Riess: You're thinking of Eckbo--? 

Schenone: Eckbo, Halprin. Jean Walton would come down. But in most cases 

they wouldn't come down. They would just call and say do you have 
this, do you have that? And then specify it on their plant lists 
and we would supply it to the landscape contractors. But Tommy 
was one of the few people who generally came down because he liked 
to come down and select the plant material. 

In fact it got to a point that at one time we supplied for him 
special SOLD tags with his name on it because he used to go around 
tagging material. So this had printed on it Thomas D. Church and 
Associates. Many times other landscape architects would come in 
and say, "My God, all I see is Tommy Church's name all overj" 

5) The Nurseryman's Guarantee. Experience, Training 

Riess: Do you ever have to go out to the country some place and dig out 
full-grown trees for a job? 

Schenone: Many times we have to supplement our own stock by going out and 
purchasing material from another nursery or whoever has the 
material that we want. 

Riess: Do you buy a tree ever right out of a farmer's field? 

Schenone: No, we don't do that. But there are tree movers that we will 

contact to do that for us. But we try to sell material that is in 
containers because we know that the minute it's in the ground it's 
going to start growing immediately. So much of the material that 
is dug out of the ground and transported 100 miles and then put in 
the ground has a set-back of it and it may take a year before it 
grows again. They can be good plants, but we prefer to keep all 
our material in a boxed situation. 


Riess: What kind of a guarantee do you offer? 

Schenone: It depends. If we deal with people that we know, landscape 

contractors—not the public, we don't sell retail — if we sell 
plant material to a landscape contractor that we do a lot of 
business with, if one plant dies, there's no question, we'll give 
him another one. We don't even argue about it, as to why it 
died. But if we sell plant material to a landscape contractor 
who installs the material and is not responsible for the maintenance-- 
the client maintains it himself --then we question the kind of 
maintenance it has received. 

All of our material is in boxes or containers, and in order 
to get it into a 24 or 30 inch box obviously it has to be four 
or five years old and it has been growing well, is in good 
condition when we deliver it so all of a sudden if in three months 
it dies, then something is wrong. Either somebody forgot to water 
it or overwatered it or the drainage was poor — 

In all of the years that I did business with Church and the 
landscape contractors, I don't ever recall replacing plant material, 
I really don't, and I think simply because he was a nurseryman at 
heart and he specified the kinds of material that he knew would do 
well in the areas in which he was working. 

He also did an excellent job of soil preparation. He knew 
soils. He knew whether they should have drainage and so on. 
And usually he got enough money from a client to do a good job of 
soil preparation, so he didn't have that many problems. Occasionally 
there would be something, but I can't recall any major problems- 
only if there were a deer situation. [Laughter] And I think he 
became very aware of that after awhile. He knew the nursery business 
which is what made him a great landscape architect and not only 
because of his design work but because of his use of the right kind 
of plant materials. 

We have so many people who decide they would like to use a 
maple because it has the right kind of character, but if it's not 
going to tolerate the climatic conditions and so on you can't use 
it. But they'll use it. "I want it there." And you can't argue 
them out of it. 

Riess: You don't talk them out of things? That's not your role? 

Schenone: Oh yes, it is. We—well, if I see something on the list for an area 
such as the coastal area here, or areas where the frost might be 
heavy, and they have things on the list that could conceivably freeze 


Schenone: or would be damaged by wind conditions, on the coast, we would call 
the landscape architect and caution him about it. In most cases 
they will say, "I'm glad you called," and change it. But a lot 
of times they will say, "No, it's on the plan. I'm not going to 
change it." 

Well, we've done our job. Because we know the area, we're 
the growers, and the least we can do is mention it to them, that 
these things won't work, and most of them are very thankful, very 

Riess: To go back 25 years, what was your training when you came into the 


Schenone: Well, 1935, during the Depression, I went to work for Avensino- 

Mortensen, who were the largest wholesale f lorists--they still have 
an operation in Mt . Eden. But I worked right here in San Bruno, 
they had a big operation there. I went to work in the propagating 
houses, did propagation work for them, and after about two years 
was the grower of their gardenias and begonias and ran the 
propagating house. 

Riess: Did you just learn it on the job? 

Schenone: Yes, except for botany in school, that's about all. Then after that 
I went into landscaping for a landscape contractor, who also had a 
nursery, but that didn't last too long because I just couldn't see 
myself digging six by six holes in solid rock with a pick because 
I did know the nursery business, I mean I knew how to grow plants 
and so on. So I went to work for Christensen Nursery, at that time 
at West Portal Avenue in San Francisco. That's where I met Tommy. 

I went into the service for four years and came back and went 
to work at their Belmont office—they had seven acres there—and 
did quite a lot of work with Tommy there. Then in 1950 I came here. 

Riess: When you had your first contact with Tommy he was just learning too, 

wasn't he? 

Schenone: From what I understand--! didn't know him then—he had been with the 

West Coast Nurseries in Palo Alto, which is now the Tree Farm in 
Palo Alto. 

Riess: With them how? 

Schenone: I don't know, as a nurseryman, salesman, and I think he did a little 
design work, as I recall. 

Then he got his office in San Francisco and I think that was 
probably in 1932 or 1933. 


6) Tommy: Unchanged, Unpretentious 

Riess: Has he changed much over the years? 

Schenone: Tommy? No. 

Riess: He's certainly gotten to be big time. 

Schenone: I can't think of anybody that has changed less than Church. He 
wore khaki pants; I remember in 1947 in Belmont he came in with 
khaki pants with his pruning shears, and with Jack Stafford, who 
was this young kid then, walking around with the same clipboard 
that he always carried, and he'd look at material, tag it, for this 
job or that job. But he always asked, "Don't you think..." that 
this or that would look good, always would get other peoples' 
opinions. He wasn't the kind of guy who said, "I want that in 
that spot." He would ask peoples' opinions. 

I think the people that he had in his off ice- -and he had some 
great people, like Jack Stafford and June Meehan--but he was the 
guy that went out and looked for plant materials. 

And he just had a feeling for people, I think, and he wanted 
to be involved. Down here with his boots or pouring concrete, to 
make sure that it was done the way he wanted it to be done. I 
don't think he had a field man. Most landscape architects nowadays 
hire a field representative. The field man supervises and selects 
and the landscape architect would sit behind his desk in a suit 
and tie. But Tommy would select his own material and I'm sure that 
he would go out with Jack and do the surveying. He was a great 
field man, really. 

Riess: He obviously knew how to do a lot of things that landscape architects 

now don't even know how to do. 

Schenone: Either they don't know how to do or won't do. Some people feel 
that their time is so valuable that they can't afford to do it. 

I don't know what kind of fees Tommy charged for the hours that 
he spent, but I know that I've had people tell me that they could 
hire him as a consultant for two hours and pay him for those two 
hours, and get more out of him in those two hours than if they would 
hire somebody for a whole week and pay fabulous fees. 

I recall a doctor, I met him in Hillsborough one time, and he 
told me that he had people come in--to remodel his garden—and he 
got estimates that were just out of this world. All he wanted was 
an idea, "What shall I do?" 


Schenone : 

Schenone : 


Schenone : 

I said, "Why don't you call Church?" 

Well he knew of Church of course, and so he did. (I think 
it was $75 an hour.) And in five minutes the fellow told Tommy 
what he wanted to do, and Tommy set out a little thing, sort of 
sketched it out very roughly. He gave him the ideas in two hours 
and this doctor got a building contractor and did it. He changed 
the whole concept of this guy's garden and his house, changed the 
entrance to his house, the whole thing. This guy was so pleased! 

Tommy had an eye for this sort of thing and this is what made 
him great. He could walk into a place and immediately say, "We've 
got to get rid of all of this, and do this." One of the best 
examples of this is this friend of his, Floyd Gerow, Outdoor 
Construction, what he [Tommy] did with his house. It was nothing 
before. And of course Floyd was a landscape contractor, so he could 
afford to do it. But even so, anybody could do it, or have it done. 
It wasn't that much of a cost. 

[ Interruption, 

Resume talking about Tommy Church's 70th Birthday 

With all the people there, people that he saw once a week, or very 
often, he still found a lot of time for people he didn't see, didn't 
know very well. He didn't know my wife very well—he knew me, of 
course --but he came over and made a point of standing with us and 
talking with us and introducing us, mentioning who we were, and so 
on. My wife was very impressed with him; she thought, "This is a 
great guy." Just a beautiful guy. He would leave you for a while, 
and then always come back, and have something nice to say, and he 
would stay, you know, for two or three minutes, before somebody else 
came in and wished him a happy birthday, and so on. He made sure 
that the people that weren't that well known in the circle of 
landscape architect and architect friends that he had, that they 
were taken care of. 

I know he had great rapport with his clients. Other landscape 
architects point that out, as if it is not easy to reach the end 
of a job on friendly terms. 

And the clients would also come back to him even if they needed 
just one tree. Nobody was going to touch their garden unless he 
came down and picked the specific tree for them. He came down here 
many times just to pick out one tree, or to do one little spot in 
the garden- -which I'm sure the gardener could have done. They could 
have picked up the phone and said, "Tommy, this lady wants some 
low bushes around this pittosporum out in the back yard." They 


Schenone : 





wouldn't have anything of that; they wanted him to come down to the 
nursery, and I'm sure they paid for his time. But they wanted to 
make sure it was his decision, his choice. I think this is great. 

So many people would call also and say, "Tommy recommended 
this particular tree. Would you send it down and charge Mr. Church 
for it." (We always bill him of course. We would sell it to him 
at a price. Whatever happened after that, I don't know, about 
charges.) But in any case, the clients weren't going to touch his 
garden without telling him what they were doing. 

"His garden." 

You're darn right. And I think you hear this all the time in the 
Hillsborough , Burlingame area. These are Tommy Church Gardens. 

What kinds of plants did Tommy like particularly? 

How about the 


Well, none of the exotics. I don't recall his using hibiscus or 
tropical plants. Most of his were tailored-type plants. Boxwood, 
trimmed boxwood. Hollywood junipers. Evergreen elms. You always 
knew a Tommy Church plan by the material that was used. Lots of 
camellias. Mugho pines. 

He traveled a lot in Europe, and I think a lot of his work is 
a reflection of what he saw in Europe. He was a great admirer of 
the gardens of Italy. When you are in Italy, you can see where 
some of the designs have rubbed off on Tommy. You can see a lot 
of Rome and Florence in his books. And I don't say that he copied 
anything over there, he wouldn't, but I think he got ideas. And 
that's why I don't think that he could ever do a Japanese garden 
or a tropical garden because he just didn't believe in them. 
Tropical gardens are very difficult to maintain, to keep neat and 
tidy, and Tommy's jobs are all that way. Neat, tidy, and restful. 

What you mean by a tailored plant is a plant whose habit of growth 

Schenone: Compact. Some maintenance, but not that much. Many people think 
of a formal garden sometimes as very difficult to maintain, but 
it's not, as long as you keep at it. It's the jungly-type tropical 
gardens that are difficult. Most of the material is so fast-growing, 
you try to keep it in bounds, unless you have acres and acres and 
want a jungle. Most people don't. But there's a certain quality 
to a formal garden that lends to value and prestige. Most Hillsborough 
homes that vere built in the twenti2s and thirties are formal. 


Riess: Before I depart today, I wonder if you have any other comments 
about Mr. Church. 

Schenone: He was a very unpretentious guy, khaki pants, soiled boots. 

He took a very personal interest in everything he did and he 
was well aware of his clients and his clients' needs, and this 
I think is a good trait, that he was aware of their needs and he 
satisfied them. There's really nothing more that you can say about 
the guy. There's nobody I admire more in this field. 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

Thomas D. Church Oral History Project 

Robert Glasner 

Interview Conducted by 
Suzanne B. Riess 

1978 by The Regents of the University of California 

TABLE OF CONTENTS -- Robert Glasner 

1) Robert Glasner, Landscape Contractor 589 

2) Making the Plans Fit the Site 591 

3) Learning the Business 596 

4) T. Church: Class 599 

5) An Idea of How He Does It 602 

6) Compared to Architecture-- 605 

7) Choosing the Contractor, and the Client 607 

8) The Virtues and Hazards of Planting 610 

9) "The Man" and A Good Pruner Too 612 

10) A Big Job 615 

11) Garden Maintenance, Jean Wolff, and the Future 618 


Robert Glasner 
April 19, 1977 

Interviewed in Jean Wolff's apartment on Telegraph Hill, 
San Francisco 

1) Robert Glasner, Landscape Contractor 

Riess: Are you Robert Glasner, Inc.? 

Glasner: Just Robert Glasner. 

Riess: And company? 

Glasner: Yes, Francisco Landscape Contractors. 

Riess: How big an operation is Francisco? 

Glasner: Very small. We do small residential gardens only. Usually I do 
one job at a time, myself and two-three men. 

Riess: I am interested in how and where you learned how to be a landscape 

Glasner: Well, the only way to learn landscaping, of course, is in the field, 
doing it. I went through four years of college in which I learned 
almost nothing. It's very shocking to get out of college and to 
find that you know nothing. Because when you get out of college you 
think you know everything. 

Riess: What did you want to be? 

Glasner: A landscape contractor, well, I mean an installer. 

Riess: Had you known other landscape contractors? 

Glasner: Well, I went to school with--I don't know if you've ever heard of 
Herman He in? 


Riess: No, I haven't. 

Glasner: In Marin County he's sort of like Tommy Church, an old German 

landscape architect. I went to school with his son, that's how I 
happened to get involved. 

But primarily, when I got out of the service, World War II, I 
knew that I wanted to do one thing and that was to work outside. So 
I looked into two things that I knew of that were outside and one 
was to be a forester, a forest agent, and one of them was to be 
something concerning gardens. 

Riess: Where did you go to school? 

Glasner: I went to school at Cal Poly, California Polytechnic. 

Riess: And did they have courses that were directly related to what you 
wanted to do? 

Glasner: Yes, they're actually probably the finest school for this kind of 
work in the United States, anyway. 

Riess: That's very interesting to me because I keep hearing the sad story 
of how nobody knows how to do anything and they all have to learn 
it on the job. But there is some training. It must be very 
parallel to what a landscape architect learns, then? 

Glasner: Well, it's better than what a landscape architect—usually landscape 
architects don't know anything. This is a real problem. Because 
when they get out of school, the knowledge that they've gotten is 
the stuff you get out of books, and actually what landscaping is is 

Riess: That sounds like why they need the landscape contractor. 

Glasner: Well, first of all you have to understand what a landcape contractor 
is. Because there's a great confusion as to these various aspects 
of landscaping. A landscape contractor is essentially a construction 
man. For example, this garden that you see out here [Jean Wolff's] 
would take about two days to plant and about two months to install, 
all of it construction. 

You have grades, steps, concrete, drainage, lighting, masonry 
work, and that's all construction. The planting is what you do 
after you finish all your construction. And you come here with 
plants and two or three men and it's all done in two days time. So 
what you see is finish. But all the ground work, that's all construc 
tion wcrk. And you use all the trades, so you have tc be essentially 
a construction man. 


Glasner: I did a job for Ed Gauer. It took 18 months. We spent two 

weeks planting, and the rest of the time doing construction. 

Riess: I wonder how much titr.e the actual design takes? 

Glasner: Well, the design should be a continuing thing through the whole 
project. The first concept is done on paper, which is an 
arbitrary thing. Never works on the ground, that's why you always 
have supervision fee, and the reason for that is because they know 
you can't do it on paper and that you have to "field -design," 
because that's really what it is. 

2) Making the Plans Fit the Site 

Glasner: The problem with most architects is that they don't understand this. 
They think that it's all done on paper and you can solve the 
problems on paper. That's why Tommy Church is so unique; he under 
stands that you have to field design, that's where it is. I've 
worked for all the architects, and he is head -and -shoulders above 
anybody else at that kind of thing. 

Riess: It sounds like the others then would make an attempt to get it all 
on paper, Tommy wouldn't. 

Glasner: Tommy would do it on paper too, because that gives you the essential 
direction. But the things that make a job are details. Without the 
details, this job just doesn't work together. And that's where you 
have to solve it, that's where it's very critical to have the astute 
mind and that's what Tommy has, the experience and almost-genius at 
these things. 

Riess: It is interesting to think that while landscape architects' training 
lasts longer and takes in more of the allied areas yet they come 
out of school raw, and have to be educated. 

Glasner: Incredible. You have to be able to walk out on the job and first 
of all, recognize the problems. You can't ever get it in a 
classroom. A classroom just doesn't give you the experience, the 
manual experience of being involved in the actual field work. The 
only way to recognize problems is to have been involved in them. 
You can't get that involvement in a classroom. There's just m> way. 

The reason why it was so delightful working for Tommy is that 
way back in the first part of his career he was one of the few 
architects who actually worked . In the early part of his career he 


Glasner: actually installed gardens. So with that background he was able 
to recognize and to solve these problems. And the problem with 
most of the architects is that the apprenticeship program for an 
architect is that you go through school, then you sit in somebody 'a 
office for two years, and that's considered an apprenticeship and 
then you're an architect. You have no experience whatsoever at 
gardening [laughter], none.' 

Riess: Because when you're sitting in that office you're just working 
on refining some two-dimensional plan. 

Glasner: Yes, you're just involved with the paper and you're essentially 
involved in graphing. You do some field supervision, but just 
walking out and being involved in a job for 15 or 20 minutes at 
a time is not what you need for a suitable background. 

Because the thing about gardening is you have to be able to 
recognize the problems. The problem with most of these architects 
is that they simply don't recognize. Like I get plans all the 
time and I have a hard time bidding jobs to these people because I 
come out and I look at the plans and then I go out on the job and I 
recognize the problems that they haven't solved. Well, I can't bid 
the job the way its drawn because I know that isn't the job. They 
simply haven't answered the problems. 

Riess: So what do you do then? 

Glasner: It becomes very difficult. You can't walk into an architect who 
is--I mean, there is a regular layer of authority; there's the 
owner, the architect, and the installer. Well, for the third man 
down to be telling the second man up that "you don't know what 
you're doing" is kind of a mistake. [Laughter] 

Riess: You have learned how to get around that one by now. 

Glasner: You have to be very careful because they don't like to be told that 
they don't know what they're doing. 

Riess: Of course you're saving their reputation in a way. 

Glasner: Yes. What you do is you sort of limit the people that you do work 
for. You either do your own work, like I do, mostly, or you work 
for people like Thomas Church. In the last 15 years I've done no 
other work but Tommy Church's work. Because I've found that most 
of the people I was working for simply were not answering the 
problems. I was wasting my time bidding the jobs because the people 
I was bidding against had less experience than I had and they weren't 
recognizing the problem. They were just bidding the job as it was 


Glasner: drawn. So of course it cost far less to bid a job that doesn't 
have the problems that I see. I can't bid the job the way it's 
drawn, because I know that that isn't the job. [Laughter] So it 
makes a problem. 

Riess: Can you generalize about the kind of major things that they miss. 

Glasner: The problem is that it's an arbitrary plan and what they draw is so 
they can get involved with the details of the design. And what 
they get involved with are the lines as they relate to each other 
on this piece of paper. And so you take these lines, which are 
very pretty on the piece of paper, and you take them out and they 
don't fit. They just don't fit. 

It might look very nice, for instance, to have two steps going 
down to something. Well, if you consider what just one step is: 
that's 6 inches. Now 6 inches doesn't seem very important, but ij[ 
you have to bring in 6 inches of material or export 6 inches of 
material because the design is pretty on a piece of paper, and you 
have to take it through a house in buckets, that 6 inches of material 
over say 500 square feet can be 30 or 40 yards of material. This 
is what I'm talking about, one line as arbitrary as that. So you 
have to site your plan, you have to go out and relate yourself to 
the plan. That's the first thing. 

Of course, then the second thing is to be able to take the people 
and involve them directly in what you're doing. And this is another 
area in which Tommy Church was superlative. Most landscape architects 
are an end in themselves. In other words, they know more than anybody. 
They create an arbitrary design to please their egos rather than the 
needs of their clients. More times I've gotten this, where the people 
have said, 'Veil, this isn't what I wanted." 

Riess: You're probably the one who hears that. 

Glasner: Of course. You know, I start doing this thing and they say, "What 
are you doing?" 

'Veil, this is the plan..." 

The problem is that most people will not admit to the fact that 
they don't understand the landscape plan. So they okay the plan, 
it's written right on it, "OK," they've signed it. But they don't 
know what's on there, because it's just these lines. Essentially 
what architects are are salespeople. Like any job, if they don't 
sell themselves, they simply don't have the job. The business of 
beirg a salesperson and being a competent draftsman and being a 
competent landscape designer are all the things that you have to be. 
And you have to be all these things. 


Riess: I can see in a way why it's tempting to just do a very snappy 
design and get somebody to okay it, because that's where their 
money is, I mean that's it for them. 

GXasner: Right, to produce it. But to get in there and really research it 
and really make the thing work is—which is why you'll find most 
landscape architects now aren't involved in residential work. 
Almost none of them do residential work except in very special 

Riess: Because to do a good job is too expensive? 

Glasner: It takes just as much time or more with consultation and detailing. 
What makes a job work is detailing. Just like that step I talked 
to you about, that's a detail. But it's what makes the job work. 

Riess: Sure and all the implications of the step. 

Glasner: Yes, I mean that step can make all the difference. It relates to 
the retaining structures that are involved, and it pertains to 
everything around it, it pertains to grading, it pertains to 
drainage, everything, just that one step. And if the step is wrong , 
the whole garden can be wrong. No matter how pretty it is or 
whatever, if that one step is misplaced, nothing's going to work. 
It takes a special thing to observe that. 

The thing about Tommy Church was that he was. loose, he recognized 
that it was impossible to see all those things. 

Riess: Though he did go out to the site a lot. 

Glasner: Yes, well the value of myself and what-do-you-call-it [Floyd Gerow] 
was that we would take that end of it. 

Riess: No, but I mean when he was doing the design, it sounds like he 
did a lot of walking around. 

Glasner: Well, the reason why he was able to work with me on residential work 

is because I essentially took up that end of it. In other words, 

he didn't have to design it down to the step. Because if it wasn't 

right, I would re-design the job so it looked the same, but it would 
be different. 

Riess: So he could indicate walls and curves? 

Glasner: Well, essentially, if he just laid it out, in other words if he gave 
direction, which is the essential genius of a job; in other words, to 
come out—like this yard [Wolff] here has several distinct areas. 
That essentially is what a garden is, areas of use and definition. 


Glasner: The front area is an extension of this room. Then you have the 

lower court, which by its material indicates a different use. This 
is concrete and that's gravel, so that would be a less formal area, 
it wouldn't be used as much, wouldn't be used, for example, in 
rainy weather. You'd probably be using this concrete area. Then 
you have a hedge there which defines that as a wall. Beyond that 
are utility areas and all of your various kinds of areas; I think 
there's a vegetable garden there and there's a storage area right 
behind there, and up in the corner there's something else. 

The essential thing is to give you all these things, so that 
it's aesthetically attractive, within the person's budget. But 
if you do that, if you just take the yard area and you define these 
areas, not only do you have to be practical, but it has to be 
aesthetic. Now these lines here if you notice, because this is a 
long, narrow yard, the lines are pointed this way [angled]. So 
it isn't a corridor effect any more. 

If this was just a straight patio, then it would accentuate 
the fact that you have a long, narrow yard. By tilting this at this 
angle, you don't have that feeling any more. By having lines this 
way, the feeling is of a broad yard. If he gives this kind of 
direction, this kind of design, then that's what the landscape 
contractor [can follow through on], without calling him every day 
about all that step being wrong. Like with me he wouldn't have 
to put elevations or anything on it. He'd just draw it out like 
this on the back of an envelope. He'd just take a piece of paper 
out of his pocket and say, 'Veil, let's see, I'll put some stairs 
here and this thing ought to be like this," and he'd hand it to me. 

Riess: Well, that's a racket. 

Glasner: What's that? 

Riess: I mean that really is an awful lot of responsibility to you. 

Glasner: That's marvelous. Because then I'm involved. 

Riess: And you would like to take it from as high or responsible a point 
as possible. 

Glasner: Oh, yes, because then I'm involved in the process, a creative process. 
He hasn't solved the engineering, he hasn't solved anything. All 
he's done is given direction. Well then, if I go through it and 
find that I'm stuck, then I could call him and say, "Hey, Tommy, I'm 
into this thing and this is what your intention was, how do you think 
we should carry it through?" And then on the phone he could say, 
"Well, I think you should do this and this and so forth." 


Glasner: The reason why he had to work with somebody like me is that 
as important as he is--you know he has jobs going all over the 
world, consultation—if I had to call him every time we came across 
a problem, that's all I'd be doing. On the other hand, he can't 
afford the time on a little residential garden to come out here 
and do a thorough engineering job. First of all, you have to survey 
it and it has to be microsurveyed because there are important trees 
and shrubs and these things that you don't want to cut out or destory. 
And to locate every one of them on a plan, it's just unreasonable. 
So what you do, if you can, is you give direction and then have 
somebody like me who is competent enough to carry that through so 
that he can leave and be gone six weeks and come back and say, "Hey, 
this looks great." And yet it's what he wants. But that takes 20 
years of background [laughter] so I can do that. 

3) Learning the Business 

Riess: I want to go back and sort of fill in that background. You got out of 
college and then what? 

Glasner: I went to work for a nursery so I could learn something about plants. 
Riess: Here in northern California? 

Glasner: Yes, in San Rafael. That's where after all those years of pasting 
leaves in books you find out that you know absolutely nothing about 
plants. People come in, they have this thing, this plant: "What 
is it?" and suddenly you are confronted with this mass of background 
that you simply don't have. Because when people come in and nail you 
with these questions about the horticultural problems, there's 
thousands of plants, each one of them does different things and they 
require different cultural necessities. 

And people come in with these things and they hand them to you 
and say, "What is this? How the hell does it grow? What is that 
black spot on there?" and all this. You're standing there: "Where's 
my book? Where's my leaf?" 

Riess: You can't pass the buck on that one. 

Glasner: No, you're standing there, defenseless. You can't get a "C." This is 
the problem: college is no place for anybody. There 're these two 
worlds, the world of learning, and college, and the problem with 
college is that it's too circumspect, it doesn't involve you in process 


Glasner: That's where college has its big failure is that it actually 

divorces you from process. The great world doesn't receive these 

little definitions. The rewards you get out there are not A-B-C-D. 
These are not acceptable. 

Riess: It's pass and fail. 

Glasner: That's right, it's pass and fail. That's exactly what it is and 
kids have to learn this. When they get out of school they think 
it's okay to do a "C" job. And it isn't. 

Riess: But in a way you're saying that with a really competent back-up 
person like yourself, it is okay to do a "C" job because there 
will be somebody there to rescue you. 

Glasner: No-- 




Glasner : 

Glasner : 

For a landscape architect to do a sort of middling job. 

Well, you still have to have the genius of design. If his designs 
were poor, then all I'm going to do is install a poor job because 
he is essentially giving the direction. The basic direction is 
always the thing. That gives you a T. Church job, because that 
special direction that he gives, where his lines are very simple, 
is backgrounded by 30 or 40 years of experience before he can make 
those lines. Those lines which might be just a couple curves, a 
couple this, and a couple that — that's the result of all these 
years of experience. 

That's marvelous. It's like a Zen teacher or something. 

That's right, that's right. Actually, the more experience and the 
more clever you are, the more simple these things can become because 
you see the problems and solve them all in just one sweep. 

And also you give up some of the need to control every last aspect 
of it. 

Well, the details are what make the job. 

Then how do they really get communicated then, the details? 
Well, you can draw a very comprehensive plan- 
Well, let's go from your two curves and a wall. Because of your 
long experience with Church, the details don' t-- 

I kind of understand his mind. I understand what he wants. It's up 
to me to engineer the job so that's essentially what it is. 


Riess: Okay, let's go back to how you got connected with him and how it 
is that you do understand what he wants because it certainly must 
not have always been that way from the very beginning. 

Glasner: Well, I did a job for him. 
Riess: He found you through the nursery? 

Glasner: No. I was an independent contractor. It was actually June Meehan, 
who worked for his office a good many years ago, who first contacted 
me. I forget how I became involved, I think it was because she 
might have just gotten me out of the phone book, 

I did a small job for him and it was satisfactory. Then I did 
another job for him and it just sort of went on from there. What 
happened is he used to have a person in the San Francisco area who 
did what I did for him. This fellow retired and so there was sort 
of a little vacuum there. I guess they were trying to find somebody 
to take that place. 

It takes a special crew to have done that work that way. In 
other words, I just couldn't take a crew and put them on one of 
his jobs. Because I simply didn't have the direction from him in 
the way of detailed drawings to do that. I had to do all the 
solving. I had to actually be involved myself, so that meant that 
I had to work myself and keep my crew very small and actually tailor 
it to what his needs were. So that's what I did, because it was 
very satisfying to me. I couldn't simply just take a crew and put 
them on his job and say, "Well, this is what you do today." Because 
it just wouldn't have worked. 

Riess: So that relationship with him has really defined the kind of 
business you have? 

Glasner: Yes, the kind of business that I conducted. If I had stayed as a 
large landscape operation, which I was in before, doing commercial 
projects and schools and things like that, I simply couldn't have 
done this work for him. He needed this special kind of attention 
where he just gives me an envelope with a couple of lines on it. 
To carry that all the way through takes just being there all the 

Riess: Who was his San Francisco person before you? Do you remember? 
Glasner: I don't know his name--Alec something. 
Riess: Alec Cattini, that's right. 


Glasner: Yes, Alec worked for him for quite awhile. 

Riess: During the time that you've been working for Church you've also 
been doing jcbs for other landscape architects? 

Glasner: Yes, occasionally. Usually he kept me pretty much busy all the 
time, but occasionally. 

Riess: You got a chance, though, to see what the difference was? 

Glasner: Well, I did the other guys before I got to Church. That's why I 

was so happy to work with Church. I've worked for every office in 
the area. 

4) T. Church: Class 

Riess: I'd be interested in some of the contrasting experiences. 

Glasner: Yes, there was Osmundson and Staley, that was an office. And Eckbo 
and Roys ton- -of course all these offices have changed. 

Riess: Now that's interesting because Osmundson and Royston have both 
been with Church. 

Glasner: That's right. 

Riess: And so they have learned the Church lesson. 

Glasner: No. [Laughter] No. They've only been with Church, they didn't 
learn any lessons. As a matter of fact, their work seems to be 
aimed in an entirely, I think, other direction. I think they're 
trying to establish their own kind of design. Consequently, their 
designs are very arbitrary, very stiff, very modern and contemporary, 
or however you want to describe it. But they're not Church designs 
at all. Church is class. [Laughter] It's a very essential word. 
And these other people just don't have that definable thing. They 
make nice gardens. 

Riess: Yes, and do they work? 

Glasner: Yes, they work. 

Riess: And for a contractor, it's a possible garden to install? 

Glasner: Yes. 


Riess: So you're not saying that there are those kind of problems with 
these firms? 

Glasner: No, it's just that Church is sort of special. 

Riess: But look, Church's clients had class, too. After all, if your 
client is some park department or some city bureaucrat, where do 
you get a chance to demonstrate your class? 

Glasner: No, but I'm speaking of residential gardens. Church also did parks 
and things like that. He worked for colleges and parks. He did 
the whole spectrum. 

Riess: Well, I certainly believe that Church gardens have class, but I'm 
sure "our readers," could do with a better definition of what you 

Glasner: Well, I think you have to see it. I think it's a total picture. 
That's what a garden is, it's a total picture. 

Riess: Does that mean that it looks expensive? Is that class? 

Glasner: No, it has a charm. You have to look at it and say, 'Veil, this is 

a charming garden." Or you look at it and say, "Gee, this garden-- 

what's wrong with it? Why am I not comfortable in this garden?" 
This is essentially what it is. 

A garden is an involvement. With Church's gardens, the involve 
ment is always charm. I think this is the essential thing. I think 
most of the rest of them don't have that. You walk into them and 
they're flashy or they're neat or they're cute or there's something 
about them that seems to get the eye. There's always something sort 
of fancy about them. And Church's gardens aren't fancy. They have 
this essential feeling of ease. People relate well to the garden. 
In other words, they're comfortable in the garden. 

Riess: Oh, yes, that helps. 

Glasner: Well, you walk into the garden, you have a feeling, like you can 
look at a picture and say, "Gee, I like that picture." Well, 
everybody is entitled to your own feeling about what these things 
are. Church's gardens sometimes are so understated that you really 
don't know why you like the garden. You just walk into it, and you 
just feel good. And that's what a garden should do, a garden 
shouldn't hit you across the head with these fancy lines and all 
this stuff. 


Glasner: Most architects like to imprint their own personality on a 
garden. This is why the gardens lose their charm; it's because 
there's too much imprint. You walk into it and the lines are 
hitting you, diagonals that you can't live with and these things. 
You don't know why but you're not really as comfortable as you 
should be. Church's gardens are soft. Just like here, you look 
out there and if you start analyzing why it is, you'll see. 

Riess: Yes, but that's his personality, too, isn't it. 
Glasner: Yes. 

Riess: So he is imprinting his personality, and it's very conducive to a 
very pleasant experience. 

Glasner: That's right. 

Riess: Everybody says they can tell a Church garden instantly. 

Glasner: Yes. Well, I don't know about that . I've done some gardens, like 
I did three gardens for him that were side by side. And each 
garden is so different because they reflected the people. 

Gee, I wonder why they'd day that? Because the gardens I've 
done with Church have been just so different, one to the other. 

Riess: Well, I've heard the expression "a Tommy Church garden" enough so 
that it sounds like the people that are using it mean that it's 

Glasner: Well, I think it's a social thing to say. In other words, if you 
say, "I have a Tommy Church garden" this is very social. It means 
that you've got the best. But I don't think it really refers to a 
type. You wouldn't really believe that these three gardens were 
all done by the same person, because they reflected the needs of the 
individual person [client]. 

Riess: Can you sort of boil down what distinguished those three houses? 

Glasner: Well, one was a couple who liked gardening a lot. They wanted to 
entertain outside, and they wanted a lot of work to do. So this 
was a very detailed garden. It had a little sitting area outside. 
It had two decks, a little arbor, a little gazebo effect out there, 
and then we had all these little planting areas scattered all the 
way through that she could develop herself. We left these things in 
such a way that there was actually quite a bit of gardening to do 
and highly detailed. 


Glasner: Then the garden next door was a bank president whose wife 

wanted something very bold, no maintenance at all, and no gardening. 
So that was single-level with a large gravel area with a huge bench 
around it, and ivy and a place for a sculpture. That was it. It 
was all ready, with no detail, I mean just completely different. 
There was no way to believe that the same person had done the gardens. 

5) An Idea of How He Does It 

Glasner: If you have a chance to go on our thing [photographing trip with 
Glasner and Jean Wolff for Sunset] , you'll see that we're doing 
the same thing. This is what I got from Church is that what you 
do is that you have to listen to the people. And the way that he 
would do this is that he would walk on the job and he would say, 
"You know, I can't think of a thing to do." The first time he did 

Whenever I went with Church it was always he and 1 together. 
He'd say, "I have a client to see. How about meeting me at a 
certain address." So I'd go out there and we'd meet together. Well, 
all these years I'd been involved with all these other architects 
and they're "very superior" and they "know it all." They're the ones 
who decide what to do. 

Tommy would very softly say, "Well, I just can't see anything 
here." And so the people [clients] rush in. Because they're the 
ones who really know what they want. And so they're going to help 
him. They say, 'Veil, gee, don't you think we could put a patio 
here or something over there." And so he's got what they want. 
They've lived with the area for a year or two years or whatever, and 
so essentially they've found, themselves, the best way to do this. 
Then he takes what they have pointed out, and he creates this, and 
of course they love it, because it's what they want, they've already 
told him. 

Most guys walk out there and they say, "Well, okay, I'll do 
this and I'll do that," and so on and so on, and the people are 
telling them what they want, but they're busy talking to themselves. 
It never penetrates. They don't get into the people and find out 
what they want. 

I always thought that this was so amazing that somebody with 
this power and world-wide reputation would stand there and say, 
"I can't think of a thing." [Laughter] Because whenever somebody 
called me, I always felt like I had to cto something. To say that 


Glasner: you don't have any ideas was to be absolutely fantastic.' How can 
anybody do that? So I always do the same thing now. And it works 
beautifully. Because the people are very sympathetic. They under 
stand: how can you just stand there and make up all these things? 
So they come rushing over with the ideas and by gnm that's the way 
to do it. 

Riess: Even the turn of phrase is very good. It's different from saying, 
'Vhat do you want?" to the client and putting them right on the 

Glasner: Yes. "I just can't think of anything." 


Well, you must have had to learn to keep your mouth quiet at that 
point, too. 

Oh, boy.' I just watched. I watched that man and I could just see 
that mind turn because he's listening to these people. 

Riess: And then he starts to note things down? 

Glasner: Yes, yes. Then he pulls out the pencil and the hunk of paper and 
he starts putting it out there. And always his things were so 
right. Like I say, it's hard to describe the essential Church. 
But usually what he'd come up with was always so right. It was 
great to see him operating because it was just like a revelation. 
Because he'd stand there and I'd be looking, nothing would happen 
to me. [Laughter] And then when he'd draw it, I'd say, "Yes, by 
golly that's perfect." 

Then for me it was always so great to take this and develop 
it because you could see this was the right thing to do. It was a 
great learning experience for me, of course, watching him. 
Fantastic. I mean four years of school was nothing. Just one 
visit with this guy was better than four years of school, just the 
whole process. 

Riess: I want to pick up some tag ends. I want to hear about that third 
garden, after that strong contrast between the first two. 

Glasner: Well, the third garden was more Oriental. 

Riess: Somebody said to him, "We want an Oriental garden"? 

Glasner: Yes, more into the Oriental. We used Oriental elements; it wasn't 
an Oriental garden, but it was more Oriental in feeling. But again 
it had nothing to do with either of the other two gardens. It was a 
very highly structured — the first garden had a lot of detail but it 


Glasner: was sort of loose in composition, and the second garden was very, 
very plain, and this third garden was highly structured with a 
lot of Oriental elements in it. 

Riecs: By highly structured, do you mean walls and levels? 

Glasner: Yes, walls, levels, a very formal aspect. In other words, something 
would be here and here and a center pool. 

Riess: Axial? 

Glasner: Yes, very, very highly structured, but they had a very Oriental 
feeling in the house and they wanted to carry that through. So 
when you looked out you had this same feeling, this continuity of 
design right through the house. 

Riess: Well, it sounds like they were a very clear client, really dictating, 
ordering up what they wanted in that case. 

Glasner: Yes. 

Riess: On that idea of carrying the theme of the house into the garden, I've 
asked architects who have worked with Tommy whether his work is 
inclined to enhance the architect's work or to be really quite 

Glasner: No, he wanted the garden to belong. That again is one of the nice 
things about it is that he tried to carry through. I think he was 
the first person who really made the garden part of the house. 
That's the essential contribution that Tommy made; normally you 
built a house and then you put in a garden and they were two things 
and there was no orientation of one to the other. I think Church 
is the first really great exponent of making people feel that the 
garden was essential to the house. 

Riess: And a lot of that would come with materials, wouldn't it? 

Glasner: Well, composition and materials. For example, if you're building a 
fence, there's a thousand ways to build a fence, but if you build 
the fence out of the same materials as the house, then you have this 
projection, the house becomes longer. For example if it's a fence 
in front of the house, then the house has altogether different 
proportions and it looks like the house keeps going, whereas if you 
just build a stick fence or grape stake or something then there's a 
line, boom." here's the house and here's the end. Whereas if you 
just pick up the same materials as the house itself, then the wall 
of the house encloses the garden. 


Riess : 

Glasner : 

Glasner ; 


And so that's why it's ideal to start out working with the architect 
in fact. 

Oh, yes, it's absolutely essential that the landscape architect or 
the garden designer should be in in the beginning. For one thing, 
you can save tons of money, because the utilities are out there. 
For example, instead of building a house and then having to get 
behind there by hand and digging out all these huge piles of dirt, 
you could do it with a big machine, in dump trucks, before you pour 
the foundation. It would be great if you did that and had, for 
example, your electrical leads outside and your plumbing leads 
outside where they belong, and your drainage systems all tied in 
properly. Usually we have to come in and blast holes in the 
foundation and there's no way to get back there. Oh, you quadruple 
the cost of a landscape job just because there's no forethought and 
it would be so easy [laughter] to have done it with the proper 
equipment . 

About what percentage of the jobs you have done for him have been 
from scratch? 

Well, most of the jobs I've done with him have been in these old 
San Francisco homes. So I've done almost none. I did one big one 
for him up in Healdsburg. 

That's the Gauer? 

That was the Gauer, Ed Gauer. 

Yes, that was quite a job. Very 

6) Compared to Architecture-- 

Riess: When you said most landscape architects had never been out in the 

dirt, and their early experience hadn't involved digging, it occurred 
to me that one of the reasons anybody would go into landscape 
architecture would be the same reasons that you went into landscape 
contracting, because they wanted to be out of doors and wanted to be 
associated with the earth. 

Glasner: Well, a landscape architect is never outdoors; he's in the office. 

That's why I'm not a landscape architect. That's why I'm a landscape 
contractor and not an architect. [Laughter] 

Riess: I wonder what people are thinking of when they go into landscape 

architecture, and I guess I have to think of how landscape architecture 
has moved toward city planning. 


Glasner: Well, from what I've seen of them, a lot of them start out as 
building architects and can't make it. It's a softer program. 
It isn't near the requirements to be a landscape architect. You 
aren't nearly as much involved in some of the higher math and 
things like that to bp a landscape architect. So if you can't 
make it as an architect, then you can drop down and be a landscape 
architect because the demands, the plus and minus factors, are 
much less. A garden hasn't near the demands made. (Actually, it 
has more demands made, but superficially. The more demands is that 
the experience factor is much more necessary to build a proper 
garden; you have to be able to solve the garden through experience.) 

A house is usually kind of easy because a house, the first 
thing you do is put a platform up, and it's an artificial platform. 
From there, it's simple because it's level and the dimensions are 
exact and you can go from there. But a garden is like this (gestures) 
and all the elements in there are here, there, and somewhere else. 
So all of your garden elements and all of your design has to 
incorporate all the problems that all these things create and still 
become part of the design. 

Riess: But basically it's still such a fluid medium compared to a house. 
Glasner: That's it. 

Riess: A house gets more and more rigid and you hope there are no grievous 

Glasner: In what? The house or the garden? 

Riess: In the house, it seems to me because the house is so much more 

Glasner: Well, but it's so exact. You draw the lines and they're all just 
so. You put a door there and a window there and the heat and then 
it's a question of just putting things in the right place so that 
you don't block your view or whatever. 

But a garden, every foot is a problem. Either something is in 
the way or, for example, it might call for someplace that you want 
to plant a big plant or a big tree or something. Well, you start 
digging and there's this huge rock, outcrop, well what do you do? 
Suddenly you've got this enormous problem. The tree is called for, 
the design is all oriented to this particular spot, and you can't do 
it. Well, that's not true from a house. A house is no problem. 
You've got an artificial platform, you can do whatever you want. 

Riess: That's the kind of problem you like, I'll bet. 


Glasner: Yes, it's fun because then you can re-design the whole, you know. 
What's fun is re-designing an area so that it is re-designed but 
looks the same. That's what's sport because what you do is you 
have to evaluate what that area is and then re-translate it so 
that all the relationships are the same but they're all different. 

Riess: When you do that as artfully as you probably do, the one person 
who will really understand what you've achieved is Tommy. 

Glasner: Well, it's best if he doesn't see that I've done anything. 

Riess: I know, but wouldn't you want somebody to appreciate the achievement? 

Glasner: No, I know what I've done. To me, it's a personal thing. I don't 
need anything from anybody. [Laughter] It's very personal. 

7) Choosing the Contractor, and the Client 

Riess: When did you get your first job? I just would like to understand what 
period of time your work for Tommy spans. When do you think June 
first picked you out of the book? 

Glasner: Time is always a problem with me. [Laughter] What is today? 

If I go back 15 years — let's see, that takes me back to 1960. 

I still continue to do work for these people [other landscape 
architects] occasionally, not as much, thank God. But before then, 
it was all work for these companies. So, I was four years in college, 
that takes you up through "50, and then from '50 to '60, about ten 
years prior to that I was in the field, and working with all these 
architects. I think I've done work for almost every architect in the 

Working for all these guys you don't really know how stifling 
it is until you've come across Tommy Church and then it's like a 
breath of clean air. He makes everything seem so simple. His designs 
always seem so simple. 

Riess: He was available when there was a difficulty? Sounds like if you 
come across a problem you have his mandate to just go ahead and 
solve the problem. But if it's insoluble, was he easily reached? 

Glasner: No, he was almost never there. [Laughter] That's why I got very 
good at solving the problems because he was almost never there. 


Riess: Other people in the office then, would they come out? 

Glasner: Well, they didn't even know the job. See the problem was that 

none of the work was documented, because I'u call up Walt Guthrie, 
who was in the office, and I'd say, "Hey, Walt, I've come across 
this reall doozer here." 

And he'd say, "Well, just a second. I'll see if I can locate 
the plan." He'd come back and say, "Well, we don't have anything 
in the office on that job at all." He'd say, "Bob, you just have 
to use your best judgment." 

So after a while that's what I got to do. [Laughter] Because 
wherever Tommy was, he was unreachable. It wasn't worth calling 
all over the world for this, anyway. The essential thing was to 
take his direction, take his job, and make it come out so that it 
would look exactly like what he had on that plan so when he walked 
out he wouldn't realize there was any difference. In other words, 
essentially the design was there. And if I did that, then I was 

Riess: The plan was always an overhead sketch or were there elevations? 
Glasner: No, just overhead. 

Riess: Well, it sounds like it wouldn't be too hard to get something that 
looked exactly like that. 

Glasner: That's right. 

Riess: But all the materials were indicated though, weren't they? 

Glasner: Yes, plus or minus. He'd say, "A stone wall here and railroad ties 
there," whatever. Yes, he would essentially indicate. 

Riess: When a client bought the design from him, that was that. They didn't 
hire him for supervision? 

Glasner: I think that he was involved in the supervision of it. I was 
essentially an extension. 

Riess: Did he include your fee in his bid? 

Glasner: No, I was an independent. 

Riess: But when he was working with you, it was not put out to bid, then? 

Glasner: No, I didn't bid any work to him at all. All the work that I did was 
on a cost plus basis. I mean the job really wasn't that well defined. 


Riess: And this didn't make for great difficulties? 

Glasner: No, never. This is the lovely thing about working with Church; he 
had the absolute confidence of the client. It's very difficult for 
people to have that relationship. I've never had this with anybody 
else. There's no other architect that can do this. I always try 
to work on this basis and sometimes it doesn't work. 

Church, as long as he'd been in the field, and with the vast 
amount of clients that he had, was able to select. In other words, 
if you have 20 clients, you just wouldn't work for a lot of people. 
More often I've come across people in San Francisco for whom 
"Tommy Church" was a magic word. Immediately when you start working 
in San Francisco, all the neighbors start clustering because they're 
very protective of their little space. So the instant that there's 
any infringement here, they come running. 

I'd say, "Tommy Church suggested that I do this to this tree." 

"Oh, Tommy Church. We've been trying to get ahold of him for 
two years. How do we get ahold of Tommy Church?" 

Well, there's an awful lot of people he just wouldn't do jobs 
for because he couldn't be bothered on small, residential jobs. In 
order to bid a job, you have to have a very detailed plan. And that 
takes more work than I think he was willing to do. 

If they wouldn't trust him with just going ahead, having me do 
the work and do it on a cost-plus basis, then I guess he just wasn't 
interested. Or if they insisted, he would sometimes do it and he 
would draw it up, do the whole thing, and then he would just put it 
out to bid, have four or five contractors come in and bid the job 
out. I never did any of those. I just did the cost plus work. 
There was enough there to keep me pretty busy. He had other contractors 
who he'd put that kind of work out to. 

Riess: Then he was picking and choosing his clients, on the basis of how 
he sized them up as being reasonable customers? 

Glasner: Right. 

Riess: He could tell that on the phone? 

Glasner: Well, a lot of them were referrals. With the vast clients that he 
had, a lot of them were family members, the son of somebody, or the 
brother or cousin or something of somebody he had already done work 
for. So this is the way that he would come on to the job. When 
people come to him, the relationship is different. They would come 
begging him to do the work. [Laughter] "Please, anything." 


Glasner ; 





"Just leave your footprint in our backyard." 

Yes, anything. He was just so difficult to get because he was very 
selective and he just wouldn't do everybody's garden. 

You'd think, though, that with all those people that went through 
his office, Halprin and Royston and so on, that they would have 
learned enough in that situation and also learned how desirable 
that method of working was, that they would have picked it up. 
Do you think there's anybody now on the scene who can do it? 

Well, you can. You're saying that what you've learned puts 
you in a position to do it really, along with Jean Wolff. 

Yes, I think the gardens that we're doing now reflect his work very 

How about some of the other people that have come out of the office? 
Casy Kawamoto and Jack Stafford and Walt Guthrie? 

Well, these people all do nice gardens, they're just not T. Church 
gardens, that's all. But there's all levels of endeavor, you know. 
I guess a "B" garden is all right. [Laughter] 

8) The Virtues and Hazards of Planting 

Riess: Well, of course, as some would say, "All you need to do is just cover 
it up with a little ivy and shrubs." In other words, you can gloss 
over a multitude of errors in a garden, can't you? 

Glasner: Yes, of course your plant materials are the great savior anyway. 
When you plant a garden, depending upon how it's maintained, of 
course, the plants essentially take a garden over. You can pretty 
much lose the detail of a garden with planting. This quite often 
happens anyway; no matter how well a garden is done or how poorly 
a garden is done, eventually the planting just sort of softens it 
all up and it becomes a big hodgepodge of plants. Quite often this 
is very pleasing. You look out and there's no design there, but 
it's all green and it's soft. 

When a garden is first put in, the design is very strong because 
that's all you see. The plants are very small, and they don't really 
contribute. In two or three years the plants start becoming effective 
structures in the garden. That's what plants really are, are 
structures, and if you think of a plant as a physical structure, you 
can say to yourself, 'Would I put a structure like that out of wood 


Glasner: there?" That's the definition of whether you should be planting 
such an area or not. 

This is where there is a great failing in a lot of these design 
people, in that they don't understand the structures they're using, 
that they are structures, and will be structures, and all these 
structures relate to the other structures that you're using. In 
other words, do I want a form like that? Because that's what I'm 
going to have. Well, a lot of gardens become so that the structures 
all disappear. They just sort of prune the outside and it all just 
sort of melds out and the structures that were planted are no longer 
there because it just becomes just a face, homogenized. So 
essentially whether the garden was originally a good one or a bad 
one disappears. And a lot of Church's gardens have disappeared. 
You come into some of these old gardens and it's just all wall because 
the people have let it all go. So the plus or minus factor isn't 
very great because after awhile it all disappears, if it's allowed 
to do so. 

Riess: You're saying that the plus or minus factor is or isn't very great? 

Glasner: It's great. Even a bad job is acceptable, as long as it isn't 

harmful; in other words, if the water doesn't run in through the 
front door. But whether the thing should have been angled like 
that or like that (gestures) really isn't that critical, I mean you 
can live with both of them. 

Riess: When did the planting plans come along? 

Glasner: We always planted out after all the construction work was done. He 
wouldn't even guess before then. He'd always say, 'Veil, let's 
wait until it's all in." 

Riess: I see, but he did come back and participate in that part of it? 

Glasner: Oh, yes. He was very matter-of-fact about how he'd schedule these 
things. First of all we'd walk through and decide what to take 
out. He'd say, "When it's all ready for me, then let me know, so 
we can come out and design the garden itself." 

In other words, if there was a bunch of stuff in the way then 
he wouldn't relate to it because there was too much conflict there. 
So he'd say, "Let's remove these things that are in the way, these 
hedges and fences, and take out those trees and things like that that 
are what we're going to remove." He'd say, "When that's all done, 
let me know." So I'd get it all clear. 


Glasner: He'd come out and he'd say, "Now okay I can relate to this 

thing." Then we'd design the organization of the garden. If we'd 
ask him about plants or so forth, he'd say, "Well, this isn't the 
time." Because then you relate the planting to the organization 
of the garden. After it's in, then you can start relating to it, 
but until it's in, it's hard to do that. 

Riess: Some people, though, are going to be really pretty insistent about 
the plants early on. 

Glasner: With Church, you mean? 

Riess: Wouldn't you think? Because that is the reason they wanted a garden, 
to have a particularly beautiful tree or something like that? 

Glasner: Oh, well, he would put in his structural garden. Trees are basic; 
in other words, a garden has bones, or a skeleton, and that is all 
the construction work and the main planting elements, the unchangeable 
things like the trees and the big shrubbery and things like that. 
Then the flowers and stuff he pretty much left to the people them 
selves so they could express themselves. He would leave open areas 
particularly for the people. He'd say, "Now this is what I want you 
to do." Which I thought was great. So in other words, whatever they 
did didn't make any difference because the basic garden was there. 
Whatever they did to these garden spaces wouldn't effect the basic 
design of the garden. 

Riess: Did he see it in color do you think? Or was it more green and forms? 
Because I was thinking that was the one thing that the clients could 
mess up on; they could make it very jarring, I suppose. 

Glasner: Well, he wouldn't leave them that much space. [Laughter] 

Riess: They'd just put out their green plastic chaise and that would take 
care of it. 

Glasner: Well, you know, if that's what they like. 

9) "The Man" and A Good Pruner Too 

Riess: Before you started working with him, were there any famous gardens in 
the Bay Area that you were acquainted with that were his gardens? 
In other words, how much of a reputation preceded your meeting him? 

Glasner: How much of his reputation do you mean? 


Riess: Yes. 

Glasner: Well, of course he was always "the man." Every time you picked up 
a Sunset garden book or whatever, there was always a T. Church. 
He was the "Frank Lloyd Wright of the landscape industry. 1 ' You 
just sort of got that. [Laughter] 

Riess: Wouldn't it be more correct to say that he was the William Wurster 
of the landscape industry? 

Glasner: Well, I didn't know that much about William Wurster, but I did know 
about Frank Lloyd Wright. Frank Lloyd Wright was a world -renowned 
name. You could mention that to anybody and everybody knows tha t , 
who Frank Lloyd Wright was. He was an innovator. 

Riess: And a bit of a crank also. 

Glasner: Yes, well that was something else. But I mean he certainly had a 

reputation. William Wurster I guess had a reputation but it wasn't 
on the same scale. You could ask somebody about William Wurster and 
some wouldn't know. But if you ask them about Frank Lloyd Wright, 
everybody knows about Frank Lloyd Wright. So I was thinking of that 
in more of a reputation level than competence. Church, in the 
landscape industry, to me, was about on that level. I couldn't 
think of anybody else of that stature, Royston or Osmundson and 
Staley, or Vogley or whatever. 

Riess: Halprin wasn't? 

Glasner: Well, of course Halprin was more controversial. Because a lot of 

his work was so bad. [Laughter] I mean really bad. The only thing 
I can think of right off the bat is that fountain [Vallaincourt] down 
there.* God .' I mean this was built with his approval, with his 
instigation.' Now you know that Church couldn't be involved in 
something like that. Halprin's done some very nice things. But 
he's also done some real bum ones. 

Riess: You're saying that Church was the "Frank Lloyd Wright," in other 
words, that he had that large reputation. Yet he wasn't a public 
figure, was he? 

Glasner: No, no. It was his gardens. I don't think anybody really ever 
saw him. 

Riess: That's interesting. 

Glasner: No, he wasn't a flamboyant in any sense. I think it was the quality 
of his work that really impressed people. I think that's why when 
they say they have a T. Church garden there's a special imprint there. 

*Market Street at Embarcadero, San Francisco 


Glasner: I don't think it refers to a type, it means excellence. I think 
that's essentially what they're referring to. If you have a T. 
Church garden, it's probably as well done as it can be. I think 

I wouldn't regard it as a 

that's primarily what is meant by that, 
style 1 ik« you say a lot of people do. 

Riess: It sounds like a status symbol. 
Glasner: Yes, exactly. 

Riess: But if your work then becomes a status symbol you'd have to be 
really dedicated to keep doing good work because it would be so 
easy to do half-hearted work. 

Glasner: I think gardening is an essential part of his being. I think he 
loves it. I think it is part of his frame. He really thought of 
it as being his vocation and an avocation both. I don't think he 
really did much else. 

Riess: Did he ever come out and work on the job? 

Glasner: He loved to prune. He always carried these pruners and sometimes 
we'd go out to a job, with no intention at all of being there more 
than say 15 or 20 minutes, or a half an hour on the outside, just 
a consultation. We'd spend half a day there. If I happened to have 
my truck then I would be out there hauling and he'd be out there and 
he loved nothing better than to just get involved in the pruning, 
the shaping of plants. Which is a very essential part—as I was 
saying, a garden loses its individuality unless the structural forms 
that you've put in there retain their individuality. This is what 
he was very good at, understanding all these relationships, the 
textural and the sculptural qualities of these various plants. 
And re-creating them, great sport, great fun. 

Riess: Yes, that's like the Japanese gardeners' art. 

Glasner: Yes, of course a Japanese garden is very highly structured though. 
The key is to not have the garden structured, have all the forms 
there without everything yelling at you. A Japanese garden is 
very strongly stylized, whereas the American garden tends to be 
more comfortable and relaxed. 

The secret is to retain the individuality without it screaming 
at you. That 's the key. If you can retain all the forms, and all 
the design intact without this very severe structure. With the 
Japanese, of course, it was almost a religious thing. It was 
involved deeply in their lives and so all of these details and all 
of these forms and all the relationships of all these things had a 


Glasner: definite meaning to them. Whereas with us, that isn't so. With us 
it's just a design. You walk in, you want it comfortable, easy to 
live with and attractive. But with the Japanese, it's an entirely 
different thing. 

Riess: I was thinking of the Japanese pruning and the way they can make 
trees transparent. You're thinking of raked sand and rocks and 
things like that? 

Glasner: Well, it's the interrelationship of all these things, the lines. 
Even the way that they rake something has a flow. It relates to 
everything else, the rocks and the way the rake goes and the plant 
goes with it. These things all inter-relate. Well, in our American 
garden that isn't so because in the first place we have nobody to 
do that. Nobody has that time. If you have three generations of 
people living in a little tiny area, then you have the manpower and 
the need for that kind of development. We don't have that in the 
United States. That's why Japanese gardens are absurd in the United 
States, because that garden [Jean Wolff's] is as big as 28 houses. 

Riess: I know the last time I was here, last week, we walked out into the 
garden and Jean was constantly snipping things off. 

Glasner: Yes, well she has a man helping her and she herself puts in an 

inordinate amount of time. She doesn't have a family living with 
her; she spends all of her weekends. Well, most people are involved 
with kids and various hobbies. 

Our gardens are too big for that kind of individual nurturing 
where you can spend half a day on one plant. If you figure the 
average Japanese garden, crowding a whole garden into a little tiny 
space, every inch of it is very important and you have the grandfather, 
he's retired and he's out there all day hand-picking all those little 
things. It takes a special kind of culture. 

10) A Big Job 

Riess: Did you ever have to beef up your staff to do a Thomas Church job? 

Glasner: Yes, on the Gauer job I had five carpenters, I had four masonry 

people, 15 laborers, four dump trucks, two other pieces of equipment. 
Well, we did an awful lot of work on that. 

Riess: And you say it took you 18 months to do. 


Glasner: Eighteen months. 

Riess: But did you have all of that crew all of that time? 

Glasner: Yes. 

Riess: How much did that job cost? 

Glasner: $300,000, I think, yes, it was a neat job. 

Riess: Tell me a little bit about that job, because we've talked about the 
small, residential garden. 

Glasner: Yes, well that job he would have followed his normal procedures 
of drawing it up and bidding it out and so on except that there 
were a lot of problems with scheduling and also with the job site 
itself. The job site was actually a rock fall, just masses of 
rocks all around here. And there's no real way to get around, I 
mean he knew he wanted to get from here to there (gestures) but 
there was no way to draw it. So I just had to do it somehow. 

Riess: Was there a house there? 

Glasner: They were building a house at the same time. He wanted it all done 
at the same time.* If we'd been able to come in later and do it, 
we could have cut the job cost in half, but we couldn't do that. 
All of that time we were working, they had all of their materials 
scattered around the house. As we worked we had to keep moving 
these materials around. They were doing a lot of terrazzo work 
and they'd have these huge piles of stone, these little terrazzo 
pebbles, and piles of cement and piles of lumber. 

Then they were building this enormous fireplace. They had to 
keep 30 tons of rock on the job site all the time so you could 
select out of the 30 ton for an individual rock. It took that many 
rocks to find £ rock each time because the fireplace they were 
building, they didn't want any of the rocks cut. That means you 
had to find £ rock that had to be high enough and wide enough, so 
you had to have a lot of rocks. And we had to move this stuff. 

We had to put a big utility ditch around the whole building. 
We had to put in our fire lines and our gas lines and all of our 
electrical control cables and our irrigation lines. For insurance 
there they had to put a big fire line, a big 4-inch galvanized fire 
line in. So all we could do at the most was dig a 20-foot ditch and 
put everything in it, back fill it, move something onto it, and you 
go along pick up the end of our 20-foot ditch and do another 20-foot 
ditch. Because everybody else had to keep working. So that made 
it kind of a problem. 

*Ed Gauer wanted it all done at the same time. S.R. 


Glasner: It was impossible really to bid that kind of a job out, which 
is why it got to be such an expensive job, because we were doing 
so many things we shouldn't have been doing. If they had been able 
to build the house, then we could have come in later and just done 

it It would have been much simpler. But we had to work with all 
these other trades. 

Riess: Why did you have to? They just had to have it done? 

Glasner: Well, he wanted us to be working at the same time they were working. 
In other words, he [Gauer] didn't want to wait and have the house 
built. He wanted to move in, have it all done. He didn't want 
to move in and have us working on the outside. 

Riess: Sounds like you probably could have worked twice as fast otherwise. 

Glasner: Oh easily. The job could have cost I'd say a third of that if we 
had been able to just do it at the right time. I said to him, I 
said, 'Vhy don't you just wait until it's all finished and then we 
come in here and just zoom." Dig one ditch, dump everything in 
there, and drain it all out, it would have been simple. 

"No," he says, he wants it finished the same time the house is 
finished . 

Then as we were doing it, we had it drawn out but we had to 
kind of develop it as we were going, like try to work out these 
various kinds of pathways and planting areas and this big rock fall. 
It was kind of interesting. 

Riess: Rock fall? 

Glasner: Yes, it was just a big chunk of rock that was just sort of big 

mounds of rocks and stuff and there was no way to get from here to 
there, but we had to get from here to there. So I just had to take 
a machine and go up there and take a big rock and move it, take a 
big rock, move it, take a big rock, move it and then we'd build the 
side walls out of the rock and then fill it full, have a sand base, 
and then we just sort of kept on going up until we finally got from 
there to there. [Laughter] 

Riess: Don't tell me you started out with just a little sketch on that 
one. There must have been more than that. 

Glasner: No, no. He had that fairly well drawn out except in these rock 
areas. He sort of had the thing in there, but he said, "You'll 
have to work this out." [Laughter] 


Glasner : 

Riess : 



Did Tommy use that technique of "I can't imagine what to do" on 
this job? 

Oh, no, no, no. Well, now this was a different kind of a job, 
much different. No, I think he [Gauer] just pretty much let 
Tommy do what he wanted. 

Because I should think that lots of clients, and particularly a 
businessman who really has limited time, choose the architect 
because he'll just come and do the whole thing in a very professional 

Yes, well that's what happened on that job. 
of the jobs that was the way it was. 

I'm sure that on most 

I think this other was just a technique of his of exploring 
their mind. In other words, if he wanted to find out what he wanted 
to know, that was a technique he used. It was very effective. (I 
don't know if that's what he intended to do or not, but that was my 
understanding of what he was doing.) 

11) Garden Maintenance, Jean Wolff, and the Future 



The essential thing is to understand that when you do a garden for 
somebody there's a point at which you finish the garden and you 
leave and then these people have the garden for the rest of their 
lives. And so it should be something that they want. I think that 
this is the most important part of any garden, that the client has 
to like it, has to be able to relate to that garden. I think the 
essential genius of Church is that he was able to bring the people 
themselves so greatly into the garden. 

I went over and did some work in Tommy's garden here a month or 
so ago. I did what he does. I drew him into what I was doing. I 
started to prune and I'd say, "Hey, Tommy, how about this limb coming 
out of here?" (Because, you know, he's sitting down, he can see the 
structure.) So I'd take my saw and I'd point to the various parts 
of the branch: "Cut here, here, here," he would gesture as soon as 
I hit the right part. I really got him involved in it. Soon he got 
the nurse to pick him up and he got close to the job. So then all 
the way through I was asking him. Oh, boy.' He was really living 
because then he was directing, and I was actually structuring his 

That's great, and what was Jean doing? 
the Church's garden that day also.] 

[Jean Wolff went to work on 


Glasner: Oh whatever Jean does; she finishes gardens. She prunes these little 
things and puts in plants and re-plants something. She's great at 
finishing a garden. Jean is the great master of garden finish. 

Riess: And how do you work with Jean? How has your practice evolved now? 

Glasner: Well, it's essentially what I used to do with Tommy. Jean and I 

walk out on a job and Jean is a great designer. She really is, she's 
a natural. 

Riess: For a more intimate kind of garden would you say? 
Glasner: Yes, these are small San Francisco gardens. 

She's been involved in these gardens for a good many years. 
She's never received any formal training. I think that's good 
because I think she just has a natural sense of elegance. She has 
elegant gardens. A Jean Wolff garden is a very distinctive garden, 
very stylized. 

Riess: Are there gardens that you would point to that reflect your own 
design sense, that you really feel are your gardens? 

Glasner: Well, these gardens I'm doing now with Jean I think would reflect-- 
it's sort of interplay there between Jean and myself, we kind of 
brainstorm it. But I think we've done some pretty nice gardens. 
Recently we've got about six, seven gardens that we've done and I 
think they're excellent gardens, very good for the people, very 
individual gardens. Like one of them was for a young family and 
they needed play areas and easy maintenance, and the next one, in 
fact three of them were that way, but they're in different sections 
and the problems were different. I think a lot of what we've done 
is the Church influence. I think it's strong because I'm using 
his techniques, or I like to think that I am, for approaching people 
and solving the problems. 

Riess: What is the future for residential gardens? 

Glasner: Well, it's an expensive art. It takes money to do these things and 
it takes money to continue it. The problem is that you put them in 
and then there has to be a continuity there. Unfortunately, I don't 
do any maintenance work and really that's where it has to continue is 
in the maintenance end. I can't compete on maintenance end; my people 
are all construction people and they're getting their 15 and 20 
dollars an hour and people don't pay that for maintenance work. I 
just have never got involved in that end of the thing, but it's an 
essential part of the installation really, this carry- through. I've 
seen, as I say, Church gardens that are totally unrecognizeable 


Glasner: because everything has lost the individual input. The elements 
that make a garden individual are all gone. If you got down and 
started looking for them, you could start getting a feeling, "Gee 
whiz, the essential design is here" but you don't get that feeling 
when you walk into it. It's just a big mass of green. 

You normally overplant a garden to begin with. It's like 
buying a bouquet of roses, you expect to throw it away. But people 
don't do that. They think if you buy a plant, you can't throw it 
away. Well, there's a time to throw it away. In other words, if 
you plant a garden like it should be planted, it doesn't look like 
anything. So you overplant to give it some feeling of form. Well, 
then at a certain point in time the conflicting elements have to 
be removed for the garden to retain the essential design that you've 
put there. Quite often this is not done. 

You just look out there at Jean's garden and if that back wall 
was moved up forward about 30 feet, you'd lose everything. She had 
a row of trees that were planted right behind here and it stopped 
the garden view. These plants have different functions at different 
times and something deciduous loses its leaves and you can see 
through it. And a lot of things are not deciduous, and as they grow 
larger they become a wall, as effective as a concrete wall. So she 
had a lot of evergreen trees there and we just took those out this 
spring and so her garden suddenly has more depth and is much more 
open now. 

Riess: That's interesting. That must be in some of the old pictures. 

Glasner: Well, it was probably appropriate for that particular time. But now 
with everything else large, those structures weren't needed any 
more so then you have to re-evaluate the garden. I think this is 
essentially one of the big things that is so essential in any 
garden is to every year or two, if someone with that kind of training 
can recognize what the intent of the garden is, to come in and 
structure the garden. 

Riess: Right. And what is that kind of training? 

Glasner: Well, you have to be aesthetically oriented as well as having an 

excellent idea of what horticulture is all about. Those two things 
have to go together. It isn't just horticulture and it isn't just 
aesthetic, it's both in a very intimate way, a marvelous thing. I 
think that's why Tommy enjoyed pruning so much; it's a very strong 
art form because it's what makes a garden happen. He and I would 
sometimes get into a garden and together we'd be there a good part 
of the day just whacking away. Boy, he'd be throwing that stuff. 


Glasner: Of course, I had to do all the hauling, but I also did a lot of 
pruning with him which was fantastic! I loved it. 1 Because you 
could just see the whole garden re-form. 

I don't know of any other architect who even does this or 
could even do it because it takes both those histories, in 
horticulture and the aesthetic view. I don't know of any architect 
who could go into a garden and re-structure it. Of course Mai 
[Arbegast] could. 

But speaking of Jean, I think she has a unique quality in the 
landscape industry and perhaps in this Sunset book [on the small 
garden] they'll capture some of it, because she's trying to instill 
in these younger people that gardening is very important. I guess 
really it is because if you think about the way that we live, most 
of us never touch the ground. We're completely isolated from the 
ground. In gardening you really get into the garden. That's where 
all of our strength comes from and Jean has this feeling. She 
always talks about herself as being an "old dirt gardener." 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

Thomas D. Church Oral History Project 

Jack Wagstaff 

Interview Conducted by 
Suzanne B. Riess 

1978 by The Regents of the University of California 

24 San Jfranrisco (Djroniclr Thurs., Aug. 17, 1978 


John E. Wagstaff 

Santa Cruz 

Memorial services for architect 
John E. Wagstaff will be held at 2 
p.m. Saturday at the University of 
California at Santa Cruz — the 
campus he helped design and build. 

The services will be on the 
Stevenson College knoll with the 
Rev. Herb Schmidt officiating. 

Mr. Wagstaff, 66, who super 
vised all design and construction on 
the 2000-acre campus between 1962 
and 1975 when he retired, died 
August 11 at the University of 
California Medical Center in San 
Francisco after a lengthy illness. 

A native of San Francisco, he 
was graduated from Lowell High 

School. In 1935 he was graduated 
from the Berkeley campus of UC 
and joined the firm of Wurster, 
Bernard! and. Emmons. 

In 1940 Mr. Wagstaff joined the 
U.S. Public Housing Authority as a 
planner before being called to Navy 
duty on a minesweeper in the 
Pacific. He returned briefly to his 
government post after the war and 
in 1947 returned to California. 
Shortly thereafter he was named 
campus architect for the fast-grow 
ing UC Medical Center in San 

In recent years, he also served 
as a member of the Santa Cruz city 
Planning Commission. 

A John E. Wagstaff Memorial 
Fund has been established in his 
honor. Contributions may be sent 
in care of fund chairman Harold A. 
Hyde to the UC Santa Cruz Founda 
tion, Santa Cruz. 

Our Correspondent 

TABLE OF CONTENTS -- Jack Wagstaff 

1) Old Friends 622 

2) Tommy and the Santa Cruz Site 625 

3) Choosing Architects 629 

4) Tommy's Ways of Working 631 


Jack (John E.) Wagstaff 

March 8, 1977 

Interviewed in an office in The Bancroft Library, Berkeley 

1) Old Friends 

Riess: I have some notes from the Thomas Church office that say Mr. Church 
has known you for 30 years. Where did you meet? 

Wagstaff: Actually it must be more like 40 years. I met him in 1938 when I 
worked for William Wilson Wurster, later of Wurster, Bernardi & 
Emmons (WB&E) . This was shortly after I got out of school, and it 
was at Wurster "s office on California Street. Tommy consulted, 
collaborated, with Bill on many of the houses. I was a junior 
staff person. Tommy was working directly with Bill, and was more 
senior staff people. But I got to see him and know him quite well 
in those days. 

He always struck me as being an extremely young and vital person 
in every respect in those days. I have continued to have that 
feeling about him; [he has] a youthful feeling about him, regardless 
of his years. And he was always very witty and full of fun, that 
sort of thing. 

Riess: Were there any other landscape architects around, on the Wurster 
office scene? 

Wagstaff: My recollection of those times is pretty much limited to Tommy. 
Riess: Were Wurster and Church thought of in tandem, as a team? 

Wagstaff: Yes, at least through World War II. Bill Wurster almost invariably 
worked with Tommy in those days. Not so in more recent times. But 
apart from the fact that they sort of drifted apart on the professional 
side, they were always extremely close, and best friends, you know. 

Riess: Why the drifting apart? 


Wagstaff: I'm not exactly sure, might have been some personality problems in 
the picture--! 've gotten that impression. Not with Bill, 
necessarily, but Tommy working with a bigger office. I sort of lost 
contact in those years but I noticed that Wurster's (WB&E's) office 
began to draw closer to Halprin's office. Then they got into a 
joint venture in buying the building that they're currently in. 
And in fact Halprin was a Church protegee, as well--along with every 
body else! 

Riess: At the time that Tommy was working on the Santa Cruz Master Plan 
he was also working on the Master Plan for Berkeley. 

Wagstaff: He was consulting landscape architect at Berkeley, too. 
Riess: Were you connected with Berkeley? 

Wagstaff: No. My contacts with Tommy were from the Wurster office in the late 
thirties and then again, when I was in the office, briefly, in the 

late forties, after World War II. Then we resumed a professional 
relationship when I was the campus architect at the San Francisco 
campus of the University. Tommy did several of the projects at 
San Francisco. I don't remember whether he was their consulting 
[landscape] architect, but he was involved on three or four important 
projects at San Francisco. That would be in the period of 1950 to 

Riess: At what point did you go down to the new Santa Cruz Campus? 

Wagstaff: I was the first one assigned to Santa Cruz, and I went down when 

the Regents were negotiating for the campus parcel, with the former 
owners. [The Cowell Foundation] 

Riess: What sort of input did they have from landscape architects in 
choosing between the Almaden site and the Cowell property? 

Wagstaff: I can't speak to that. There was a planning group appointed by 

the Regents to make a site study and recommend on site selection. 
Although it recommended the Almaden site to the Regents, Santa 
Cruz was one of the finalists. And then the Santa Cruz community 
made a very strong pitch to the Regents to come to Santa Cruz. 

Bill Wurster and Professor Brown, [and Walter Horn?] and 
Professor [Stephen C.] Pepper from this campus made a presentation 
to the Regents urging that they give strong consideration to Santa 
Cruz; they stressed the aesthetic advantages. It was a strong 
push by those three distinguished Berkeley faculty members for 
Santa Cruz. Just what energized that effort, I don't know, but it 


Wagstaff: was influential.* And then the Regents selected Santa Cruz. I 
think cost was involved too; they got more land for less money. 
Also, they didn't want to tangle with the Christian Brothers in 
Almaden Valley; they had had some unfortunate experiences with 
churches acquiring land in Berkeley. 

I went down about April, 1961, and the chancellor was appointed 
about June. 

Riess: There must have been a tremendous sense of this being a campus 
where everything could be done right. 

Wagstaff: Yes, hopefully. It was a beautiful parcel of land. 

And then the planning team was put together. Warnecke [John 
Carl Warnecke and Associates] was the nominal head of it, working 
with a group of other architects. Tommy was brought in as the 
consulting landscape architect. 

Riess: How was he brought in? 

Wagstaff: I think people sort of went to him almost naturally, felt that he 
was there and it better be Tommy Church, and no one else. 

Just who did the arranging and put the team together I cannot 
quite remember. I don't think McHenry [Chancellor Dean E. McHenry] 
knew too much about Church at that time, but I certainly did, and 
all the principals in that planning/design consortium did. It 
might well have been a Regent or two; he was very close to some of 
the Regents, Regent [Elinor] Heller, for example. 

Riess: And [Donald H.] Mclaughlin? 

Wagstaff: Yes, to be sure. I think it was more or less a foregone conclusion 
that it would be Church. 

Riess: And Gerald Hagar. 

Wagstaff: Yes. Many were clients of Tommy's, and Wurster's too. 

Riess: That kind of network. 

Wagstaff: I think so. I know Mrs. Heller was a client of both Tommy and Bill. 

*Stephen C. Pepper, Art and Philosophy at the University of California, 
1919 to 1962, Regional Cultural History Project, Berkeley, 1963, 
pp. 423-425. 


Riess: It interests me that he would accept the job, since he avoided 
having a big office and a big operation. 

Wagstaff: Well, this kind of involvement never meant bigness for Tommy. 

The consulting architect role meant that he was literally doing 
that, primarily consulting, he wasn't in a production situation, 
as a rule. 

Riess: No drawings? 

Wagstaff: Well, if he became the landscape architect for a given campus 
building project, yes he would do drawings then, with a small 
staff. He liked it that way. He never wanted to take on big jobs. 
He never had more than three or four people in the office. 

2) Tommy and the Santa Cruz Site 

Riess: What was Tommy's response to the site? 

Wagstaff: Tommy always has been a kind of understated, underspoken sort of a 
guy, but he was very keen about the Santa Cruz site. He wrote a 
statement enclosed with a letter to me, back in 1963, I think, in 
which he expressed his thoughts about the site in a three or four 
page paper. I will get a copy of that.* We all thought so well of 
what he said that in the packet of program information and background 
that we've given to each of the executive architects thereafter we 
always included that rather profound statement by Tommy. In fact 
when we were discussing the master planning early on we thought so 
well of it that we had it presented to the Regents, and I believe 
they made it a matter of record. It was a sort of a simplified 
aesthetic charter for the campus, stressing the importance of the 
land, the site, the landscape qualities, and sort of downplaying 

Riess: He wrote somewhere of the problem of building against the strong 
background of the redwoods, like building at the base of the 
Pinnacles. Has it been a problem for the architects? 

Wagstaff: I don't think so. I think that Tommy's wonderful paper aside, any 
right-thinking good architect would deal with that site in a 
sympathetic and discrete way, you know, not abuse the trees, not 
get in with big bulldozing operations. And I think a lot of that 
was probably insured by the architects that were recommended and 
appointed. And Tommy would have a part in that, along with the 

*See following. 

v-fc*^ . 



kcZ<Vi..-j'.'::Y v UU>P 
OCT 31 1S62- 



I*. J. E. V,'agstaff 
721 University Hall 
University of California 
Berkeley, Calif. 



Her Santa Cruz 

Dear Jacks 

The enclosed notes were written in the pl.vue 
coining hone. If it n&kes no sense, blane it cr. 
the 33*000 feet we had to fly to get over a storm. 

I'm looking forward to our next meeting. 

Sincerely , 


Thomas |D. Church \ 

Encl: (1) 

cc & encl to I£p»"; John Carl Warnecke 

NOV 11862 







University of California at Santa Cruz 
Random Xotes on the Site : 

the natural features which make the site both pro 
vocative and difficult, it is the size of the redwood groves which 
must concern us the most*. These towers of trees are Ir out-scale" 
and more related to the rugged knolls and deep ravines than they 
are to an academic landscape* They are, therefore, to be thought 
of less as trees to enhance, screen and shelter buildings (although 
this they will do), but more as great vertical elements of the 
topography having form, mass and density against which to compose 
the architecture. The problem is more like building at the foot 
of cliffs or in the Pinnacles National Monument. 

To accept them as trees in the normal building-landscape 
relationship would be a miscalculation of their potential in the 
grand design. Trees, as we have known them, are there in the oaks,, pines and bays. 

This influence of the great trees on the site plan and the 


architecture and the search for form to compliment them becomes 
an irradiate challenge to tho architects, for I know no past 
examples where a comparable site and program have been successfully 

2. 10-29-62 

University or California at Santa Cruz. 
Random Xctos on tho Site (continued) 

solved* (Tho forest at Ankor Vat cane after the fact). To be 
influenced by current exoziploa of building in tho Redv/oodc (the 
Sequoia cabin, the ski hut, Camp Curry, Bohemian Grove) night lead 
intc pleasant but innocuous solutions suitable only for lesser and 
more continental projects, 

Further, it is important to think clearly and with, imagination 
before accepting the standards and cliches of modern monumental, 
or normal campus, building types. An architecture here must grov/ out 
of the problems, restrictions and potentialities of the site. Usual 
relationships of building groups in a formal pattern nay violate the 
topography beyond repair. Grading and reforming o£ the land there 
will be, but kept to a minimum, Tree-clearing will be inevitable, 
not because the architecture forces it, but because the ultimate 
landscape demands it. There will be no indiscriminate removal of 
major redwood groves to accomodate preconceived architectural 
schemes. To a greater extent than any of us have faced heretcfor, the 
buildings are less important in the visual composition than the 


•cre3s» Instead of remaking the land, the land nust remake our 
standard conceptions of building and plaza and parking lot* 

The past is not without monumental examples of man having built 
•>7ith a full realization of tha grandeur of his site ar.d a knov/ledge 
of hov; to build to enhance or glorify it, as well as meet a specific 
program, Tho pyramids, the Greek temples, medieval castles, Tibetan 
monasteries and gothic spires attest to this. 

.Pago 3. 10-29-62- 

University of California at Santa Cruz 
Random Notes on the Site (continued) 

Reverse examples are also plentiful. If the Victor Emanuel 
Monument is too obvious, consider the man v/ho dared plunge the 
Campanile into the Piazzo San Marco, Contrast the serenity of the 
domed cyclatron in the Berkeley hills to some of the more 
recent buildings being erected there. Look what happened to the 
Golden Triangle in Pittsburg — one of the most talked of sites in 
the country ten years ago. How could anyone have crowded Wright's 
Museum into a block of dull buildings when light and air and trees 
were just across the street? The University of Mexico may be 
controversial but courage, was not lacking. 

It would be foolish and highly undesirable to think that a 
new startling architecture will appear here. Any attempt of a 
designer to 'compete in grandeur with this site is doomed to 
failure. Since the site is going to win, in any case, it*s 
possible that the twin theories of delicate contrast and protective 
coloring are most likely to succeed. Hence color and texture will 
b© as important as form. The strong horizontal, the dome, the gable 
may all find their place here. Bridges, wide cantalevers, sudden 
departures from the rectangular plan — cliches on a flat site — 
will become logical outgrowths of the siting problems. 

It must be kept in mind, to avoid future recrimination, that 
one of the inevitable results of building in a forest is that as 
man enters, nature recedes. Romantics must be warned that covers 
of fern, Johny jump-ups and shooting stars prefer to disappear 

""Page If. 10-29-62 

University of California at Santa Cruz 
Random, Notes on tha Site (continued) 

rather than face our advanced civilization. With the exception of 
areas especially preserved in their natural state the general effect 
in the main campus areas must be one of sensitive collaboration 
between the designer and this spectacular environment with the intent 
that neither shall impose unduly upon the other* The wall to wall 
forest carpet will disappear and in its place must come — not 
the asphalt jungle, not the standard campus we have always known, 
not an automobile under every redwood — but a vast area in which 
to livo and study, it must ba magnificent in conception, daring 
and forthright in its architecture — but gentle ba the hand it 
lays upon the land. 



Wagstaff: chancellor and ourselves. He would be asked; you'd want to get 
his feeling. And I think in most cases he was sympathetic to 
the selections. 

Riess: It sounds almost as if his say about the choice of architect was 
as important as his thoughts for the land. 

Wagstaff: "His thoughts" put architecture in its proper place, vis-a-vis 

the amenities of the site. He was supportive in the appointment 
of good firms. 

Riess: Did he have anything to do with siting the buildings then? 

Wagstaff: Well, he was involved in a collaborative way in the overall 

planning of the campus itself, what would be located in which part 
of the campus. And that became the master plan, and a sort of 
general siting framework. Then Tommy did quite a good deal of 
tramping around the campus with us, by himself, and with others 
during that time, getting to learn the qualities of various areas 
of the central campus, getting the feeling of their size and their 
relationship to other areas, and so on. 

The Santa Cruz campus is composed of a number of knolls, and 
arroyos, and then more knolls, and the buildable sites are in the 
minority, really, because the central part of the campus is so 
rugged. The sites had to be pretty carefully selected, and one 
knoll relating to the next, you know, and those knolls in turn 
related to the functions of what ever went on. I remember Tommy 
and I wandering around one foggy, wet day, and "discovering" the 
site where the Library was to be sited, for example. The Library 
site is on a small beautiful knoll within a bowl, surrounded by 
other knolls. And happily it was pretty close to the geographical 
center of the campus parcel. 

Riess: You also had overviews to study. 

Wagstaff: We had aerial topography and aerial photography, and from the aerial 
topography a very large model was built of the whole site, in the 
basement of Warnecke's office. I think its scale is 100 feet to 
the inch, quite large. We would jokingly say it was almost like 
being down on the campus, to work with this big model. It was an 
excellent planning tool. It's down on the campus now, mounted 
vertically in one of the old farm buildings. 

The charge to the planning group from the Regents at that time 
was that Santa Cruz was to be a very large campus. I think the 
total number of the students was to be 27,500, by 1990, which 
shocked everybody. But the site at first was at least realistically 


Wagstaff: considered with that long-range potential in mind. So what we 

were dealing with in the early planning was not so much individual 
building project sites, but the central Library here, the 
humanities there, the arts here, the colleges there, and so on. 

Riess: The estimated population has been revised downward? 

Wagstaff: The charge by the Regents, to my knowledge, has not been changed, 
but things have happened since then in terms of the flattening 
enrollment curve — the University just stopped growing in terms of 
enrollments, and that meant that facilities stopped growing. For 
Santa Cruz, the campus planners now see a plateau of about 6,500 
students for maybe ten years or so more. The planners now are 
dealing with that as the short range problem, still considering the 
needs for future longer range planning. 

But neither the campus nor the Regents have addressed themselves 
to a new interim plan. In my opinion that still has to be dealt 

Even in the early days, those of us — this would include 
Tommy—those of us who got the feeling for the fragile quality of 
the Santa Cruz site regretted the large number of students 
originally anticipated. The chancellor, for instance, said, "Gee, 
we'd be much more comfortable with an ultimate target of 10 or 
15,000." We all would have been and still would be, I'm sure. 

Riess: What actual guarantee is there that areas at Santa Cruz like the 
meadow will be left untouched? 

Wagstaff: Tommy was one who was very vocal on these points; he was one who 

said that great central meadow should be left basically untouched. 
But how do you insure it? Well, it's set forth as a requirement 
of the original long range development plan, and the Regents have 
accepted that and approved that principle, and I think it becomes 
a kind of a charter for the campus to follow. 

Riess: But on the Berkeley campus I get the feeling that those open spaces 
have been encroached on in places. 

Wagstaff: On the Berkeley campus some of the things got out of hand for a while, 
certain areas on the campus that shouldn't have been developed. But 
then due in part to Louis DeMonte and to Tommy, and Bill Wurster, 
they backed off and cleared out. Buildings were taken out and they 
recreated Strawberry Canyon, and the greenbelt through the campus. 

I hope they won't have to do much reversing at Santa Cruz. 
One of the problems at Santa Cruz is that a lot of the stuff that 
was set down as objectives in the long range development plan, as 


Wagstaff: worthy goals, you know, have not in all cases been lived up to. 

I'm speaking of what do you do about the automobile. There was a 
wish expressed in the long range development plan that large 
parking areas be kept at some distance from the center of the 
campus. That is being constantly eroded and no one in the 
administration seems to have the muscle to deal with that. What 
do we do as more and more people want to park? That could be 
disastrous to the center of the campus. 

Riess: Even with the small population? 

Wagstaff: Yes, in a way because we're not quite large enough to justify 

parking strctures. Parking structures could accumulate a lot of 
parking less obtrusively at appropriate locations. One such 
project was funded, but for environmental and fiscal and other 
reasons, we never did build it. 

We have a constant tug and pull between a faction on campus 
that wants to drive right to their office doors, so to speak, and 
another faction who would keep the auto at bay. 

Riess: I thought the Santa Cruz ethic was such that a little walk would 
be in order. 

Wagstaff: That's the rhetoric in the plan, but when the shoe comes to pinch 
Professor So-and-so... 

This was managed in a nice way up until recently by a parking, 
circulation and transit committee on the campus, incorporating 
various viewpoints. But we've gone through three chancellors here 
recently, and some of these things kind of went into limbo. 

Riess: Where did the planning committee meet? And was Tommy always present? 

Wagstaff: Some of the early campus planning committee meetings were held in 

San Francisco at the medical center, one or two at Berkeley, one at 
the San Francisco airport. Tommy was at all of them. 

Riess: Was he mostly listening, or talking? 

Wagstaff: Well, Tommy is an excellent listener, and not too much of a talker, 
but when he had something to say it would be pretty important. 


3) Choosing the Architects 

Wagstaf f : 


Wagstaf f: 

Wagstaf f: 

Wagstaf f: 

Did he offer comments on things other than the land? 

He'd express opinions pro and con on an item of architecture, 
because he was one of a committee that approved designs. His 
influence, and ours too, in a way, would occur a little earlier, 
in the selection of the firms that did the design, because we 
were all familiar with the quality of their work. In terms of 
architecture that would be 85 percent of the battle; if you had 
a good architectural firm appointed whose work was known and was 
compatible with the special needs of the Santa Cruz campus, this 
would be a large part of the battle. 

I have a list of the architects for the colleges, 
the landscape architects chosen? 

But how were 

Usually at the time the architect was being considered for selection 
we would know who their landscaping consultants normally were. 
Because any architect, in order to perform his function best, has 
to work with consultants that he feels compatibility with, 
particularly the landscape architect. So usually the architect 
hired would suggest who his landscape architect associate was, since 
he would be the one who would work with him. Thus, when the 
architect was considered for appointment, his team of consultants 
were also considered. Some of the architects routinely worked with 
Halprin, and Halprin was their landscape architect; and one or two 
of them asked Tommy to do the landscape architecture on the project. 
For example on the Library. 

[Looking at the Santa Cruz "Long Range Development Plan," 1971, p. 48] 
Were all the architects from California? 

Except for Ralph Rapson from Minneaspolis , and Hugh Stubbins from 

How did they get hired? 

The Regents lifted a ban on the use of out of state architects. I 
thing Regent Roth was interested in doing that for some reason. We 
were the first campus to take them up on that proviso, and scouted 
around for outside architects. The nomination of Hugh Stubbins was 
made by Ernie Kump, who had become the on-going consulting architect 
for the campus. And Tommy knew Stubbins and had worked for him in 
the past. Ralph Rapson was selected because of the quality of his 
work and because he had done theater work. Tommy served as landscape 


Wagstaff: architect for both Stubbins and Rapson. The landscape firm for 
Applied Sciences was a younger firm, Guzzardo. Central Services 
was Halprin. Classroom Unit I: Marquis and Stoller, Eckbo, 
landscape. College V: Stubbins worked with Church. McCue and 
Associates for College VII had Royston. Communications Building 
was Roy Rydell of Santa Cruz, who was a friend of Church's. On 
Cowell College, Wurster, Bernardi and Emmons, worked with Halprin. 
Cowell Health Center: John Funk was the architect and Royston was 
the landscape architect. Crown College: Kump & Associates was 
architect, Halprin was the landscape architect. The Field House: 
Callister, Payne and Rosse, architect, no landscape architect 
appointed for that building. 

Kresge College: Moore and Turnbull, architects, the landscape 
architect was Dan Kiley. Kiley was nominated by architect Chuck 
Moore and he was a good friend of Tommy's. (Mai Arbegast served 
as landscape consultant later.) Merrill College: Campbell and 
Wong was architect, with Royston doing the landscaping. Natural 
Sciences Unit 1 and 2: Anshen and Allen were architects, and Doug 
Baylis was their landscape architect. 

Riess: All the familiar names. 

Wagstaff: Performing Arts: Rapson, and Church was the landscape architect. 
Rapson specifically asked that he do it; they're good friends. 
Germane Milono was the architect for the Social Sciences Unit I. 
He has the offices upstairs from Tommy [on Jackson Street, San 
Francisco], He was nominated to be architect by Tommy. Tommy 
was the landscape architect for that building and did a beautiful 
job on it. Stevenson College: Joe Esherick was the architect 
and Halprin was landscape architect. Student Apartments: Ratcliff 
was the architect, and University House also Ratcliff. Ratcliff's 
landscape architect was [Allen] Ribera and [John] Sue. University 
Library: Warnecke architect, Church landscape architect. These 
firms were all very friendly with Church. They were all known to 
Church, good friends, compatible in their interest. Many were his 

By the way, I should interject that Michael Painter v who had 
been in Warnecke "s office as an associate and then became a 
landscape consultant on his own, was much involved in the University 
Library, Warnecke wanted to work with this man (Painter) that he 
was involved with. Tommy was particularly sympathetic to that, 
because of all the young landscape architects, I believe Michael 
Painter is one of those he admires most. He's the one, by the way, 
who did the Kennedy grave, in Arlington. 

In all cases that I've listed, Tommy would review the landscape 
design, in fact they would beat a path to his door. 


4) Tommy's Ways of Working 

Wagstaf f ; 

Riess : 

He must have been able to deal with things quickly and directly. 

Very quickly and directly and subtly. He was an excellent 
designer, and very modest in the way he put things forward, but 
he would sometimes make a sketch and say, "Have you thought of 
trying this?" Or, "Maybe this would be an interesting possibility 
too." And boy, they'd usually glom onto it. And he would take a 
rather back seat on architecture, just saying whether he liked it 
or didn't like it, but he would speak right up on the landscape 

Incidentally- -and Louis DeMonte probably told you the same 
thing—unlike some of the other landscape architects who are on 
this list, and are quite good, Tommy would be less apt to impose 
non-natural forms--walls, involved geometric forms, etc. He tends 
to deal pretty much in plants. He sort of glorifies the part of 
plants in landscape architecture, which some landscape architects 
do not. Have you heard that? 

Yes. I guess Santa Cruz called for glorifying the plants, 
were walls used much? 


Wagstaf f: Retaining walls, and steps, and formal things, like fountains, they 
are there. But there is nothing like the West Gate on the Berkeley 
Campus, or various and sundry sculptured landscaping that you see 
on that campus. You don't have that at Santa Cruz. There are one 
or two discrete places where somebody did a small fountain. 

Riess: Was this a design philosophy? 

Wagstaf f: No, I just think this is what architects in the Bay Area see in 
Tommy; in his landscaping the use of plants is important. With 
some other landscape architects, contrived forms and geometric 
forms, and the walls that they build, tend to become important- - 
Tommy's work, let's say, would be more informal, as a rule. Having 
said that, I know there are all kinds of houses that he did where 
the gardens are just super formal, but he understands the importance 
of plants. He's very much of a gardener-with-his-hands type of guy. 
Did anybody ever tell you about his walking around with his gardening 

Riess: Yes, indeed. So, in a place where the landscape was splendid 

already, ideally you put in the building and then just pat down 
the dirt and hope it goes back to what it was? 


Wagstaff: As a matter of fact the landscape architect from New England that 
Moore and Turnbull wanted to use (Kiley) , the friend of Tommy's, 
said that the criterion for him was that a landscape architect had 
been successful if you didn't perceive , that a landscape architect 
had been involved. He put it just precisely that way, 

Another thing I want to mention about Tommy: when he retired 
as landscape architect for Berkeley I was concerned, I thought he 
was pulling in his horns and was going to retire from Santa Cruz 
too. And I wrote him a personal note saying that we'd enjoyed 
working with him and that, as an old Berkeley alumni, I was sorry 
he had left Berkeley, and please, I hoped he wouldn't resign from 
Santa Cruz. He wrote me a very nice letter back saying in sum 
that he appreciated what I had asked him and stated, "I'll stay at 
Santa Cruz til I drop." 

Then when he became ill and couldn't get around quite as 
handily (this was about the time that Mark [N.] Christensen became 
chancellor at Santa Cruz) , there was an exchange of correspondence 
about whether we should have him as an ongoing member of the campus 
planning committee. And the chancellor asked me to deal with Tommy 
on this because they were anxious to hear; the chancellor was setting 
up a new committee. 

So I talked to Grace Hall [Thomas Church's secretary] and she 
thought he'd be very pleased to continue to be the consulting 
landscape architect, but he probably couldn't cover all the meetings, 
so it would involve our coming to see him. The chancellor wrote a . 
letter back, saying that we were delighted about that and we wanted 
him to stay as long as he wished to. 

Then when Angus Taylor took over, the campus planning committee 
as such went out of business, and they had another committee, a rose 
by a different name, that does more planning of a day-to-day, 
managerial, housekeeping type of thing, because they're not building 

I'm sure if they should have a design problem that involved 
an over-shoulder look by the consulting landscape architect, they'd 
go up to Tommy's office and get that. At more recent campus planning 
meetings — they became less f requent --someone , maybe Betsy, would 
drive Tommy down. 

Riess: Is there a resident landscape architect? 
Wagstaff: Not now. 
Riess: Was there ever? 


Wagstaff: Yes, a man named Harry Tsugawa, who worked on the campus staff. 

Riess: I'm interested in how Halprin, who I think of working mostly with 
materials and structures, how his designs for your campus were. 

Wagstaff: They were very good designs. He's kind of drifted off to macro- 
landscaping, cities, environment, all that latterly. But he had 
a marvelous staff, and he had an excellent associate named Walton 
who was the expert on the staff on plants, and she was very much 
in the picture on Santa Cruz projects. I felt that the Halprin 
designs were more sympathetic to Tommy's basic ideas than some of 
the others, as a matter of fact. 

Riess: Is there any landscape architect who could have done for Santa Cruz 
what Church did? 

Wagstaff: Probably not. Doug Baylis could have come close—possibly Halprin-- 
and Painter, whose work Tommy admires. 

Tommy also- -this is jumping around now- -but in the very beginning 
the issue was whether the campus was going to be located in the 
forest, which it is, in the center of the parcel, or down near High 
Street, which had been the original concept when the parcel of land 
was acquired. Tommy was one of those who urged that it be located 
where it was. And one of the arguments was that we have "instant 
landscaping" there, all these great trees in existence that appear 
around the Library, for instance, which on the Berkeley campus would 
have to have been maybe 75 or 80 years old. There are redwood trees 
almost that big now on the Berkeley campus. He felt there was an 
aesthetic advantage (and a dollar value) to that, which you could 
only deal with subjectively, but he felt it was an important point 
and he made that point to the Regents. 

Another thing was the roads: the University was extremely 
fortunate in having the services of a man who is an engineer for 
Kennedy Engineers, a firm in San Francisco which deals with such 
things as utilities and site development (sewers, water, roads, 
etc.). That effort was directed in the Kennedy Enginers staff by 
JimMahood. Jim, although a civil engineer, is a very sensitive 
guy. He and Tommy hit it off just beautifully, and he is a great 
admirer of Tommy, and although he's an engineer, in his drawings 
he'd do his best to indicate trees and indicate foliage. So we 
used to kid him and say that he had become kind of a landscape 
associate of Tommy's. They hit it off just great. 

It's interesting that even though the site was difficult at 
Santa Cruz, and we had these long access roads to get into the 
place, our site development costs were less than the site development 
costs at the Irvine campus. 


Riess: Haven't the roads been a problem at Santa Cruz? 

Wagstaff : Well, when we first went down we were told 27,500 students, and 

we were working in a day when the automobile was in a lot stronger 
position in one's thinking. Warnecke's transportation consultants 
were pretty automobile-oriented, in spite of Jack Warnecke's 
saying, "Think of something else besides the automobile." However 
their drawings show future four lane roads into the campus. But 
after we got started, five or six years after, we managed to put 
forward the notion, and I think it was dealt with formally by the 
campus planning committee, that there 'd never be roads more than 
two lanes wide on the Santa Cruz campus. And no one can see any 

real need for more. 


The debate about access roads to the campus, how wide they 
should be and even if they should be built, gets into politics 
between the Cowell Foundation, who still own lands around the 
campus, and the city, and the county. This is still to be resolved. 

There is pressure to build an east access to the campus to get 
traffic out of the city; the city wants that, and the county has a 
compact with the University to build these roads, and they don't 
want to build it, of course. The honeymoon's over and they don't 
want to build anymore if they can avoid it. Fortunately, the need 
is not yet great. 

Riess: I know that you have a meeting to go to now, Mr. Wagstaff. But, 

before you leave, let me ask you about the "vertical architectural 
symbol" that I've seen reference to. 

Wagstaff: Well, I think Warnecke kind of visualized one. And Tommy repeatedly 
would say, "If there's anything that this campus doesn't need, it's 
a Campanile." And I can remember—as a matter of fact, the hole's 
probably still in the model — there was a big dowel that came up, 
and this was a representation of the tower. Tommy himself went and 
pulled it out, and I've never seen it since. [Laughter] 

How did you hear about the tower? 

Riess: It is mentioned here, Long Range Development Plan, September 1963, 
p. 29, "At its northern end, on a dominating knoll that overlooks 
the park, will be located a vertical architectural symbol—a great 
tower—which, rising through the trees, will provide orientation 
within the campus and identification from without." 

Wagstaff: That's long forgotten, thank goodness. 


Wagstaff : Incidentally, the founding chancellor, Dean McHenry, was 
very well-disposed to Church, and he was beholden to Tommy's 
thoughts. We all were, but particularly the chancellor. And 
this was very helpful to Tommy. "What does Tommy think of it?" 
And Tommy was always sort of a benign guy who was around to make 
sure you didn't do some horrible disservice to the campus, but 
pretty understated all the time. 

Another thing that is wonderful about Tommy is that he doesn't 
have any "sacred cows." He would see good in practically everybody's 
work. He wouldn't be hypercritical; some guy wanted to do it a 
certain way, he would see the good side of it and develop that, 
rather than say, "scrap it." And he didn't always work with 
architects, exclusively, either; he worked with Cliff May, who's 
a designer in Los Angeles. Some landscape architects wouldn't soil 
their hands working closely with a non-architect, but not Tommy. 
There were no mutual admiration societies for Tommy. 

Riess: As you look back at what Tommy did for the Santa Cruz campus, do 
you think he did best at the large-scale, long-range, or will it 
be the design work on the individual buildings that will last? 

Wagstaff: His large-scale, long-range planning will, hopefully, have the 
greatest long-range impact. 

Riess: Frederick Law Olmsted has had a permanent impact on the Stanford 

campus, and it is still his plan they really work with. Has Tommy's 
work at Santa Cruz that indelible stamp? Does it have that much 
shape and strength? 

Wagstaff: The answer to both questions is "no." However, for the distinctive 
and beautiful environment --when you speak of Olmsted 's "indelible 
stamp" and "impact," you may refer to form-giving. Tommy's paper 
adequately stressed the fact that nature formed and stamped Santa 
Cruz. Tommy would enhance the legacy rather than alter it. 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

Thomas D. Church Oral History Project 

Harry Sanders 


Interview Conducted by 
Suzanne B. Riess 

c) 1978 by The Regents of the University of California 

TABLE OF CONTENTS -- Harry Sanders 

1) The Need for an Advisory Council at Stanford 636 

2) Frederick Law Olmsted at Stanford 639 

3) Major Achievements- -Quad, Plazas, Malls 641 

4) A Sense of Scale 645 

5) Church on Campus: Wallace Sterling 648 

6) The Model, by Virginia Green 651 

7) Attention to Details 654 

8) Outside Architects Working at Stanford 655 

9) Campus Compatibility 656 

10) The Landscape Architects 657 

11) Present and Future Campus Development 659 

12) The Stanfords, and Olmsted 's Intention 661 

13) About Tommy 663 


Harry Sanders 

May 24, 1977 

Interviewed at Stanford University's Facilities-Planning Office 

1) The Need for an Advisory Council 

Sanders: This is the room in which Thomas Church has been the landscape 

consultant for Stanford since about 1960. He also has done about 
two-thirds of the executive landscape work on campus both before 
1960 and up to the present time. 

And he also has been the consultant to the University; and a 
member of the Architectural Advisory Council, which was formed in 
1960 by Stanford's then President Wallace Sterling. 

Riess: Was that the first time you'd had that kind of a major planning 

Sanders: Yes, and the reason for the committee to be appointed is that I had 
been brought here to build up the office to get ready for the Pace 
Campaign in which we were trying to raise a 100 million dollars. 
The Ford Foundation offered to give Stanford 25 million dollars if^ 
Stanford could match it 3 to 1, in other words if Stanford could 
raise 75 million. 

Most of that money went into buildings and physical plant, bricks 
and mortar. So the Trustees felt, and I certainly agreed with them, 
in fact I was part of the suggestion, that for continuity's sake we 
needed a group of outside architects who were not as close as we were 
in the office here, who would review every plan and every thought, 
every idea and give us their advice. 

This was an informal group; it was advisory to me as the Director 
of Planning or to the Office of the Director of Planning. We met 
usually once a month or sometimes once every other month. We reviewed 
every plan of every building, every landscape plan, every parking 
lot, every road layout with this group. 


Sanders: The original group consisted of Church, a landscape architect, 
and three architects. The original three architects were Gardner 
Dailey, Milton Pflueger, and John Carl Warnecke. These three 
architects were responsible for many of the buildings on campus. 
Later on Ernest Kump was added to the group and then Dailey died, 
so it became a group of four again. 

The last thing I did in December, 1975, before retiring, was 
to add five new names to the group. The old group, for one reason 
or another, needed new life. Mr. Pflueger was in his 80s; Warnecke 
was often in Washington or elsewhere; Mr. Church was beginning to 
go down in health, unfortunately; Kump was local in Palo Alto, and 
the only one who really was very active. So we added new names to 
this group. 

Church played a fantastic role in this group. He also was kind 
of my confidante. He was a person I knew well enough so that I 
could call him at any time, get his opinion on architects or other 
landscape architects, get his opinion on designs, and didn't have 
to go through channels. 

Riess: How was that group selected? 

Sanders: The group was selected by Dr. Sterling and myself. We put together 
the three architects who had done a lot of work at Stanford, Dailey, 
Pflueger, and Warnecke, and Church for the landscape, the landscape 
being as important, if not more important, than the new buildings. 

Riess: Church was often influential in pulling in the architects. People 
would ask his advice on architecture, too. Did he have that role 
here, too? 

Sanders: In my opinion, and I think everyone in this Planning fice would 

agree, and I think the administrators and the Trustees would agree, 
Church is one of the finest architectural critics in the United 

We called on him, and this was a friendly group- -these four or 
five. We purposely kept it informal. We met in this room. They 
never met with anyone except members of my staff (if I called them 
in), myself, and other architects or landscape architects--in other 
words, professionals. I didn't want to get it so big that we had 
committee upon committee upon committee. I didn't want people from 
other University offices, and I didn't want the people who were 
going to live in the buildings even to be in at these meetings. So 
that if Church thought Warnecke 's design wasn't good or Warnecke 
thought Church's design wasn't good, they said so frankly. They got 
along beautifully. It was a remarkable group. 


Riess: Then you would make the presentations to the Trustees? 

Sanders: After this advisory committee was satisfied with the design, and 

after it had been reviewed with them, if they had suggestions then 
it went back to the architects. They were sent directly to the 

There was one case of a building on campus that we were not 
satisfied with. I fought it, Church fought it, the Advisory 
Council fought it, and we went back to the architects three times, 
met in their office in San Francisco, and certain modifications 
were made, but we really lost the battle in that particular case. 
It's a long story, I won't go into all the details, but then it 
went to the Trustees and I reported to the Trustees what had been 
the criticism, and it was finally passed, but after several tries 
and much grumbling. It wasn't that I was trying to put it over the 
Trustees. I was trying to get their support and had their support. 

Another point of Church--! 'm just rambling, telling you about 
a few things that I didn't agree with-- 

Riess: Yes, the reason I interjected that is because I'm not sure which 
parts of the planning committee report to the Berkeley Regents. 
You're saying that the Advisory Council didn't go directly to the 
Trustees or wouldn't have testified? 

Sanders: Church was the first non-staff professional person, landscape 

architect or architect, ever to meet with the Board of Trustees on 
a job. This is when he presented the long-range campus landscape 
master plan to the Board of Trustees. I felt it was so important 
for the board to hear it from Church alone, I felt that I would be 
insufficient in trying to present Church's plan to them. It was 
too important, too all-encompassing. 

Riess: Was he eloquent in that kind of a situation? 

Sanders: I wouldn't use the world "eloquent" because I think he's such a 

simple, down-to-earth person, but he reeks of sincerity. I think 
if Church told you it was going to snow at 11 o'clock this morning, 
you'd look out and expect it to snow. The Trustees had that much 
faith in him. I think if Church said something, they felt it was 
apt to be true. Plus a lot of the Trustees had worked with him in 
their individual homes, had worked with him in their industrial 
plants or factories or businesses or what not. He was, as I said, 
the first "outside" person ever to meet with the Trustees. 


Sanders: Since then on two or three occasions I have had architects 

come to meet with the Trustees—not on the first round of design, 
but if there were questions that I felt I couldn't answer. Like 
when che main library was being designed 12 years ago. (This is 
not the library that's now being built, but a previous design for 
this addition to the library was being designed and questions came 
up that I felt the architect should answer.) The Trustees talked 
to the architect directly and asked him to make a seismic study 
for earthquakes and a financial study to see if there was another 
type building that he could do for less money. Both questions, the 
answer was "No." All agreed the building was fine, but that building 
then sat on the shelf for so long while Stanford was trying to raise 
funds that eventually it had to be scrapped and we built a much 
smaller building, same architect. 

I came here in January 1956 and at that point Stanford had 
built a lot of new dormitories immediately after World War II because 
the enrollment had doubled after the war ended and the students 
simply had to have a place to live. There had been a lot of 
scientific discoveries, inventions, and a lot of scientific buildings 
had been built, some almost jerry-built. You know, the kind that 
if you get $50,000 you add a wing to a building, that type of thing. 

2) Frederick Law Olmsted at Stanford 

Sanders: When Church took over as landscape consultant to Stanford, we were 
left with the original quadrangle, which I think j^s one of the 
greatest pieces of University architecture in the country. In 1956 
it wasn't recognized anything like as much as it is now. But the 
surroundings on three sides were really backyard junk. There were 
temporary buildings. There were some good buildings, too, that had 
been built after World War I, between World War I and World War II. 
But it was a mish-mash. There was a wall behind the geology corner, 
which I'll point out in a minute to you, that was about oh, it 
must have been 18 feet high. It was a Chinese wall. It just kept 
the quadrangle from being a part of an expanding campus. 

The problem was to not change the character of Stanford because 
the early Stanford students, the alumni, we all felt that the 
quadrangle was great; it should be maintained. Nobody wanted to 
change the character. In fact, everybody wanted it to remain quote 
"the farm" unquote. But we realized that in order to expand into 
new libraries and new science buildings, new physics buildings, and 
a new student center and so on, you couldn't have people climing up 
an 18 foot wall. There were also areas that were really just dejected; 
they were junky. 


Sanders : 


Sanders : 

So Church came along and I would say he had more influence in 

creating the Stanford campus as it is today than any other single 

person next to Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed it in the very 

Yes, I wanted to ask about that tradition, 
range plan had Olmsted conceived of? 

How much of a long 

Well, fortunately I can show you right here. This is Olmsted 's 
plan of 1882, I think, or 1883. You'll notice that Palm Drive came 
in from El Camino Real and terminated in the oval, which remains. 
This was the original quadrangle which was built and which is really 
virtually untouched today. Olmsted originally planned for campus 
residences to go off in this tangent [points out areas as he talks]. 
The reservoirs—Lake Lagunita is still there. These homes were 

He also planned six additional quadrangles, all in a straight 
row, three on either side of the original. I'm glad they weren't 
built. Unfortunately, instead of having quadrangles with the arcades 
in the front and rear, he was going to divide each of these 
quadrangles up so there would be large single family Romanesque stone 
homes for senior faculty along the front of each quadrangle here, 
here, here, here, here, and here. And small lots and homes at the 
back so that actually you would have seen the homes, not the 
quadrangles. We have photographs of this in the office. It wouldn't 
have been anything like the quality of this quad which was built. 

Riess: It's extraordinarily linear, Isn't it unusual? 

Sanders: A straight line, yes. Yes, I think it would have been most 

unfortunate. He also had faculty homes radiating out in this 
direction, this direction, this direction. But he left this all 
in open space, the arboretum, all of this. So he left lots of open 
space, which is highly commendable. 

Now we took the liberty of putting the red on his plan to show 
that we still have a peripheral road which is virtually our Campus 
Drive. You probably came in and saw Campus Drive today. Campus 
Drive is virtually the Olmsted design which is shown here on red. 
So this adjacent quadrangle has not been developed exactly as Olmsted 
wished it, but I think the character of it is developing today so 
that Olmsted would have approved. 

We call this the Library Quad: it's the Hoover Tower, the 
Main Library, the three Hoover buildings, then the Meyer Undergraduate 
Library. This over here became the Science Quad, with physics and 
engineering. So basically we in this office, and I think particularly 
Thomas Church, have tried very hard to keep the character of the way 
Olmsted originally designed the campus. 



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'959 Medical Center (includes fountain) 

1939 Married Student Housing I (Escondido Village closest to Stanford Ave.1 

1959 The John Stauffer Chemistry Building 

'959 Stanford Bookstore 

959 Post Office 

1961 Chemistry Quad 

1962 Tresidder Memorial Union 

1962 Stanford Press Expansion 

1963 Lomita Mai 1 

1963 Chemistry Conference Building 

1964 White Memorial Plaza 
1964 Kiosks 

'964 Alfred P. Sloan Math Center 

1964 Storke Student Publications Building 

1964 Laurence Frost Amphitheater 

1965 Faculty Club 

1965 Cowell Student Health Center 

1965 Jack McCul lough Building 

1965 Herrin Biology Building 

1965 President's House Terrace (section toward campus^ 

1966 J. Henry Meyer Memorial Library 

1966 Landscape Master Plan, Central Campus 

1966 Graduate School of Business 

1966 Jos. D. Grant Building for Research in Clinical Science 

1966 John Stauffer Chemistry Engineering 

1967 Lou Henry Hoover Building 
1967 Bowman Alumni House 

1967 Student Services (Old Union^ 

1967 Will iam F. Herrin Labs 

1968 Lomita Mall (includes Keith Memorial behind Memorial Church^ 

1968 Undergraduate Housing, Cluster 3 

1969 William F. Durand and Hugh Ski 11 ings Building 
1969 William F. Durand and Hugh Ski 11 ings Building 
1969 Food Research Institute 

1969 Nathan Cummings Art Building 

197 Ruth Wattis Mitchell Earth Sciences Building 

197 Jordan Hal 1 

197 Dinkelspiel Auditorium 


Riess: How did Church respond to that plan? Do you remember? 

Sanders: I think he responded to the plan by doing to it what Olmsted would 
have done himself had he lived long enough and been given the 
University's new requirements. 

Riess: Do you remember any sense of surprise looking at it? Because in a 

way it is beautiful and it makes sense, and yet there's something so 
rigid about it. 

Sanders: Well, as far as I can really remember that, I think Church would 
have agreed completely on what you and I have just said. It is 
too rigid. 

You see what happened, originally Senator and Mrs. Stanford 
had planned to build the campus up in the foothills. So it would 
have been back really off of this map here. It would have been back 
in the rolling hills. Then Olmsted came along and found what the 
cost of building in the foothills would be—first of all, I think 
Olmsted was a very formal person, Beaux Art, and I think he liked 
the formal approach, symmetrical and everything, and I don't think 
he wanted to build in the foothills. But secondly, they found that 
the cost of building in the foothills would have added X percent, 
probably up as much as 15, 20 percent. 

So this site for the quadrangle was selected, the reason being 
given that this is where young Leland Stanford, Jr. used to play a 
great deal when he was a child. (And of course the whole University 
was given in his memory. That was the Stanfords 1 only child. When 
he died, they gave this enormous wealth to start a private university 
in the west, which they said was for our children, the children of 
California. Wonderful idea, wonderful thought.) 

3) Major Achievements --Quad, Plazas, Malls 

Sanders: Well, in the front of the quadrangle the buildings are all built 

perfectly level. There's enough slope here so that the front had 

steps, I suppose 8 or 9 or 10 feet of steps going up to the front 

of the quadrangle in these buildings here. By the time you got to 

the back of the quad, they had dug into the hill. This is what 
caused this 18 foot wall behind the geology building. 

Riess: Was it a natural wall or a structural wall? 


Sanders: Stone and concrete structural wall. Actually this geology building, 
this building right here, had a wall, and then there was a wall that 
went all the way across the back of the quad. It tapered down as it 
got back to the southeast corner because there wasn't as much grade. 

Church came along and among the things that he did was to 
create a beautiful informal plaza here out of a 5-acre area full of 
absolute junk and trash, old streets, old telephone poles, old 
parking lots, old temporary buildings. These 5 acres here are called 
the White Memorial Plaza. This is a bookstore, the post office, the 
music building, the student center. 

And as he began, and we were with him, and I talked to him on 
the subject, we realized that we wanted to get away from the gridiron 
rigidity of the buildings that had been built here and here. We 
felt that as we went back towards the foothills in this beautiful 
piece of land, the informal oak trees and other landscaped areas, too, 
that we wanted to get away from rigidity. We did not want a gridiron 
pattern all over the place. So you can see that the buildings began 
to be placed informally. 

Riess: And did he site those buildings then? 

Sanders: He had a great deal to do with the siting of them, yes. Later on 
he had practically everything to do with the siting of them, as he 
got into this plan over here. This is the faculty club where we're 
going for lunch today, this is the alumni building. So these three 
buildings—the student center, the faculty club, the alumni house- 
share the same oak grove, which is one of the handsomest pieces of 
landscape on the campus. 

Riess: That had been there, of course. 
Sanders: Yes, the trees had been there. 
Riess: Was this a rising topography? 

Sanders: [Looking at White Plaza] Yes, right here. It used to be a bunch of 
steps and walls and straight sidewalks. But all of that was changed. 
Yet the character is very much an Olmsted type of character. Because 
in addition to some of his rigid plans, such as this, Olmsted loved 
the English garden and the English landscape and English terrace. 
This is formal and yet it's not rigid. There's a formal fountain 
here and then the big water feature here. We had a competition of 
j.g. magnitude with local artists to design something to go into 
the fountain. Aristides Demetrios won the competition and I think 
did a very handsome piece of sculpture in the middle of the fountain. 
Church designed the fountain and Church really designed this whole 


Sanders: Now behind the quad, this is the church, of course, and 

originally the arcade had gone all the way across here. This part 
of the arcade collapsed in 1906 in the earthquake and never was 
rebuilt. But behind here, there was straight sidewalks, there was 
a straight wall, there wao a straight road, straight rows of trees 
and shrubs. It was about as dull and unattractive a place as you 
ever saw and yet these laboratory buildings were sandstone and 
handsome in their way. It really became quite a nice first line 
of defense, as we called it, to the quadrangle. 

Riess: You mean once they were visible? 

Sanders: Yes. So Church came along, took the wall out, put this area into 
banks, planted it, got rid of the straight lines, got rid of the 
road, and now this is a very attractive south arcade to the 
quadrangle. Over here [to the west] there was a road; it was 
parked with cars day and night. It was just a street, sidewalks 
on each side. 

Riess: Let me see, "here" is what direction? 

Sanders: This would be to the west. Unfortunately at Stanford since the 
beginning we have taken poetic license and every map is oriented 
with north straight down. As you well know, north should be 
straight up. Actually, Governor's Lane, this great row of 
eucalyptus, is built on a north south axis so north is straight 
down, south is straight up on this angle. 

But when Church started in this area of Lomita, these buildings 
had been built, designed by Gardner Dailey, and they just sat there, 
and you could hardly see them or get to them. Church created what 
is called Lomita Mall which tied Bailey's buildings to the quadrangle. 

Riess: Gardner Dailey designed buildings for the campus back in the days 
when Church was executive landscape architect? 

Sanders: He was a consultant, yes. These Dailey buildings were built in the 
late fifties and Church's role as consultant had really not taken on 
a very important role. Church was the landscape architect for those 
buildings that Gardner Dailey designed. Then about that time the 
Trustees and our office realized that the siting of new buildings 
was becoming so very important. 

You see, each head of each department usually wants to site his 
building where he wants it. He's a king in his own domain. We had 
a real battle royal with the law school on one occasion because the 
law school wanted to be here. And the law school is here. They 
won the fight. It was not where this office and many others wanted it 


Sanders: We felt that the graduate school—and here's the graduate school of 
business here, for instance, here's the medical school here—we felt 
that a graduate school shouldn't be in the heart of the undergraduate 
student pare of the campus, the post office, bookstore, the student 
union, and so on. But the new law dean wanted it there, and that 
is where the law school is. 

So Church was hired on a special contract to prepare a long- 
range master plan for the campus. This is the original plan which 
he prepared. Now since this has been prepared there have been a 
number of changes made. These buildings have not been built. This 
is in a different format from what this is here. But Church, 
recognizing the importance of the Lomita Mall, this is what he 
created out of just a plain old street. And when the art building 
was built, he began the improvements on the Lasuen Mall. He has not 
completed this. 

He also was very influential in closing off streets. We used to 
just have traffic running through here back and forth all day. We 
wanted to create the importance of Campus Drive, a peripheral road, 
which we did. In the master plans prepared in the Planning office 
there is a Campus Drive, and it goes all around. 

The idea is that you come in to the campus from the out side- - 
(you probably came in on Embarcadero here) or you come in Palm Drive 
or you come in from Hanover over here or Bowdoin Street --but you 
arrive at Campus Drive, then you head where you want to go, and as 
many as possible of the parking areas are on the periphery of Campus 
Drive, so that the heart of the campus become a walking campus. This 
used to be streets all the way around here. The first street to be 
closed was somewhere in the 1920s. This street was closed in the 
1950s, this was closed in the 1960s, so that now it ' s a walking 
campus. And yet, I think it's been done so gradually that 1^ feel 
(of course I'm prejudiced) that the character of the quadrangle has 
been enhanced and made more important. I give Church the credit 
for this. He kept the Oval, which was an Olmsted feature. It is 
just in grass or frankly weeds. We don't have the money to landscape 
this the way we'd really like to. 

The most important thing he has recommended, which has not been 
put into effect, is for the inner-quad, which is quite a few acres 
in size. Originally it had eight round groves of trees. This surface 
now is kind of beat up asphalt and armorcoat. These walks are 
concrete. This is the church. Thomas Church wanted to enlarge the 
circles, make octagons out of them, edge them at seat height so 
people would have places to sit, put more planting in here, and 
frankly I don't believe he ever has got to a final recommendation of 
what sort of material he wanted to use. He would have liked to use 
brick. But because it's so costly we haven't been able to consider it. 


Sanders: However, he brought this fountain and mall into here. He brought 
this — it's not a fountain, but it's a lawn area and it will be a 
sculpture area into here. He designed nooks and crannies all around 
hfre. He built a fountain behind the church. He created quite a 
handsome street out of this, which used to be an alley. Those are 
the types of things that he did. 

4) A Sense of Scale 

Riess: When he was handed this task what were his instructions? 

Sanders: We worked with him and told him the needs for buildings in the next 
two generations. For instance, the need for chemistry, the need 
for library expansion, an undergraduate library, the need for law. 

Riess: So knowing what the program was, he placed approximately where these 
buildings might be? 

Sanders: Yes, and then he would not only place the building but he would say, 
"These should be four story buildings or three story buildings with 
so much space in between" and then recommend how the courts could 
be used in between. 

The most 
think he will 
For a man who 
and graduated 
or three acres 
San Francisco 
not , and then 
buildings, and 

remarkable thing about Thomas Church to me, and I 
go down in history for this, is his sense of scale, 
started out working on 25-foot lots in San Francisco 
into 40-foot lots or Hillsborough half-acres or acres 
, he could work all morning with a 25-foot lot in 
and create a beautiful garden, and vistas and what 
come down here into a monumental arrangement of 
his sense of scale is truly remarkable. 

I'm hipped on scale myself. I don't have his feeling for it 
or his ability for it, but I think most of our cities, or many 
of our cities, are being ruined by buildings that are out of scale. 
I think each city has a scale. For instance, the Bank of America 
changed the scale of San Francisco and, in my opinion, slaughtered 
what it had been. The buildings that had been built in the twenties 
and thirties, the Russ Building and 450 Sutter, fitted into a San 
Francisco scale of buildings. You could still see the hills; you 
could enjoy the vistas. The buildings that are being built now 
are of a scale so that you don't see Russian Hill, Nob Hill, 
Telegraph Hill, Pacific Heights. You just see a mass of buildings. 


Sanders: Church's feeling for scale is fantastic. He recognized this 
was a horizontal campus, as Paris is a horizontal city. But this 
doesn't mean you can't have five or six story buildings. The 
engineering building under construction right now is six stories. 
But it has a horizontal character to it or horizontal motif, if 
that's the word to use. 

Riess: Were there "out of scale" things that had to be corrected? 

Sanders: Yes, the Hoover Tower was totally out of scale with the original 
Stanford campus. It was finished in 1941. It was designed by 
Arthur Brown who did most of the buildings between World War I and 
World War II and a lot of them before World War I. Arthur Brown 
was a great architect who did the San Francisco City Hall, the 
Opera House, the War Memorial's building, the Coit Tower, a lot of 
beautiful buildings around. 

I don't know how he was directed, or whether he felt^ that every 
campus needed a campanile (I think the Campanile in Berkeley is 
beautiful, a slender, graceful structure that comes right down to 
the earth) , but in the Hoover Tower here they needed a lot of 
interior space at the bottom, so the Tower is too fat. It's a 
library, 16 floors of stacks, which is not practical. When they got 
to the bottom instead of bringing the exterior walls straight down, 
the building bulged out, but it didn't bulge out enough to become 
important. What I'm trying to say is that the Hoover Tower is out 
of scale with Stanford, but Church and others have done much to 
improve the situation. 

When we went to build the Lou Henry Hoover Building [goes to 
map] --here's the Hoover Tower, that's the size of the base. The 
Lou Henry Hoover Building here I think was the hardest building any 
architect ever had to design. Charles Luckman designed it, and I 
think he did a noble job. It's a quiet building. He didn't try to 
make a sensational great piece of architecture that would go down 
in history. It's a series of two-story arches. 

Then Church came along and carried the retaining wall across 
here and tied it into the base of the Hoover Tower so that it becomes 
a part of the base of the tower. He also on paper created this 
interesting plaza in front of the Hoover Tower so as to creat interest 
at ground level. It's never been installed, but soon there will be 
a fountain out in the center—on axis with Hoover and Memorial 
Auditorium—and handsome paving which is about to begin construction. 
It's been financed and it's going to be called the Tanner Fountain. 
Obert Tanner is a wealthy man in Salt Lake City who has given water 
features to ten universities. This will be the tenth. He's also 
given libraries to ten universities. I asked him one day, "What do 



Riess : 
Sanders : 

Sanders : 

you start on now that you've finished water features?" He said, 
"I haven't decided yet." He gave us a philosophy library over 
here. Now he's giving us a water feature. 

Sanders : 


Then this plan will exist until completed more or less, 
really the long range. 

This is 

This plan is very flexible. You can see the law school is not as 
this plan at all, it's quite different. 

It's quite a different shape, yes. 

This is the building I say is out of character with Stanford. It's 
not all the architect's fault because it would have been a very 
handsome building inside, but the building code changed during the 
design and construction so lots of the interior features that would 
have been very handsome had to be closed in. Outside the building 
was designed by the same people who designed the law school. S.O.M. 
designed the law school and everyone liked it. We think it's very 
handsome, fits into the Stanford scene; it's a quiet building with 
arcades. After it was designed, then we asked S.O.M. to design 
this one, the School of Education R & D building. This building 
was built first and it sat here all by itself. It looked totally 
out of character. It is better now that the law school has been 
built, and it's better now that the landscaping is in place and the 
surrounding area cleaned up. I object to the angles, there's no 
purpose to the angles, and I think they are out of character. But 
that's just my opinion. I know a lot of people agree. I'm not the 
only person saying that. 

Looking at the plan, it suggests a change of terrain was the problem 
and that they did this offset thing to solve it. 

It wasn't. They had a street coming in here, a residential street, 
which they accentuated. The residential street has now been taken 
out--I don't know, it got out of hand. 

This plan is prepared by the Planning Office based on what? 

Based completely on Church's long range master plan. This early 
one has Church's name on it. This we call the heart of the campus. 

In addition to this, Church would sit here in this room and 
talk to us. This is all married student housing over here [Escondido 
Village]. This was all open fields until about 1962 or 1963. There're 
some great eucalyptus trees in here which you can see. Over in here 
there 're very tall eucalpytus around the athletic area. Church is 
the type of person who would relate—actually Bob Royston was the 


Sanders: landscape architect here. He and Church would sit here and talk 
about it. They got along beautifully. (Royston used to work for 
Church like nearly every other Bay Area landscape architect.) 

Church would say things like, "Look, you've got high eucalyptus 
trees, two and three hundred feet here. Let's get some eucalyptus 
groves over in here to relate to them." Somebody else would have 
put 30 foot pines or 20 foot maples or something like that. 

5) Church on Campus: Wallace Sterling 

Sanders: Also on many occasions we called Thomas Church in to consult on 

buildings in the Industrial Park. The Industrial Park starts over 
here, you know the Stanford Industrial Park. All the plans are 
routed through the planning office, and Church did the landscape 
on quite a few of them himself. He wanted the industrial park to 
have a character of its own, too. 

Now, when we got out to SLAC, the Stanford Linear Accelerator 
Center, that's the 2-mile-long building out here, Royston again was 
the landscape architect, Charles Luckman was the architect. Through 
this office the Stanford Trustees, particularly the chairman, 
Caroline (Mrs. Allan E.) Charles, were saying, "Harry, that's got 
to look like part of Stanford. It's got to be compatible to 
Woodside, Portola Valley, the beautiful land around it. It can't just 
be a lab with a bunch of concrete and trucks. It's got to be handsome." 

At the same time the AEC was saying, "We've got a very tight 
budget. If it looks too nice, the people will think we're wasting 
the taxpayer's money." So it was really an amazing battle. It 
turned out quite well. 

First of all, Luckman did a magnificent job in getting a lot of 
buildings on a minimum cost. They're quite handsome buildings. 
Secondly, Royston did just a yeoman's job on landscaping. Landscaping 
became very important. The scientists out there said, "Landscaping? 
We don't want trees. We're just going to do scientific experiments." 
At first, they didn't give a damn about how the thing looked, the 
scientists didn't or most of them didn't. 

But the director and the staff out there are so proud of it 

now, it's marvelous to watch them. They take people around. I find 

them showing them the groves of eucalyptus, redwoods there. It's 
a beautiful campus within a campus really. 


Sanders: Church was a consultant with Royston on that. So Church didn't 
do every job himself. He had a small office, he couldn't do all 
the jobs, he didn't want to do all the jobs. Some he was invited 
to take on and he'd say, "No, I'm busy enough. But I'll help you 
out consulting." 

Riess: Where he would have drawn up the details of a plaza or something 
like that, then the working drawings all came out of his office. 

Sanders: Absolutely, absolutely. The working drawings for this entire area, 

the working drawings for this entire area and all of this area 

between the Meyer library and the law school, it's all Church, 
every bit of it. 

Riess: Who was in his office with him? 

Sanders: Jack Stafford I would say was his right-hand man during all of 
this period. Jack, who is now in business for himself, is very 
capable. I think he understands Tommy perfectly and could execute 
the plan in a way that Tommy wanted it to be done. Others, too, 
like Walt Guthrie- -Tommy always had a small but capable staff. 

Tommy had a great love for Stanford. For one thing, Wallace 
Sterling, who was president of Stanford for 19 years, Wallace 
Sterling is a Canadian, a brilliant man, a powerful man, a brilliant 
mind, and also truly "an English gardener." He himself loves 
flowers. He loves trees. He and Tommy just got along like double 

Wallace Sterling is the type of person who, with all that he 
had on his mind and all of the things he had to do and raising money 
and taking care of the academic plant and everything else, he's the 
type person who would get back to his office--he'd meet in this 
room with us two or three times a month, with Tommy here one of those 
days at least—would get back to his office and say, "Harry, one of 
the new trees over by the library is leaning over. I think you 
better get somebody to tie it up." Or "Harry, why don't you plant 
some more petunias. You didn't plant enough." (We don't plant "the 
petunias" ourselves in this office, but Wally would say, "Harry, I 
know you can talk to the right person. Get them to put in some more 

One day he phoned me and said, "Harry, the new roof is going in 
on the Faculty Club and they've got too much orange in the middle. 
I think you better get over there in a hurry and see that they mix 
the oranges and the purples and the browns and the reds and so on." 
Well, you can see why he and Church would get along. 


Sanders: Church designed the President's Garden. The president of the 
University lives in the Lou Henry Hoover house, which was Herbert 
Hoover's house. When Mrs. Hoover died, Herbert Hoover gave it to 
the University for the president of the University to live in. 
Wally Sterling himself, with the aid of a gardener, took care of 
the garden. It was a really English garden, lots and lots of 
flowers. That was his avocation. He loved it. That was his 
recreation. And he has a beautiful garden now at his home in 
Atherton. Sterling is now the University's chancellor. 

Church would tell him, "Well, put in new terraces" and tell 
him how to handle it. They loved each other. They just got along 
beautifully. That was fortunate. It was an era when the president 
was involved in the design of every building, it was one of his 
loves. As I say, he was really an English gentleman and an English 
gentleman gardener. 

Another thing that Church did, I had a full time landscape 
architect on my staff who worked very closely with Tommy. His name 
is Dan Rolfs. He's now retired, living in San Francisco. I was 
going to tell you sometime today if you don't get enough information 
today from me--and later we're going to join Oscar Nelson, who is 
my master planner here, has been for years, a very competent person-- 
if you don't get enough from Oscar and me, you can certainly call on 
Dan and he can give you lots of anecdotes about Church because he 
actually went out in the field with him on an almost weekly basis or 
maybe more. 

Riess: That's how often Church was down here? 

Sanders: Oh, absolutely, for a long time. And what we always teased him 
about, he always came in his old tan corduroy jacket and his old 
pants and shears falling out of every pocket. He would come down 
here on Saturdays and Sundays when there weren't people around, 
there weren't students wandering around and there weren't faculty, 
and he knew he had the place to himself. He'd go around and actually 
trim the bushes and prune lots of things the way he wanted them. 
When the White Plaza was first installed, Church was in there--oh, 
he must have come down six or seven weekends and gone around and 
pruned. I think that's the way he did a lot of his thinking. 

Riess: I've heard of him doing that in the 25 foot lot gardens, but I've 

Sanders: He did it on a 9,000 acre campus. That's why I say he has a great 
feel for scale. And if he found the trees had been put in that 
weren't the right kind, that weren't the right size, he'd say so. 
'Veil, let's change them." 


6) The Model, by Virginia Green 

Riess: He did give you a planting plan for all of this? 
Sanders: Oh, yes. 

Riess: You were saying, "That's how he did a lot of his thinking" and I was 

going to ask you how much he did his planning in here with aerial maps 
and how much just walking around the campus? How do you get a sense 
of the scale and what the campus calls for? 

Sanders: The combination. First of all, we have this model out here, in the 
lobby. Virginia Green built it. It's a funny scale, one inch equal 
25 feet and I never heard of another model of that scale in my life. 
It was started before I came to Stanford. However, it's a good 
scale because it's large enough so that you can see the areas between 
buildings. You can see enough detail on buildings. And it's small 
enough so you don't have to get too much detail. It's a very good 
scale for the model. 

I would say Church did, let's say, a fourth of his thinking 
over that model, a fourth on drawings from architects, and when he 
did the landscape master plan, he had all kinds of drawings showing, 
you know, "if a building was four stories high, what would happen 
to the sun and how much of the courtyard would be in sun and what 
time of the year it would be and so on." This model has been used 
as a work model, and actually an architect designing a new building, 
we'll let him pull that apart and try different shapes and different 
heights and different sizes on it. So it is kept up to date. 

I noticed today that a new person built the model of the new 
Engineering Building, and he did a lousy job. The windows are too 
dark, the paving is the wrong color and the building is the wrong 
color, so it's got to go back. 

Virginia Green--you may have never heard of her, but I think 
she's a part of the Tommy Church story because Virginia Green was 
a draftsman in William Wilson Wurster's office way back when, 
probably in the 1930s or early forties. One day, as I understand 
it, Bill Wurster asked her to do a model of a house that was being 
designed, just as an extra-curricular activity over the weekend. He 
knew she could "do" models, but I think this was her first job as a 
model maker. She did it so well that I understand the firm put her 
to making models. 

Then she went into business for herself in a little 20 foot store 
on Clement Street, way out in the avenues. Then she expanded into 
two stores. Then she hired more and more people and a woman named 


Sanders: Ly la -somebody helped her. Then she had a staff of young architectural 
draftsmen and people making modesl. And then she went from Clement 
Street down to Clementina Street down in the Mission district part 
of San Francisco where she had really a huge business. 

She became known as the best model maker in the United States. 
She made models for people all over the country. She made the 
model of the Mall in Washington, for instance. She made most of the 
models for the Golden Gateway competition. She would have rooms 
locked and people sworn to secrecy. So if this room is working for 
Architect A, when the people left that room the door was locked and 
Architect B's people couldn't find out what Architect A was doing. 
She did that kind of work. 

Riess: You mean she was dealing maybe with both Wurster and somebody else? 

Sanders: She was dealing with three and four and maybe eight people all 
working in the same competition. 

She did beautiful, beautiful work. She did all of our original 
model work. She's now retired and lives in a beautiful home in Mar in 
County. I think it's one of the greatest stories of rags-to-riches 
I've ever heard. She's been written up, but nobody ever has really 
done a complete job on what she accomplished. She's remarkable. 
She trained a lot of people, and a lot of people are trying to emulate 
her work, but no one has taken her place. 

But Church naturally was in and out of her office all the time. 
And models have become much more important. 

Riess: We were getting at how it was that he got a sense of the scale. 

So you were saying that almost a quarter of his time he would spend 
with the model. 

Sanders: Oh, yes, a quarter of his time with this model out here, a quarter 
of his time perhaps on studying drawings, new drawings and old 
drawings and then this map, and then probably the other half of 
his time on walking around and taking photographs and measuring 
and just looking. 

In addition to the Planning Office here, we had a committee of 
the Board of Trustees on Buildings and Grounds, or Land and Building 
Development as it is now called, and it was headed from 1958 until 
three or four years ago by Mrs. Allan Charles, Caroline Charles, a 
great admirer of Tommy Church who also is a personal friend, the 
couples are friends. 


Sanders: Mrs. Charles, although she's now had two strokes and is not 

in good health at all, she was an absolute dynamo who ran all sorts 
of activities in San Francisco and was just a great asset to an 
office such as this and to the University, one of the greatest of 
the Stanford greats. She would meet in this office whenever we 
asked her to, at least twice a month, review plans before we took 
them to the Board of Trustees, meet with Dr. Sterling, the president, 
meet with Tommy Church if we needed him to be present. And then I 
would present the plans to the Board of Trustees. She was the 
chairman of the committee. She has often said, flatteringly I guess, 
I never let her get caught. She knew what was coming and she could 
always support me and always did. 

We had a remarkable administration here and a remarkable 
relationship with the Trustees. I think Church had a lot to do with 
their respecting what came out of this office because they knew Church 
had reviewed it with us. Occasionally I'd be presenting plans for 
a new building and one of the Trustees would say, "Has Tommy seen 
it?" I'd say, "Yes." "What did he say?" I'd say the good points, 
and the bad points, if it had both. "Well, if Tommy approves it, 
that's fine." You know, it was that kind of a relationship. 

7) Attention to Details 

Sanders: There is one other very important thing he did. I want to say it 
before I forget it. It may be out of context. In fact, I ramble 
so that I'm often out of context. 

When Tommy Church came to Stanford, the buildings that had been 
built since the original quad was virtually completed in the 1890s, 
the buildings that had been completed since then, most of them had 
been designed by Arthur Brown during one period, Eldridge Spencer 
during another period, with other architects involved occasionally. 
Most of them had different exterior lighting fixtures, different 
signs; the campus was a mish-mash of signs, signs tied with string 
around the stone columns in the arcade, signs stuck all over the 
place, signs stuck in the ground--"Alumni House This Way," you know, 
printed in somebody's handwriting, maybe blue, maybe red, maybe 
orange. The names on buildings were all different. Some were on 
the buildings engraved and etched in stone, some were just wood signs 
sticking out in front of buildings. 

And I give Oscar Nelson in this office with whom we'll met later 
most of the credit here for organizing a continuity in what we call 
"street furniture"--! "m sure you know the term. We had all different 


Sanders: kinds of benches. Each building looked like it had been built by 
a different group. It could have been on a different lot in 
San Francisco or Sacramento or New York. 

Oscar found that the residential communities around here were 
taking out the light standards put in from 1900 on, which are, we 
think, of human scale, 10 and 12 feet high, some of them very good 
looking. The first ones came from Alviso or some little town such 
as that. Oscar found we could buy 50 of them at surplus for very 
little money. Well, we started replacing all of these other mish 
mash or light fixtures. Some would be 30 feet high modern standards, 
and some would be just a lightbulb hanging on a chain. We started 
replacing the light fixtures around. Church worked with Oscar. But 
I'll give Oscar the credit on this. 

Then we found that we could get a lighting manufacturer to make 
what are called Stanford S-l's, the original lighting fixtures. We 
found a manufacturer who would make these today at a nominal price. 
We still have bought old fixtures from people. I think it was 
Burlingame that heard that we were doing this and sent us down a 
truck load of fixtures not too many years ago, saying, "Here, we 
don't want these any more." They were putting in big 40-foot 
standards with much more light, totally out of scale in a residential 

Tommy Church designed, at our request, a kiosk which has been 
copied campus after campus after campus. 

Riess: It's been copied at Berkeley, hasn't it? 

Sanders: Yes. We get requests in this office probably once a month from all 
over the world really, "Will you please send us the working drawings 
for the kiosk?" 

Our answer is, "We can't. It's the property of Stanford 
University. It was designed by Thomas Church. You can call him 
or get your own landscape architect. We will send you a photograph 
of it." So we send a photograph and they copy it. The kiosk has 
gotten all the signs off of trees and off of stone columns and 
given the student billboards, and at the moment I'm guessing there 
must be 12 or 15 or more in the heart of the campus. You can't 
believe how things like that begin to clean up an area. 

At the same time we got standardization of road signs with the 
Stanford brown and cream color, the standardization of names for 
buildings, so that there wouldn't be three buildings in a row with 
three different kinds of signs--a Stanford logo, if you will. I 
think Church has been just wonderful in this. 


Sanders: He has found some light fixtures for buildings. Several came 
out of Australia. He's found benches that he's used in parks and 
areas around here, wooden benches, but they're compatible with 
Stanford. This again has unified the campus so you feel like you're 
on one campus and not just going from one building to another. 

8) Outside Architects Working at Stanford 

Sanders: There's no question the man is a real genius in design. As I said 
in the beginning, and I think most architects who know him would 
agree, I'm sure they would, he's a great architectural critic. He 
does not try to dictate to the architects. He sticks to landscape 
architecture. But he won't hesitate to say to an architect that he 
thinks that if the building were recessed back 20 feet or had a shadow 
line or something like that, it would be more compatible in a certain 

Riess: In general, you've always had the same roofing material and certain 
kinds of continuity of materials and color? 

Sanders: Glad you brought up that question, because a lot of people think 
that when an architect is hired to do a building at Stanford-- 
and incidentally in the last 20 years we brought in many, many 
architects, some nationally known, many locally known, but instead 
of just dealing with one or two, we've been dealing with 20 to 30 
different architects. We have a committee on campus to select 
architects from which this office puts together a panel, puts 
together material from them, arranges interviews if necessary- 
there 's an interview this afternoon for the remodeling of an old 
building. , 

Instead of trying just to deal with one architect, we really 
had, you might say, "spheres of influence." One for a while we 
called Dailey's sphere of influence, one the Pflueger sphere, one 
the Warnecke sphere, one the Hervey Clarke sphere, and so on. But 
we've brought in architects Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum from 
St. Louis. We brought in Caudill, Rowlett, and Scott from Houston 
and Los Angeles, working on the Medical Center. We brought in Harry 
Weese from Chicago on the Engineering Building, which is nearing 
completion now. 

Riess: What was the intention in bringing all of these in? 

Sanders: Simply that in review we felt at the time that these were the best 

people for a particular job. Obata has done a great many libraries. 
And we were influenced by the fact that he's a library expert. 


Sanders: Caudill, Rowlett, and Scott has done many medical centers. We 

were influenced there. We're not totally happy with the result, 
but that's neither here nor there. At the same time, we've had 
a lot more local architects doing work. Smaller jobs, smaller 
remodeling, we try to find the best firm; we usually start with a 
panel of five or six and try to find the best firm for the job. 

Riess: That's what you mean by spheres of influence, the panels? 

Sanders: No, we had spheres of influence physically. I mean so that Dailey 
did three buildings in one area, Warnecke did three buildings 
in another area and so on. That isn't as true today as it was. 
Ernest Kump has done the two Hoover additions and the Health Center 
and some dormitories. But I think the University has a much broader 
outlook in going out and not just trying to limit itself. We don't 
want the buildings to look alike. 

9) Campus Compatibility 

Sanders: Now what I started to say is that a lot of people think that when 
an architect is hired for a building at Stanford, the architect is 
told, "It must have a tile roof." This is not true. The architect 
is given a program, which is written in this office, a very detailed 
program which may be as much as 75 pages of single-page typing 
saying, "Here's the site. This is what we need, so many auditoriums, 
so many classrooms, so many laboratories, so many student rooms, so 
many square feet- -here's the budget. Now you're on your own." 

In the beginning, a number of the architects we worked with 
felt that Stanford was old-fashioned. Particularly in the early 
sixties people were trying to get away and saying, "Let's do a 
glass box. Let's do something modern." We didn't discourage them. 
We let them try. It was interesting to watch. One after another 
would come back and say, "The statement"--it "s a trite word, but I 
use it--"The architectural statement of the quadrangle is so strong 
that in the first line of defense, the buildings immediately adjacent 
to the quad, you cannot fight it. You have to be compatible." 

I give Warnecke credit for designing the first buildings on 
the campus in the late fifties which have a contemporary feeling and 
yet are, in my opinion, totally at home at Stanford, the bookstore 
and the post office. They have tile roofs. They have an arcade. 
And yet they have a modern feeling. Since then a lot of buildings 
have been built that are their own buildings. There is a contemporary 
flair or feeling to them, and yet I think through the use of scale, 


Sanders: the use of colors, the tile roof really is the only single thing 
that ties the campus together. When you go up on the Behavaioral 
Sciences hill, look down on the total campus, you find buildings 
are very, very different. The tile roof is the blending influence-- 
what's the word?-- 

Riess: "unifying" 

Sanders: Unifying influence. Not every building has a tile roof. The hospital 
doesn't have a tile roof. Ed Stone was selected to design the 
original hospital-medical center, which is I guess as big as the 
quadrangle, the original quadrangle. It's an enormous series of 
building around courts, very much like the plan of the original quad. 
Ed Stone went to the same part of the world that Olmsted did. He 
went to southern Spain, or Moorish Spain, if you will, and designed 
buildings with Ed Stone's pierced grilles which have that Moorish 
character. I don't mean it's over-Moorish, but it's a modified 
Moorish. It doesn't have a red tile roof. There are a lot of 
buildings on campus that don't have red tile roofs, but not many 
people realize it. 

But no one is told that he has to design a building to a certain 
design standard. He is^ asked to design a building that will be 
compatible with its neighbors. We give him as many drawings and 
photographs and plans as they want of the neighboring buildings. We 
give him as much of Church's thinking and have Church meet with him, 
had Church meet with him, at the very beginning so that he could 
point out details of the siting. 

Riess: Automatically they would have an early encounter with Church? 
Sanders: Yes, it didn't occur on every occasion, but usually it did, yes. 

10) The Landscape Architects 

Sanders: We also try to bring the landscape architect in with the architect 
to help site the building and to get started right away-- 


Riess: This is the other landscape architect? 

Sanders: Yes, whether it was Church himself or somebody else. 

Riess: Now how did you select your other landscape architects? Church 
must have had a lot of input. 


Sanders: He did. Usually the architect selected for a building would have 
the greatest input. We would not accept the name of somebody we 
didn't know and like. Or if we didn't know him, we'd look into it 
and then accept him only if we liked him. 

Riess: Was it usually local? Did the people from other parts of the United 
States get a local landscape architect? 

Sanders: I think in every case, yes. No, Harry Weese brought his own 

landscape architect from Chicago. And then Church looked over his 
shoulder and they became very close. (This is before Tommy got so 

Gerry (Geraldine Knight) Scott designed the landscaping for one 
of our biggest faculty residential areas, Pine Hill. I've heard 
Tommy Church say many times that Gerry Scott knows more about plant 
material in California than any other landscape architect. Of course 
I think she's also a great human being and a tremendous person. Obata 
hired Gerry Scott when he designed a library at Stanford that was 
not built--this was the one that became too expensive. It was going 
to be a series of terraces very similar to the Oakland Museum, and 
I think Gerry Scott was hired by the architects for the Oakland 
Museum as consultant on plant material. 

Riess: How about other than Royston? 

Sanders: Jack Stafford has done work on his own, now. We've had a lot of 

other landscape architects. Let me try to think. There's one Ken 
Arutunian, who used to work in this office, who has done quite a 
few buildings now. He worked with Birge Clark on the recent 
chemistry building. Larry Halprin has done considerable work. I'm 
not as good remembering the landscape architects. I've been out of 
touch with some of them. We've had a number of them. 

Riess: I have a list here of Thomas Church's landscape designs on the 

Stanford campus starting in 1959. The first one they mention is 
the Medical Center, 1959. He wouldn't have done anything here 
before then? 

Sanders: He-wasn't the consultant to the University before 1959, but Thomas 
Church had done work on the campus before 1959, mainly, I believe, 
in dormitories. I'm pretty sure he did the work in Moore Hall. 
That was built before '59. I think he did the work in Stern Hall, 
Wilbur Hall, in some of the science labs. I'm sure he did work 
before 1959. That was a huge job, the Medical School and Medical 


11) Present and Future Campus Development 

Riess: It does sound in a way, though, like most history began pretty 
much around 1959. 

Sanders: Yes, because for one thing I was the first full-time employee in 
this office, and the big building period was beginning. 

Riess: Were you brought in from the east coast? 

Sanders: No, I was brought in from San Francisco. I'd been with the 
Redevelopment Agency in the City Planning Office. 

Eldridge Spencer, a very capable architect who is still living, 
had been a part-time planning director down here. He was here two 
afternoons a week and on call at other times. 

One committee I failed to mention to you—there 're so many 
around here — used to be called the Faculty Committee, a committee 
now formed of faculty, students, and staff, an advisory committee 
on land and building development. This is not a Trustee group. 
This is staff and faculty and students. It reviews every plan in 
this office also. It meets at least once a month and more then 
that on call. It has about fifteen members. Meets in this room. 
So every plan is presented to that committee before it's presented 
to the Board of Trustees. If the committee wants the architect to 
try other things, and we think this is legitimate, he does. 

The committee has been very helpful through the years. There 
have been some times when it's been a nuisance, but for the most 
part it's been extremely helpful. It's caught things that no one 
else has caught. It has made excellent suggestions. It reviews 
the buildings for the industrial park, shopping center, SLAG, the 
residential—not all the plans -for the residential area, but the 
students residential area, yes. (This office reviews plans for 
the faculty residential area, both architectural and landscape.) 
But this committee has played an important role. 

Anyway, Eldridge Spencer had been here. He was appointed by 
Stanford's then President Tresidder, who had come here from being 
director of Yosemite Valley--and Spencer had been the master planner 
for the Yosemite Valley. Spencer came in and started this office 
about 1946, right after World War II. I think it was a very far- 
sighted point of view of Tresidder to start an office such as this. 
He recognized Stanford had all these acres—hundreds and thousands 
of acres of vacant land. 


Sanders: All of the communities around were beginning to expand, Menlo 
Park, Palo Alto, Portola Valley, Los Altos, and so on. Stanford 
was no longer "the farm." It was going to be taxed out of existence 
if something didn't happen and some of the land wasn't put to use. 

The original master plan—one of these drawings up around the 
wall here--had as little as 1,500 acres reserved for academic use, 
and all the rest would have been developed for residential or 
commercial or industrial. Then actually through reviews with 
various and sundry people including this faculty committee, the 
academic area has expanded and expanded, until now it has probably 
around 6,000 acres of the land reserved for academic use, with about 
2,500 acres used for industrial park and shopping center and private 
uses, private leased-out land, which we don't sell, we lease. 

Riess: What is the student population? 

Sanders: Student population last time I checked was 11,600. 

Riess: Is that the fixed number when planning is done? 

Sanders: It seems to grow a couple of hundred per year. At one time we 
prepared master plans on a basis of the ultimate goal of 14,000 
students. That has been cut down. I don't think there's an 
official figure. I'm not sure. We can ask Oscar Nelson. He'll 
know. I don't think the student body will get beyond 12,500 in 
our lifetime. I hope it doesn't. I personally wish it had stopped 
at around 10,000 which to me was the perfect size for a university 
of this type. But being the great private university in the west 
with all sorts of activities, all sorts of facilities and advantages, 
it's hard to keep it down. And yet I think it's been kept down 
remarkably well. 

It's been a big job, I'll put it this way, to maintain the 
open space. Because everybody in the country who wants to start a 
laboratory or a scientific development or a private-quasi public 
development such as behavioral sciences — the Center for the Advanced 
Study of the Behavioral Sciences leases 11 acres from Stanford, 
at $1 ayear, and it's been a great god-send to us, it's wonderful-- 
but we have people who want 2,000 acres for a monkey colony or a 
100 acres for this development or that and it's awfully hard to 
maintain the open spaces that I think the University has to maintain 
in order to continue to be a great university and a great influence 
in this area. We can't just develop every inch. 

Parking is an enormous problem where faculty and staff members 
all want to park right under their own windows. And it's awfully 
hard to keep people from saying, "Why can't I build way out in the 




Sanders ; 

Riess : 

field?" Well, that field we respect as open space. We don't want 
the campus to continue to get bigger and bigger. We're trying 
to contain it to within a walking possibility. 

Yes, good luck. They're just about to revise all the parking 
arrangements on the Berkeley campus next year. 

Oscar Nelson told me this morning he's going to a parking meeting. 
The union, the USE, the union that is organized at Stanford now, 
is fighting the parking regulation. Stanford two years ago put in 
pay parking, but there are still free places to park. Where did 
you park by the way? Did you get in one of these places on the lot? 

The first place, on Memorial Drive, 

Yes, there was lots of room 

12) The Stanfords, and Olmsted's Intention 

Riess: In plan the spaces here are really so much more formal it seems to 
me than on the Berkeley campus. Did Tommy talk much about what his 
feeling was for this campus? 

Sanders: This goes back a lot to Frederick Law Olmsted. Senator and Mrs. 

Stanford when they decided originally to build the University went 
to Boston to the then President of M.I.T., whose name was Walker. 
He became their consultant in what to do, how to go about establishing 
a university, what to do academically, what to do physically and 
every other way. 

I think Mrs. Stanford would have liked the Stanford campus to 
have looked more like Yale or Harvard or Brown or Princeton, individual 
buildings with great expanses of lawn in between. Because when 
Senator Stanford died, and it became her responsibility, she started 
building individual buildings, several of which collapsed in the 
earthquake so they no longer exist. 

There was a running feud between Mrs. Stanford and Olmsted and 
the original architect. The Olmsted people obviously had much more 
to do with the original design of Stanford than did the architects. 
The architects were a Boston firm; it was then called Shepley, Rutan, 
and Coolidge, the successors to H.H. Richardson. Richardson, the 
great architect, had started a firm and he was Shepley "s uncle, I 
guess it was, or Coolidge 's uncle or related to both. But Richardson 
had died before the Stanfords contacted the firm. Lots of people 


Sanders: will tell you Richardson designed Stanford. He didn't. He was 
dead. But his firm did. And his Richardsonian influence is 

Olmsted really prepared the master plan and then went to the 
architects in Boston and said, "Now design the buildings." Olmsted 
traveled abroad. Most campuses start with a little college; 
somebody gives them the money for a building and they build the 
building. Then somebody else gives them the money for a dormitory 
and they build that. They want this red -brick Georgian. Then they 
want this grey stone. Somebody else wants a concrete building over 

But the Stanfords gave such an amount of money and therefore 
much of the original building was done at one time and Olmsted 
recognized that this was a semi-arid climate, I'm quoting him, and 
you could not have great expanses of lawns because you don't have 
the water to water them (this is a good year to say that), so he 
went to the semi-arid climates of Moorish Spain, southern Spain, 
parts of Italy, parts of southern France, which are very much the 
same climate as Palo Alto, and developed the Stanford campus on 
that theory, which was totally different from the eastern seaboard 
campus where it rains off and on all year and you can have green 

I said that after Senator Stanford died Mrs. Stanford began 
building individual buildings. She built the Museum and a gymnasium 
and library, and the library and the gym both collapsed in the 
earthquake. But she wanted separate buildings. She didn't like 
this feeling of the one great arcade, which has been a godsend 
because the one-story buildings in the inner quad, as we call it, 
these (points out on map) were all originally one-story buildings 
here, with 19-foot ceilings and we found in the 1950s they could 
be double-decked, without any change in the fenestration or the 
exteriors. And we get double the floor space in these buildings. 

These outer quad buildings are not as pure as the inner quad 
ones architecturally, they're really kind of Victorian Romanesque. 
We have gutted some of them now and gotten—for instance this building 
(pointing to map) used to be the Physics Building, we gutted it and 
it's a five-story building now in what used to be a three-story 
building with no change to the exterior. Same thing was done to this 
building, Jordan Hall, and the same thing is being done to this 
building (History Corner) now and to this building (Physiology) now 
so as to get more floor space and try to maintain the character at 
the same time. 

But how did I get off on that subject? You were asking a 


Riess: I was interested in Thomas Church's recognition of Olmsted's 

Sanders: Oh, Thomas Church, who has traveled extensively, of course, 
recognized what Olmsted was doing here. I don't think Tommy 
Church would ever want to put grass in the inner quad because 
you couldn't keep it going, you couldn't keep it alive. Church 
did , however, feel that we needed some green, more green than just 
trees. Church has put in a lot of lawn, but in limited areas. 
Now I think he really felt that this was what Olmsted wanted. I 
think he undoubtedly has great admiration for Olmsted. 

Church is an historian. I think he felt the responsibility 
of carrying out a plan that was developed by a great landscape 
architect planner in the 1880s. Church feels a sense of history. 
I think Church's design for the campus itself in both paving, water 
features, benches, walls--! '11 show you some of them today--! think 
he feels this is thoroughly in keeping with what would have been 
done in Moorish Spain. He has large expanses of paving, but he's 
broken it, softened it with enough greenery. And where there have 
been abrupt walls and harshness, Church has modified them and softened 

Riess: Did Olmsted leave detailed landscaping drawings that could have 
been consulted? Or not even detailed, a sense of paths and 
movement through spaces. 

Sanders: There are many designs which now belong to the Stanford Art Museum 

and have been exhibited in recent years. Some have been in traveling 
exhibits. I'm vague on saying how detailed the landscape plans are 
because I don't remember. Far more detailed than that, yes. 

But a lot of other people have had influence in much of the 
planting around here. Gardner Dailey, when he was a student at 
Stanford in the early part of the century, for instance, designed 
and planted most of the trees in these two areas on either side of 
the Oval. 

13) About Tommy 

Sanders: Frankly, I just love Tommy. Everybody in this office loves Tommy. 
There never was a more real person to work with. He never flaunted 
his--you know, as busy as he was, he'd a Iways give us time. He 
never failed us. He knew everybody in the office by name. He'd 
come down here and sit and drink coffee with us. The informality 
of our relationship with him is a rare thing to have with anybody. 


Sanders: The world is so full of people rushing from one meeting to 
another, not having time to even say "Hello." But not Tommy 
Church. He maintained a human side that was one of his really 
great, great features. There's no question, I say it again, he 
was a genius in design. But he's also the most human person alive. 
I can't say enough in his favor. I think you'll find this uniformly 
wherever you go and with everyone who knew him. 

Other people may be given credit for bringing the landscape 
gardener out of the term landscape gardening to landscape architecture-- 
I'm sure there are other people who have worked hard at it—but Tommy 
really, and I think you'll find this pretty true nationally, I know 
lots of architects in all parts of the country and they all have 
tried at one time to get Tommy to do a job for them. 

They all recognize that Tommy really is the person who not only 
made landscape architecture a profession, but I think much more 
than that, I give him credit for being certainly one of the instigators 
of a new profession of urban design, which is more of a combination 
of city planning, landscape architecture, architecture, what have you. 
Tommy thinks in terms of large scale design, urban design if you 
will. I'm sure he could do just as capable a job in going into a 
city and relating a civic center to a central business district as 
he could on campus. 

Riess: The kind of thing that Halprin went from his office and did. 

Sanders: Yes. 

Riess: That's very interesting that you say that. 

Sanders: I credit it all to his feeling for scale. Now I was on an advisory 
committee I guess you'd call it when John Carl Warnecke was doing a 
master plan for Santa Cruz. There were others involved, as you know, 
quite a few became involved. I guess Tommy was the landscape 
consultant or the main landscape consultant on that. I was fortunate 
enough to hear a lot of his thinking at that time. 

The campus originally was designed for 27,500 which now I don't 
think it ever will achieve. I hope it doesn't. All the Cal campuses 
at that time were going to be 27,500. I don't know how successful 
they feel it is now. I think it's the most beautiful single piece 
of territory or ground I've ever seen in my life. 

You were talking earlier about what Tommy did at Cal. I don't 
know Cal intimately now at all, and there are probably a half dozen 
buildings that have been built since I've even been on the campus, 
but I used to know it very well and this office and our counterparts 


Sanders: in the A & E office in Berkeley have been very close, Louis DeMonte, 
Bob Evans, Al Wagner. Both the Berkeley campus and the statewide 
group we've known very well; Jack Wagstaff at Santa Cruz, we've 
always been friends and kept in touch. 

But Tommy did remarkable things there for a while. I'm talking 
about when he was a consultant there probably in the early sixties. 
I think after that, I don't know whose fault it was, probably just 
the fault of necessity, many of the things that he had done, many 
of the glades he had created and vistas he had created, were built 
on. I think many of his features were destroyed. I don't know if 
Tommy would agree with that statement or not. I have no idea. 

Riess: At Berkeley it seems like one achievement was repairing old vistas, 
cutting through the overgrowth and undergrowth, but that doesn't 
seem to have been the kind of task here. 

Sanders: No, this was a different task. Although Tommy is very brave. 

Everyone loves a tree, but if Tommy doesn't like a tree where it is, 
he'll say, "Take it out." I'm kind of the type person any tree, 
"Oh, save it!" But Tommy if he thinks the tree is in the wrong 
place or the wrong type of tree or it's going to hurt, "Take it out." 
He's not a bit afraid to take trees out or move them. Also he 
doesn't depend on mature trees; he enjoys planting new ones. 

But I think the Berkeley situation was a remodelling job, if 
you will, whereas here at Stanford he actually did an awful of 
creating of the campus beyond the confines of the quad. 

[begin second tape] 

[Oscar Nelson, Stanford Planning Office, present] 
Riess: How did you work with Thomas Church? 

Nelson: I'm also a landscape architect. I basically worked with him here 
on the campus as our representative, not in specific projects as 
much as Dan Rolfs did, but more in overall aspects of projects. In 
other words, helping to coordinate them so that we had no ragged 
edges between different jobs. There were a number of things which 
I was able to feed to Tommy along those lines which saved him time. 
We rarely had disagreements on that sort of thing. I thought it was 
a good working relationship. 

Riess: When you talk about "ragged edges between jobs," that does conjure 
up a picture of one landscape plan ending with eucalyptus and the 
next one starting with live oak or something like that. Is that 
what you mean? 


Nelson: Exactly. That's a problem we had here on the campus before we had 
Church come in and become executive landscape architect. Every 
job had a wall literally around it. You could almost recognize 
the different jobs by the different landscape architect; he would 
have his own peculiarities of design, his own peculiarities of 
favorites in plant material, and even get into lighting standards 
and pavement types and all this sort of thing. There was no unity, 
no unification, no carry-through on the campus. 

Sanders: To use one example, one landscape architect would have a five-foot 
path and the next one would have a four-foot path and nobody would 
have caught it, in the past. 

Oscar and I would sit in on every design conference, on building 
design, or landscape design. Oscar's job was working with Church 
and architects and other landscape architects telling them the facts 
of life including what went on underground, utilities. People would 
be building basements in areas where Oscar would say, "You can't 
do this. That's an underground steam tunnel," or whatever. 

But on the carry-through, Church feels very strongly that this 
is an institutional problem, particularly here at Stanford, and 
that no one job, no one project, no one building should be any 
more important than the whole complex, visually and aesthetically 
and functionally. That, of course, has been my approach and this 
has been basically the approach of the Planning Office of which I 
am so proud. 


/^"^r5Ss *••> 

£ "••.-;; *%>&. \L ^ 

from Landscape Design and Construction 


The Man If ho Put People 
Into The Landscape 


THOMAS DOUJVEH CHUBCH has been called, with affection, the 
Grand Old Man of Landscape Architecture. Though meant as the 
highest praise, this is neither kind nor accurate, for it implies 
a man who has dreamed his dreams, completed his appointed 
tasks, and sits on the sidelines, warmed in the sun of memories. 
This is not Tommy Church at all. He is not old in any sense 
of the word, in yean, in ideas, in creativity, in execution. He 
is a vigorous, dynamic man with a crisp vitality that sparks 
ideas, ideas that leap and tingle with creative freshness. As for 
being Grand, that is absurd. As a foreman on a project Tom 
Church had designed and was supervising said of him, "He's 
got no side. Why, on the job, you'd think he was one of the 
workmen, except he knows what he's doing." No. Thomas D. 
Church is NOT the Grand Old Man of Landscape Architecture. 
But he is, of course, a genius. 

MA«CH. 1964 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

Thomas D. Church Oral History Project 

Everitt L. Miller 


Interview Conducted by 
Suzanne B. Riess 

1978 by The Regents of the University of California 

TABLE OF CONTENTS -- Everitt L. Miller 

1) Thomas Church's Work at Longwood Gardens 667 

2) The Future of Longwood Gardens 674 


Everitt L. Miller 

June 5, 1977 

Interviewed at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania 

1) Thomas Church's Work at Longwood Gardens 

Miller: [Walking through Theater Gardens. See map.] Prior in this same 

location we had various levels or terraces going down, but we lacked 
the direction of circulation for the people to walk from this location 
of the theater garden around to the flower garden walk. Mr. Church 
has very nicely used old brick in the walkway, and a stone wall to 
enclose the garden. It is formal in design, and impressive in 

This particular garden, the open-air theater garden, is an area 
where the people gather during intermission. They can relax and see 
horticultural beauty in a well designed garden. In the evening we 
also place torches around, which give a nice and soft lighting effect. 

Riess: When you had Thomas Church come, did you have specific areas that 
were problems? 

Miller: There were certain areas that Longwood wanted him to design. I recall 
our number one objective at his first visit was the planning and 
circulation throughout the center part of the garden. Longwood was 
attracting close to a million people a year in the late sixties and 
the gardens were not originally designed to have a large number of 

Riess: To sandwich in some of the factual things, when did you first contact 
Thomas Church? When was he first brought to work at Longwood? 

Miller: Mr. Church started his consulting services with Longwood in 1971. At 
this time in the history of Longwood we had a change in the chairman 
of the board; Mr. Frederick became the new President of the Board of 
Trustees. Being a landscape designer, Mr. Frederick felt that Longwood 
should bring in an outstanding professional architect to work with us 
on certain design and circulation problems. Tommy Church, being the 
best in the country, was selected. 


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Miller: And this is all part of Tommy's design — that little garden, this 
walkway, this overlook, and the little seating area. 

[Standing at the west side of the Theater Graden.] As you can 
see, this is a long, brick flower-border walk. Tommy felt that a 
terminal feature was needed at the west end [of the flower garden 
walk], so he created this sitting terrace area for the theater guests. 

You were asking about lights. Tommy did mention lighting and we 
do have a couple of lights hanging from the trees as he suggested. 

Riess: Did he come for long stays to figure it all out? 

Miller: He came for about two or three days on each trip.* A few of us, the 
director, the chairman of the board, our maintenance superintendent 
and myself would spend these two or three days with Tommy, on each 
visit. We would take the design problems and try to condense them 
into just one area. So, every time he came we took a different garden 
area to discuss, and worked out new designs. 

[Flower drive looking toward main house.] This was another area 
where he helped us. He felt that from this lower walk, there should 
be a view on axis to the main house. He suggested that we build the 
steps and the brick walkway from the flower garden walk to the lower 

[Peony Garden] One thing about Tommy, he would give us the 
design, but with regards to plant material, he would leave it entirely 
up to Longwood. He would not recommend what trees or plants to place 
in any of his newly designed gardens. In this particular garden 
design, he was trying to accent these large cypress trees. The design, 
as you notice, has steps going down to the beautiful old cypress trees. 

[ Square Pool Garden] This particular square fountain garden was 
designed by Mr. duPont in 1908. The circular pool up above along the 
flower garden walk was his first garden feature and was built in 
1907. Of course, being an engineer, duPont loved to work with drawings 
and enjoyed contriving surprises, like water pools and fountains. 

[Wisteria Garden] This wisteria garden is another one of Tommy's 
designs. These are tree wisterias growing along the curved path. 
Note, we do have the raised beds, using granite stone. 

*See schedule of visits attached. 


Miller: Here's a very interesting observation: We are attracting 

hundreds of thousands of people walking through this garden. Notice 
the sharp curve in the pathway. You see no one walking across the 
grass—everyone stays on the paths. 

Riess: I was just going to say that, yes. In fact, when I was walking back 
to meet you, I heard a family talking, saying, "Well, if a thousand 
people walked across it, what would it look like?" So you have 
inspired a conscience in people. 

Miller: You see no signs at Longwood saying, "Stay off the grass." 

This is going to be a wisteria arbor. 
Riess: Is this redwood by any chance? 
Miller: No. I understand it's treated pressed wood. 
Riess: If people don't get back into these corners, they're missing something. 

Miller: What we're trying to create at Longwood are quiet areas where people 
can come and read, relax and enjoy the beauty, and hear the sounds of 
birds and water. 

Riess: It doesn't have a particular style. What would you call a spot like 
this? It's almost California to me. 

Miller: Actually, you know a lot of Tommy's work is designed with a touch of 

We have considered having the arbor repeat itself on the far 
side of the garden. In one of Tommy's earlier drawings it did show 
a repeat of the arbor. 

Riess: It wouldn't seem necessary since it's not a symmetrical area anyway. 

Miller: That's right. What we are doing in this wisteria garden is accenting 

on these beautiful cypress trees. The grass, as you can see, is giving 
us a canvas to show off these beautiful trees. 

Riess: And that's what the original garden was, a garden of trees? 

Miller: No. Originally, 20 years ago, this garden was planted with old roses 
and had some peonies. The only plants that remained to work into 
Church's plan were the large arbor vitae that frame the garden. Of 
course, these old cypress trees were here. 

Riess: Do you remember when he was working here how he sketched this out? 


Miller: He would make sketches here, and then from his studio in California 
he would forward on to us the design of the walkways and the arbor 
in a total garden design. What we do in planting inside is our own 

You might be interested --we did ask Tommy, at least _I did, a 
couple of times, if he'd give me a few suggestions and remarks about 
what we're doing in the main conservatory at Longwood. He said, 
"Everitt, that's not in my bailiwick. When I see beauty, I'm not 
going to interrupt it." He said, "It's fine. It's beautiful. Keep 
it up." But he did contribute a number of suggestions as I remember. 

Church was such a quiet man. He'd come out to the gardens and 
we would explain and go over our problems with him. He would then 
go down to the area under discussion with us and we would talk about 
it. It was more or less a relationship where we all contributed to 
the final results. For instance, Mr. Frederick suggested the raised 
beds in the wisteria garden, Mr. Church suggested maybe a curve. 

Tommy, in his old pair of khakis, very nonchalant, but alert, 
would walk around with us and make some comments, and say, "Well, 
what if we do this or change it this way? Would it work?" I think 
this was one of his most unique characteristics, his ability of 
trying to blend his thoughts with thoughts of others, never forcing 

Riess: Did he work at all with a model? Or did you have a scale model? 




We had drawings of all our properties; we were able to give him the 
exact measurements of walkways or gardens so that he could take them 
back to California and spend time making sketches, and drawings. 

By that time he was practically the only person in his office, 
was Walter Guthrie there? 


I'm not sure, I think he was working by himself, 
was more or less a retirement project for him. 

I think Longwood 

[Going north of flower garden walk to Peirce area.] This is 
another circulation suggestion that Tommy made. You notice that 
brick walk was going right towards the beech tree area? We had 
problems with people walking on the grass and around the tree. He 
suggested that we construct this macadam path and veer to the left 
of the hedge and tree and go around the beech area so the visitor 
could look into the area. He also suggested the trimming of this 
yew plant so people could see the characteristics of the bark and 
the main stems. 


Riess: This is nice, how you come on to the level then at this point. 

Miller: This is creating another room with the benches facing the beech 
tree. He carried this pathway up south of the house so that the 
public could look at the house from a distance instead of up close. 

Another design that Tommy suggested was this little patio off 

the southeast corner of the house, a very private and practical type 

of patio where people can sit, and rest. It also captures this 

beautiful vista view looking east towards the old Peirce Arboretum. 

Tommy also suggested the pruning of the lower limbs of those 
large trees, so that these vista views could be seen. You can see 
the countryside of Chester County through the trees to the north. 

He suggested that we keep this large tree [Hemlock] because it 
gives depth to the view. 

Riess: It must have been very exciting, to have him here. 

Miller: I thought it was one of the most wonderful and profitable experiences, 
at least in my life, to have the opportunity not only to know Tommy, 
but to associate with him, to see how he operates in a nice quiet 
manner, no big ballet. 

Riess: Yes, no entourgage. 

Miller: We'd start early in the morning, let's say at 8:30, and then we'd 
stop for lunch. We'd discuss whatever problem we were working on 
during the morning across the luncheon table, then after lunch we 
would revisit the area that we were looking at in the morning and 
he would make some additional sketches, or notes. 

In the later afternoon, he would return to Mr. Frederick's home, 
where he was spending the night. I'm sure during the evening Mr. 
Church and Mr. Frederick would continue discussing Longwood ' s 
landscaping problems. He would spend a couple hours during the 
evening making additional sketches. 

The following morning when we were all together, he would say, 
"Now this is some of the thinking I'm suggesting." We would discuss 
his sketches and suggest, "Maybe this should be changed slightly, 
because of this or that." 

Then he would take his sketches and Longwood 's maps back to his 
office in California and would later forward on to us the final sketch 
or drawings. 


Miller: Our maintenance department, under Art Jarvela, would work out 
the working plans so that construction could go ahead with the 
landscape operation or project. 

Riess: It worked very efficiently and speedily with that small an operation, 
just working directly with him. 

Miller: Yes, as I said, he was so easy to work with. 

Riess: Did he compare this with any other public gardens or spaces that he 
knew in Italy or other places? Do you remember him talking 
historically in that way? 

Miller: He probably did, but I can't recall. He was a great admirer of gardens 
in Europe. Every once in a while he would say that he was going over 
to Paris for a long weekend. 

[Walking toward conservatory.] Speaking of opening up areas, 
one of the suggestions that Tommy made, and I didn't mention earlier, 
was his idea of viewing the main conservatory from this path. The 
view had been sceened off with a high lilac hedge, and the visitors 
weren't able to see the main conservatory. Tommy felt that from this 
vantage point along the path that one should be able to see the main 
greenhouse. He suggested that we remove the lilacs. Now one can 
capture the tremendous vista, looking through the trees with the 
greenhouse in the distance. 

Riess: You said he would go home and work on sketches overnight at Mr. 
Frederick's house. Did any radically different things arise? 

Miller: Oh, yes, the first open-air theater garden that I showed you, I think 
he submitted about five or six different renderings during a year or 
two before we finally agreed on the one we have today. 

[Entering the azalea area] While he was consulting at Longwood , 
Longwood was building a new azalea house conservatory. Tommy drew up 
plans for the new entrance walkway and landscaping of the entrance. 
If you notice, this yew along the walkway, Tommy suggested that we 
prune it so the visitor could see the main stem of the tree. He 
designed this foyer path entrance and courtyard in front of this 
azalea house. Again, the same beautiful curve. 

And here we have a grade difference and he suggested this retaining 
wall just blend into the edge, so it became a place where people can 

Riess: Who did the follow-through? Who supervised? 


Miller: Well, our own staff did the follow-through, and Tommy on his next 
visit to the gardens. Longwood has a chairman of the board, Mr. 
Frederick, who, as I mentioned, is very much interested in all 
landscape projects. Also, our director, Dr. Seibert, is extremely 
interested in any new landscaping or projects going on. 

Longwood has an advisory committee as well. The advisory 
committee is mostly members of the duPont family who know Longwood 
as a private garden. They are very much interested in seeing that 
any new changes made would be in keeping with the way Mr. duPont 
would have had them carried out. 

Longwood also has a visiting committee. These are professional 
people that are either directors, or key personnel of institutions 
similar to Longwood throughout the country. 

[Front of main conservatory] This esplanade in front of our 
main conservatory is another Tommy Church design. If you can 
visualize this area before the change, the macadam drive went across 
the front of the conservatory entrance. Tommy suggested this fishtail 
design pattern, which is beautiful. As he said, it's just like 
throwing down a large carpet. 

Riess: What a nice concept. 

Did Mr. duPont design the engineering of the large fountains? 

Miller: Yes. Mr. duPont arrived back from touring Europe in 1925, and after 
visiting Versailles, France, he designed the fountain garden. In 
1921, Mr. duPont had just completed building the greenhouse, and 
conservatories, and needed an attraction in front of the greenhouse. 

Before Mr. duPont built the fountains in their present location 
I understand there were a row of boxwood plants planted in the same 
shape that the fountains now have. One of the suggestions of design 
that Tommy Church had, when he was sitting here on the terrace viewing 
the fountains, was that we remove the front row of boxwood and replant 
them in clumps, so that the visitor would be able to see the Italian 
artwork on the limestone.* 

Riess: Oh, yes, otherwise it would be masked completely from up here and 
even from the walkway. 

Miller: That's right. Tommy created these groupings, or islands, of boxwoods 
in front of the fountain garden. 

*Hlustrated . 


Riess: It must be hard to say, "Remove all those boxwood. Cut down that 

Miller: Mr. Church had such a keen eye and appreciation for detail, and a 
flair for bringing out the true beauty of plants in a garden. 

2) The Future of Longwood Gardens 






[In Mr. Miller's office] How was Tommy Church known to Mr. Frederick? 

Tommy Church has been known to all of us in the landscape field as 
one of the leading landscape architects in this country. I understand 
Longwood was one of his last gardens that he was working on before 
becoming ill. 

This drawing shows the varietal demonstration garden, a growing 
area for new plants, such as annuals, perennials, vines and turf. 
This educational display will represent to the visiting public a 
demonstration of new plants, and how well they do in this area. 

Was this part of the thinking in 1970, to make it an educational 
demonstration program? 

Actually we started educational programs back 20 years ago. Longwood 
started to label plants back 22 years ago. Education programs really 
evolved during the last 22 years at Longwood. 

[Looking at Varietal Demonstration Garden plants] Tommy suggested 
we have a walkway coming up from the lower greenhouse parking lot, 
and then have a walkway right into the gardens without walking through 
the upper parking lot. Here on the drawing he suggests a walkway for 
our students from the classroom to the garden without walking through 
the parking lot. He also suggested an overlook of the varietal garden. 
This is to be an arbor for vines and shade loving plants growing 
under the arbor. 

What would you say is the chief difference between what he is doing 
with these areas and what you were doing? 

I would say the overlook, arbor, and the shapes of the garden plots 
are the main differences. 

Riess: He's revised the arrangement of the small spaces. 

TERRACE VIEW of famed fountain-gardens looks across acres of landscape. "Cubed" maples line path behind fountain basins 
stone brought from Italy for the purpose. Thomas Church design, above. 











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Miller: Slightly, yes. Instead of planting plants in straight rows, we will 
plant in groups, giving a number of marginal shapes. 

Riess: It's interesting, the shapes have gotten much softer. 
Miller: Oh, yes. 

This is his sketch, whereas these other plans were done by 

Riess: Pursuing this a bit further, when you say that you knew Thomas Chuch 
as "the greatest," did you associate him mostly with residential 
gardens, or what kind of areas? 

Miller: I would say residential gardens. Ten years ago I visited California 
and had the opportunity of having Tommy take me around to see some 
of the gardens that he designed. Everyone in horticulture that had 
anything to do with horticultural design knows of Tommy Church and 
his great ability. 

[Looking over Thomas Church's drawings] 

1) Preliminary Master Plan Control Area of Longwood 
Gardens, dated November, 1971. 

2) South Terrace of Fountain Garden, dated November, 

3) Conservatory and Esplanade, dated November, 1971 

(Note Fishtail Pattern). 

4) Azalea House Entrance Development, dated October, 1971. 

5) Preliminary Study of the Flower Garden area, April, 1972. 

6) Peony and Wisteria Garden, dated June, 1973. 

7) Revised Flower Garden, dated August, 1973. 

8) Preliminary Plans and sketches - Varietal Demonstration 
Garden, dated August, 1973, November, 1973, January, 1974. 

This preliminary drawing on November 15, 1973, of the varietal 
demonstration garden, was one of his early drawings. You can see by 
his drawings how he tried to get deeply involved. Now this is the 
drawing that he finally recommended to us at Longwood, a year later. 

His first sketch showed a tremendous amount of detail, formal 
rose garden, overlook, arbors, stone retaining walls, walkways, 
flower and vegetable beds, etc. Longwood felt that this first concept 
was just too busy, too formal, for the area. It was felt that a more 
educational feeling and arrangement or concept was required. We did 
not want this area to compete in design with our main gardens at 


Riess: And so after he had gone to all that trouble, Longwood would tell 
him, "No, I don't like that." 

Mi.iler: Oh, yes, and he would smile and say, "Weil, let's get back to work." 

Riess: How many students do you have working at Longwood? 

Miller: We have 40 horticultural students during the summer time. 

Riess: Do you offer a degree? 

Miller: Yes! We have a two-year course of graduate study in ornamental 
horticulture, leading to the degree of Master of Sciences in 
Ornamental Horticulture. This program is sponsored by the University 
of Delaware and Longwood Gardens. 

Longwood, through the education department, selects twelve 
undergraduate students to work and obtain practical experience in 
horticulture for ten weeks during the summer. Longwood also conducts 
a two-year professional gardener training program, selecting 7 students 
each year. And we also have a one year international student program. 

Riess: On scholarships? 

Miller: Yes, we pay a stipend in each of the programs. 

At Longwood we are always working on new programs, projects, or 
displays each year, a very challenging job. 

Riess: Is it the feeling that each year there must be something new? 

Miller: We try to improve the displays in our main conservatories each year. 

I think this is what makes Longwood unique in the horticultural field. 
I think this is what makes Longwood different than, let's say, the 
Missouri Botanical Gardens, or the Huntington Gardens, or any of 
the gardens that you may be familiar with. Imagine that every time 
you come to Longwood you see something slightly different, slightly 
changed, and I hope improved. Does this give you some idea of what 
Longwood is all about? 

Riess: Yes, it certainly does. 

Miller: Just to give you an idea of what changes we're working on right now 
[looking at more plans], this is a concept drawing of Longwood 's 
future visitor center. Some of these drawings show details of the 
Longwood shop. Note, some day we may even sell plants. 

Riess: I guess people wanted you to do that for a long time. 


Miller: Yes, there has been a big demand from the visiting public to buy 

I discovered after working with Tommy that he enjoyed picking 
our staff's brains. He would make a suggestion, then he would say 
to our maintenance engineer, Mr. Jarvela, 'Veil, would that work?" 
or he would look at us and say, "If we use this type of tree in this 
area, do we have enough room?" or "What soil drainage problems would 
there be?" You notice that in none of these plans of Tommy's does 
he mention, or suggest, plant material. Every concept and drawing 
is strictly design. 

Riess: It is interesting. Some people think that he's a great plantsman. 
And other people recognize that it's not his first love. 

Miller: I think his true expertise in working with us in the East was in 
design. Back in California where he was more familiar with the 
plant material, he would be noted as a plantsman. 

Riess: Was he on a contract, or what kind of an arrangement was there? 

Miller: The financial arrangement that Longwood contracted with Mr. Church 
was as follows: There was a day consulting fee of $300, with a 
pro-rated travel feel along with a design fee, and if needed, money 
was available for "additional architectural engineering." 

Riess: I should think he would have enjoyed the idea that he was "working 
with Mr. duPont." 

Miller: I think he had a great love for Longwood, because every time he came 
he was always in such a happy and relaxed mood. During his last 
visit it was very difficult for Tommy to talk, but he talked with 
his pen. We, the staff, received a tremendous amount of ideas from 
his visits. I hope we can find someone as wonderful as Mr. Church to 
work with in the future . 

Mr. Frederick and I are going up to Hartford, Connecticut, 
tomorrow to interview a young man that has been recommended. We're 
going up to see examples of some of the landscaping that he's been 
doing. He's been restoring an old estate in Strawbridge, Massachusetts. 
We're also looking and interviewing Dr. Peter Shepherd, dean and 
professor of the Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania. 
He also spends about six months of the year in England where he has 
a landscape architecture practice. He has an English garden design 
flare for horticulture; we're all anxious to have him with us at 


Miller: [Walking outside again] Now, down on this level you can see 
the detail of the limestone [on the fountains]. 

Riess: Yes. Did Mr. duPont import these fountain pieces or did he have 
craftsmen here? 

Miller: Mr. duPont imported these from Italy. 

We have had a number of these beautiful garden ornaments donated 
to us. These fu dogs here at the top of the stairs at the entrance 
to the topiary garden were a donation to Longwood by Mr. and Mrs. 
Jones of Pittsburgh. 

Riess: Tommy sometimes found fountains and sculptural objects for his other 

clients. Did he suggest things to you or spot things for your gardens? 

Miller: Yes, there was a garden in Baltimore, Maryland, that had some good 
statuary that he was very much interested in for Longwood, but 
nothing ever came of it. 

Riess: Did he usually have several jobs that he was doing when he was in the 

Miller: I believe there were one or two jobs he would be working on when he 
came East. He would spend two or three days with us, and a couple 
of days with other clients [when he was here] in the early seventies. 

Riess: I think he must have been very efficient. 

Miller: I would say he's a very well organized person. 

Riess: Without giving you a feeling that you were having to toe the line? 

Miller: No, we never had the feeling of being rushed. Every job and decision 
at Longwood was made at an easy pace. When Tommy had a new idea, he 
would smile, and light up a cigarette, and relay his thoughts. Then 
he would pick up the pencil, and a new sheet of paper, and start 
putting these thoughts to action. 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

Thomas D. Church Oral History Project 

Proctor Mellquist 

Interview Conducted by 
Suzanne B. Riess 

1978 by The Regents of the University of California 

TABLE OF CONTENTS -- Proctor Mellquist 

1) The Sunset. A. I. A. Awards Program 679 

2) Ghirardelli Square and The Cannery 685 

3) Sunset Magazine Gardens 688 

4) Santa Cruz, Berkeley, and Stanford Campus Planning 691 

5) Sunset Public Demonstration Gardens 692 

6) Sunset; The Lane's View 694 

7) House Beautiful and Elizabeth Gordon 695 

8) The Sunset Magazine Message Today 696 

9) A New Pattern of Living 698 


Proctor Mellquist 

October 25, 1977 

Interviewed in the Conference Room of the offices of Sunset Magazine 

Mellquist: Although I was interested in architecture before I came to Sunset. 
I knew very little about landscape architecture, and it was an 
immense, immediate discovery. The first I met was landscape 
architect Doug Baylis, but I soon knew Larry Halprin and I knew 
Bob Royston, Ed Williams and many others as time went on. 

It was very clear that in everyone's view Mr. Church was 
more than just the leading landscape architect, he was the 
revolutionary. While I think scholars today would put lots of 
people ahead of him and make him part of a process of change, as 
it came to my attention, he was the change. 

I bought some land in 1951 and had Baylis design the landscaping 
and he quoted Church as he said what his notion was on the use of 
the bulldozer. He said, "Indeed, if you're going to make a mark 
on the land, make it with confidence. Don't fuss around with 
little, small marks." So we did a drastic piece of grading to the 
base of an oak tree and out of it created a level garden that has 
endured. Baylis designed it with a very bold hand. 

1) The Sunset. A. I. A. Awards Program 

Mellquist: We've had an awards program with the American Institute of Architects, 
Sunset magazine has, for a long time. Tommy was on the first jury. 

Riess: Is that something that started with your editorship? 

Mellquist: Yes. The first round was in 1957. We had a trial run the year 

before with Time, Incorporated as co-sponsors. But the real thing 
began in 1957. And we wanted to have a landscape architect on our 
awards jury, and always have ever since. 





We thought it would be a good idea to have some continuing 
jurors. So we gave Tommy the refusal each time. It's a bi-annual 
program, every two years, and in the first 9 programs, over an 
18 year period, Tommy was on the jury 5 times. The other landscape 
architect jurors were Bob Royston, Pete Walker, Larry Halprin, 
Ed Williams. 

Not Baylis? 

Baylis was never on it, as I regret. The one or two times that 
we wanted to have him there was a conflict. But he would have 
been on if he hadn't died abruptly and too young. 

Did Church refuse sometimes because he felt it would be better to 
have a different man? 

No, never, only because he was leaving with his dear wife for 
Rome. It was that kind of a reason. He had an ongoing love affair 
with Italy and had lived there and his daughter was there. He had 
all these reasons to go, and maybe others. 

But to give a little of Tommy's quality, in the early years 
of the program we would have the jury for dinner and walk around 
with drinks in the garden of my house. I remember Tommy had been 
away and he came back, and came to such a dinner. I drove him up 
to the house. We got out of the car and he looked around and he 
said, "You know, Proc , it's not as bad as I remembered it." He 
could only make that kind of remark out of some kind of amusement 
and even affection. He wouldn't be that devastating. [Laughter] 

But Tommy's humor was part of his quality. I've known numbers 
of individuals, but not enough, who could really have no posture 
of self-importance, or no detectable posture of self-importance. 
He's a very old shoe man but funny and just a superb critic and 
I've been with him as he has been a critic more than any other way 
because we've served on five architectural juries together and 
served with some astonishing people. 

Tommy was never in any sense dismayed, but our fellow jurors 
have been Charles Eames and Henry Dreyfuss, Gardner Dailey, 
Yamasaki, and just endless people of this quality, many of them 
never having met Church. He was a little bit of a surprise—people 
sort of focused in on him. And he was always amused by being on 
an architectural jury. 

The national A. I. A. juries are, if I'm correct, made up only 
of architects. Our jury, a 7-member jury, is somewhat different. 
It contains 4 architects; typically, two of them former award 
winners of the program; one landscape architect; and one good 


Mellquist: professional outside the field, or an architect who practices 
outside of the f ield--Alexander Girard was considered this way 
one time--but more often it's been someone like Charles Eatnes or 
Dreyfuss. And finally, ons layman, who has always been a Sunset 
editor. For the first 8 programs, I was that editor and that 
juror and since then, other editors of the magazine have done it. 
But I have listened in from the side lines. 

Riess: Eames would have been somebody who was coming from a distance. 
Wasn't that a major commitment on his part to come out here? 

Mellquist: Well, at that time he was living in Venice, California. But other 
people made long journeys. In recent years, we have had one juror 
from one of the Pacific nations, and so we've had John Andrews 
from Sidney, Australia twice. Our first outlander was Robin Boyd 
from Melbourne. We've had Fuminiko Maki from Tokyo and Arthur 
Erickson from Vancouver. We had one man whose name at the moment 
I can't recall from Mexico City—always in those cases architects, 
but architects of considerable achievement. 

Riess: Is it done in just a one or two-day period? 

Mellquist: It's done currently in a two-day period, and we have a subjury 
work for a day ahead of them; two members of the 7-man jury go 
through and boil the entries down. Then as the jury proceeding 
goes on, the fastest jurors getting through go back to those 
rejects and return any they want for consideration. So by the time 
two more jurors have gone back for this, you have four negative 
votes on the ones that are turned down and this cuts the work load 
back from three days to two. 

That format of the subjury was the idea of Minoru Yamasaki 
because the first couple of times of the program we took three days 
and Yamasaki said that was ridiculous and unnecessary and he said, 
"Here's what you should do." 

Riess: When you brought this idea in in 1957 was this a bold new direction? 

Mellquist: I didn't quite bring the idea in, but it was a bold new thing. 
No consumer publication has ever done this, or done it for so 

We did a trial program first in 1956 with House and Home, a 
trade magazine then owned by Time, Inc. They wanted to look at 
regional architecture and this was their idea. The region to 
begin with in the United States, in their view, was the West, and 
they were a little hesitant about getting into it alone so they 




asked us if we would do it with them, and we did. Then they went 
on to do various things in subsequent years. But we saw the 
program as a way to do us a lot of good (I mean good for ourselves 
as publishers) but also thought it might do some good in a public 

So in a very tentative way we talked to the American Institute 
of Architects and tried it out for one year which was 1957. Then 
we decided that we would continue it but not every year, to let 
more house designs become available. So it's gone on ever since 
every two years. 

Tommy was part of the innovative part of this program. Having 
a first rank man in his profession on this jury which had a 
majority of architects, forced the discussion of the siting of 
the building and forced the discussion of the development of the 
site. In other words, not ignoring the house beyond its wall 
lines, which the architects don't automatically do but sometimes 
do. They're awfully interested in structure and in interior space. 

Tommy always began with the site and the different landscape 
architects on those juries subsequently--Halprin was on for the 
second time this year—also tend to do the same thing. They 
look at the site and they look at the total problem. They don't 
look at just the architectural challenge. 

That's what they're there for, isn't it, to look at the site? 

But Tommy was not a bad critic of architecture also, 
what he was doing. 

He knew just 

I brought this 1957 bound volume of Sunset here. If you 
don't mind, I might make one quotation from it. Tommy was an 
articulate man; he was so good that we sometimes took his words 
down. Later we have taped these jury proceedings, though in 
those days we didn't, but we rephrased Tommy's language or tightened 
it up, and used it to write headlines sometimes. 

This is an award winner by Paul Hayden Kirk (whom I saw last 
week in Seattle and he remarked again upon Tommy interestingly) , 
and this is Tommy's headline for this good house. As you can 
see, it has a two-story garden right through the middle of the 

Tommy says, "A highly civilized and attractive tree house, 
bringing back for a moment that nostaligic urge which we all have 
as, small boys to live in a tree, which is gradually stifled by a 
civilization that stuffs us in a box and clamps down the lid." 
That's pure Church talking. Isn't that good? 


Riess: That is good. This is the way he would articulate things at 
a meeting like that? 

Mellquist: Yes, he was an immensely persuasive man, listened to. 
Riess: These were high-powered architects. 

Mellquist: All of these juries were fascinating. As a jury, they are 

unstructured initially. They elect a chairman, who in most cases 
doesn't really serve as chairman. Sometimes it is the strongest 
man in the group who takes charge, but not necessarily. As you 
watch, in two days they structure themselves. The leadership 
evolves. It always does, and you never know where it's coming 

In recent years, there 've usually been two women on the jury, 
and very special ones. In at least one recent jury a woman member 
evolved as the natural leader. Most of the jurors we quietly 
investigate beforehand. We don't invite them only on their 
reputation, but after interviewing people who know them well. 

Riess: To see how they'll work? 

Mellquist: Well, yes. We're very careful about not having people who make 
speeches. Nor having people who are so painfully shy they can't 
speak up, no matter how qualified. But people who can engage in 
argument and express themselves and are articulate. This has been 
interesting. Since I have been not serving on the jury I've still 
been in the sidelines listening in. 

Riess: Does Tommy always seem to fall into the same relationship to the 
group no matter what the constitution of the group? 

Mellquist: Tommy was more contemporary in the first two or three times he 

was on the jury. Much later he was considerably older than others, 
and I think—not that he was ever aggressive—he was a little bit 
quieter the last one or two times he was on the jury. But always 
people gather around him, ask him questions, want his opinion, 
listen to him, and very understandably. 

Riess: A house could really be disqualified on topographic grounds? 

Mellquist: Bad handling, a bad relationship to its own piece of land—not 

bad land, because houses go on all kinds of land not always good 
in configuration or relationship to views or surroundings. But 
I think if the house were placed on the land without much 
sensitivity, Church would point that out, no matter how sensational 


Mellquist: the house. It was different if the house and the land were 

designed as a unit (which is something that this magazine has 
advocated forever) , in which the planning begins at both the 
view lines and the lot lines, not at the building line, and 
living areas can be outdoors as well as in, and the gardens are 
both to be in and to view. 

Riess: Were the juries more and more enlightened on that point anyway 
as years went by? 

Mellquist: These juries were enlightened on it from the beginning; in terms 
of some kind of revolution in house design, it had by and large 
taken place. There's been a reaction, a change, since then, just 
as the very austere, sort of international-style houses peaked 
in the early fifties or some people thought they had, and were 
very much on the scene, and the Bay Area style which is a variant 
on this, using skins of wood, natural wood, also had peaked. You 
see less of these things today, quite a lot less. But then it was 
quite well understood. 

What we saw as the revolution led by Church in the use of the 
land as living area, and the land as the extension of the floor 
plan of the house, this was also very well understood. Few people 
quarreled with it. A somewhat more drastic pushing around of the 
land has been popular more recently, but this is related to houses 
having to go on very precipitous pieces of land that are left over. 
There is less level land. 

Riess: Has Sunset ever considered financing any award in Landscape 

Mellquist: We have. We didn't find a good way to do it. It's bad enough 
judging houses on the basis of photographs and a plan. We felt 
it wouldn't work with gardens. And we saw no way to travel a 
qualified jury over thousands of miles. Some day we may work out 
an answer. 

Riess: Has Sunset a commitment to the new and experimental in design? 
How do you find it and encourage it? 

Mellquist: We probably publish more new and experimental residential designs 
than other popular magazines. Our Western Home Awards program is 
a principal means for us to find such work. But architects also 
bring it to our attention directly. Our chief experimental area 
recently has been in energy conservation, particularly solar 
heating and cooling as part of the architecture of the house. 


2) Ghirardelli Square and The Cannery 

Mellquist ; 

I had some encounter with Tommy well beyond the residential world, 
including things ranging from university campuses to Ghirardelli 
Square, which he did not design, but I walked it with him one time. 
I wanted his criticism on Ghirardelli Square and got it and it was 
interesting. I worked on the square in its planning. A friend of 
mine, Bill Roth, bought the square. He and I worked on the plans 
for it. 


Riess: You mean before you called in an architect? 

Mellquist: Before the architects were called in, yes, there were lengthy 
discussions. If you'd like to see memoranda of these talks 
sometime I've got them somewhere in the file. They're interesting. 

But a lot of architects made a crack at the project, meaning 
in some cases a letter to Roth and in some cases making aerial 
photographs and making models. 

There was a competition? 

It wasn't a competition. A great many firms were invited to 
transmit a message to Roth if they wished. It was entirely 
up to them and eventually the Wurster office was chosen. Roth 
had known Bill Wurster and had great respect for him. Then 
subsequently only two landscape architects were considered and 
these were Lawrence Halprin and Tommy Church and Halprin was chosen. 

Riess: I'm interrupting you, but one thing I've gathered along the way is 
that the architect usually brings in the landscape architect of 
his choice. 

Mellquist: Not in this case. What the architect said was, "Here are two 
landscape architects, both of whom I like very much, either of 
whom would be splendid." It wasn't a competitive choice in the 
sense of anyone turning Tommy down. We thought he was marvelous, 
but some of the early conception was of a very complicated place 
with a lot of busy things going on, sort of a Tivoli, scaled-down. 
This lively kind of place against a grand simple place. There 
was some reading on Tommy as being more in the grand, simple 
manner and Larry more in the show-business direction. 

But whatever the reasons, there later was an advisory board 
on Ghirardelli Square for three years and I was chairman of it, 
the only time I've ever been involved in anything of this kind. 
It was fascinating, the conflicts out of which things were resolved, 
because there was a difference of view at all times, often not just 
either-or, but maybe five ways to go. 


Riess: The committee involved the landscape architect and the architect? 

Mellquist: On the board normally were Bill Wurster and usually his partner, 
Donn Emmons , Warren Lemmon, president of Ghirardelli Square, 
myself, Halprin, occasionally John Matthias. Do you know John or 
his work? 

Riess: No. 

Mellquist: He did all the new buildings in Ghirardelli Square, except Senor 
Pico, and he was Bill Roth's personal architect, and he was 
earlier mine. He was somewhat involved. Also on the board were 
the head of the Redevelopment Agency who died a few years ago, 
Justin Herman; and the planning director of SPUR, who later went 
to San Diego; and then a couple of people that were very knowledgeable 
in rental properties and how to develop income. Bill Roth went 
with the State Department late in 1962 and that was the only reason 
I was chairing those meetings. I was his representative because 
he was away. 

I groped around for outside criticism beyond this design 
group, and Mr. Church was one of those who could give me some. 
He liked Halprin's lighting very much. It was sort of a spherical, 
taped globe that's on lighting poles all through Ghirardelli 
Square and was, I think, Larry's invention. Tommy thought it was 
correct and cheerful and also effective in illumination. He pretty 
much liked the traffic patterns. It was multiple level, a 10 split- 
level garage, with a 3 -level roof that became the plaza, and people 
had to move through it and yet it had to be efficient with alternate 
ways to go both ramp and stairs. All these things were achieved. 

A long time ago I had a conversation, probably over a martini 
with Tommy—or a negroni or whatever that odd Italian drink is 
that he likes--and I asked him of all these marvelous people that 
had gone through his drafting room, which ones did he particularly 
respect and which ones had certain outstanding characteristics. 
Tommy wasn't one to put down any of them. He was very respectful 
of Halprin, what he did in Ghirardelli Square. But he emphatically 
said Baylis. My recollection of this discussion was only that 
there was a kind of pared-down edited simplicity in Baylis "s work, 
and he felt a great sympathy with it. 

Riess: So you didn't pursue it further than that? 
Mellquist: If I did I don't recall it. 

Riess: To get back to Ghirardelli Square then, was there very much 
reconstruction of that area? 


Mellquist: You mean to achieve it? 
Riess: Yes. 

Mellquist: It was a hollow square of buildings and on the uphill street there 
were three, the clock tower being on the corner. On the lower 
street there was an old power house and above it and catty-corner 
to the street, because it was built before the streets were built, 
so it didn't have to be right angles, there was the old woolen 
mill. Then there was a big wooden building, a box factory, which 
was the only building removed and Senor Pico Restaurant is now on 
that site. Then there was a little building on Larkin that's 
still there, now an Italian restaurant (Modesto Lanzone). There 
was a sort of courtyard in the center. 

Well, the basic scheme to make the square work: That courtyard 
was dug out, a big excavation was made, the box factory was removed, 
and then a 10-split level garage, meaning a 5-story building, was 
put in this hole. The roof of the building on the uphill side in 
three levels was the future plaza and that building is the garage 
and it's completely concealed. You don't see it but it's there and 
it's 10-split levels. It holds a lot of cars and it's not one of 
the great achievements of the Wurster office, in the opinion of 
those who have ever driven large cars into it. Most likely it's 
one of the worst garages for a large wheel-base car in California. 
For a compact car, a little car, it's fine. 

What was given Halprin were these established buildings, old 
and new, and this parking structure's roof. He had to work out 
access to the different streets, and meet the challenge of moving 
people in and out and having this whole place be a visually 
interesting experience. Larry likes to use the word "choreography," 
and there is a sort of informal action that is part of the pleasure 
of this sort of public place, how people move and what they're 
doing. There were places to sit. The big fountain was designed 
really as a big circular seat at two levels. It's always worked 
that way, for children and for others. 

Riess: Having plants in pots and seasonal changes, that decorative scheme-- 

Mellquist: That was done with some help from people at Sunset in an advisory 
way. It's gone on. I remember arguments with Halprin: I felt 
that his pots that contained the trees were too big, were out of 
scale with the trees that they were to hold and he, of course, 
disagreed. But on the whole, the planting has done well. The plant 
boxes—big concrete tubs—were very good in scale and there was a 
lot of root room so the trees have gotten some size. They contract 
for changes of plant color in shallow planters. It's an expense 
but it's an expense that they've carried out for many years. 


Riess: Was the lighting in the trees Halprin? 

Mellquist: I believe all of that was pretty much Halprin--Halprin and people 
associated with him. Unlike Tommy, he's always had a rather large 
office and a lot of talent around. Tommy has tended to have a 
rather tight office in the time I've known him. 

Riess: Okay, so what we're really saying is that Tommy thought it was-- 

Mellquist: Well, he was tolerant of the good work of his associates and made 
no bones about it, but he got a kick out of this. He thought 
it was a good achievement. 

Tommy went on then and did the competitive development, the 
Cannery. The Cannery, coming on as an echo to Ghirardelli Square, 
right on its heels, did not have quite as good a group of old 
buildings, or as roomy a site, didn't have the hollow court 

But Tommy built a connecting street on one side of the Cannery 
and the street was level and you enter down stairs from Beach Street, 
He made this street into theater. The street musicians had a 
better go there than they did in Ghirardelli Square, although both 
places were the oncoming of street music and street performances, 
street juggling. All of this street entertainment came out of, in 
effect, the landscape design and somewhat the ownership policy of 
both of these places. But the experience in both places is similar. 

Tommy had, I think, a little more design opportunity. He had 
a single large level space to work with. He closed off the 
waterfront side with a glass wall. It's a wind shelter. It works 
very well. Tommy had a lot of fun with it. I can't remember ever 
asking Halprin about it. Larry, while he's less tolerant perhaps 
than Tommy, in other respects he worships Tommy; at least in his 
conversation with me he always has so indicated. 

3) Sunset Magazine Gardens 

Mellquist: When this piece of land was acquired by the Lane family for 

Sunset: and they decided to build this Sunset building, it looked 
like a big act of confidence, which it was, but it was also an 
enormous risk. Publishing offices usually only own their 
typewriters. They don't own the printing press. They don't own 
anything. To have lane Publishing go into this sizable thing at 
the scale Sunset was then- -revenues weren't that big, though Sunsej: 
was making it--it was a staggering conception. 


Mellquist: Thomas Church was the only choice to design the garden, lay 
it out, think it out, which he did. 

Riess: Because he had the prestige, or the capability? 

Mellquist: Prestige was no doubt a piece of it, but it was capability. 

One joke about this building grounds is that if Disneyland 
is 5/8ths scale, this building is about 9/8ths scale, or maybe 
10/8ths scale. It looks residential, but it's a little bit more. 
The garden is in design rhythm with these buildings, and the paths 
that are nice, pedestrian paths are really designed to take trucks 
and do a great deal of work with machines, all of this thought 
through by Church. The trucks are not in evidence normally, and it 
is pedestrian, but the scale is more the scale of some pedestrian 
areas on campuses or in parks where service vehicles must come in 
at intervals. 

There was some disagreement and Tommy didn't win all the 
contests: There's an interior patio which you walked around a 
bit ago in this building. (And there's one in the newer building 
across the street that 's similar, but Church had nothing to do 
with the one across the street.) Church designed this fully- 
enclosed outside patio with brick paving and with some rather 
geometric treatment. 

Larry Lane, who came from the Middle West and who had made 
California his personal discovery, wanted this to be a very 
California building. Larry Lane couldn't stand bricks. They 
were the skin material of the Middle Western house. So the design 
for the patio was thrown out and later a new design was achieved 
with Tommy very much involved but also with the thinking of the 
magazine brought in. The patio was paved with adobe bricks. It's 
been so paved since 1951, and it's worked very well. Tommy himself 
liked it. But it was a different direction than Tommy would have 

Riess: Well, he does like a certain amount of conflict and tussle over 
the design, doesn't he? Maybe that overstates it, but he's not 
happy with a client that doesn't really get engaged. 

Mellquist: I've never been his client and haven't really observed him in a 

client relationship very much. It's clear he only likes this kind 
of engagement and he had it here. 

There are a couple of ideas about this place that I* discussed 
with him one time. Some people here felt that there was a need for 
change in these gardens. There 've been a million people through 


Mellquist: the doors here in the last 26 years, mostly just "drop in." 

But a lot of people visit here on business and they are potential 
clients or advertisers or consultants, and they come here again 
and again, and we thought it would be good to remodel this garden. 

Tommy discussed one idea with me. It never happened, and 
with the drought it's unlikely to ever happen, but it was to put 
in the far side of the big lawn a lake a little less than an acre 
in size about 10 inches deep, and with a bridge to a small island 
in the lake from the far side, and some structure on the island. 

As Tommy put it, it would give people a place to go, a reason 
to walk. It would be a very agreeable and kind of placid 
interruption, but it would also be cool and attractive in arid 
California. That was not done but it was one piece of his thinking. 

He had another idea that I kicked around with him. Because 
you can't increase buildings any longer, anywhere, without in 
some way meeting an increased parking requirement, and this piece 
of land is big enough to meet almost any parking requirement, but 
it would use up the garden and the garden is part of the whole 
scheme here, Tommy figured a way to put a parking structure in. 

We have a parking lot on the Middlefield Road side of this 
building which is a long rectangular space at grade and Tommy said 
that there would be a way to put in a hanging garden that would 
really be a parking structure, but you wouldn't see it. Essentially 
what he said you'd do, you'd drop the ground level a little bit. 
(I don't remember how many feet, not many.) Then you'd put in a 
concrete lid, supported by posts. There is a masonry wall on 
Middlefield about 6 feet high. The lid would be at the height of 
the masonry wall. Then you'd have 60 inches or so of automobiles 
standing above the wall top. So you'd have trees that head out 
over the top of the masonry wall by 60 or more inches. Some trees 
are there now. More would go in. With ramps you'd get about 80% 
as many cars on the upper level. You'd get about 180% of the 
present parking on two levels. 

It would be a parking structure open-sided and surrounded 
and interrupted with trees. From the public streets you'd only 
see the trees. But it would work efficiently, and with this 
climate you don't need walls or anything else. It's a simple 
workable idea which we didn't do, but someday it might surface 

We took a different direction. We acquired land across the 
street and built another building which has grown and is now larger 
than this one, and we've acquired still more land, so we may not 
need to load this parcel that much. 


Mellquist: But that was one time I saw Tommy's head working. He had 
in mind a lot of different things, and he knew we didn't want 
to present to the world a parking lot facade. We were dealing 
with gardening and we'd just as soon maintain a garden facade. 

4) Santa Cruz, Berkeley, and Stanford Campus Planning 





Let me ask you a question. 
U.C. Santa Cruz? 

No , I haven't. 

Have you interviewed Bill Roth about 

I talked to Jon Rice of KQED several years ago about doing a 
25 minute documentary on Tommy which would be interviews with 
him and walks with him. I wanted to see if we couldn't do a lot 
of it on U.C. Santa Cruz and U.C. Berkeley and Stanford. He was 
related to all three in different ways. 

I remember after Larry Livingston's planning office did the 
search and found the site at Santa Cruz, then the Regent's 
committee talked to a number of architects and finally selected 
one firm of supervising architects. (They later changed to a 
different firm.) 


It was Warnecke initially, and later it was Kump. But somehow 
they couldn't site the university. They just couldn't handle this. 

How it got to Tommy I don't know, but Tommy designed the layout 
of this multiple college university. This is my reading on it from 
what I've heard for a long time. He placed the colleges and he 
worked out the circulation system and in effect he worked out the 
nature of the place, because the colleges have to interact, they 
can't all have separate total facilities — the performing arts is 
a single thing, the basic core library. But that was a considerable 
achievement, or maybe a disaster, because not everybody likes the 
university, but in any event it's an achievement. A lot of people 
think it is marvelous. 

That's really interesting—they were stumped by all that potential. 

Yes, but he was the one that got around being stumped. This is my 
recollection of talks with bill Roth who was on the Regents 
committee dealing with such matters as architecture. 


Mellquist: I remember the achievement of a new entry to the Berkeley 
campus, which must be 15 years ago, or a little more, when the 
Student Union went in and Halprin designed the entrance and those 
plane trees in double rows coming down. 

I've always assumed that Tommy chose Halprin for that because 
Tommy was the supervising landscape architect for the campus. 

Riess: So he endorsed Halprin 's ability to do that big space? 

Mellquist: Halprin designed it, and Vernon De Mars worked on the buildings 

there. This is my dim memory working, but I still always related 
this to Tommy's overall supervision of the campus. 

And the same way at Stanford—again, this is recollection-- 
but Tommy told me that initially he was talking to Dr. Wallace 
Sterling, just on the backs of envelopes, about how to clean up 
the happenstance development of Stanford, that patchwork of all 
sorts of things. There 'd been splendid order in the original 
Olmsted plan, but so much time had passed with short term decisions, 
And the great Stanford man-planted forest had not been continued. 

Out of Tommy's envelope sketches came a new circulation plan 
which isn't complete because of the interruption barricade of the 
old sorority-fraternity district. Otherwise, the new circulation 
plan surrounds the campus. Private cars don't go very far in the 
middle. Parking is tucked in under the trees. A lot of new forest 
is going in on the new residential side of the campus, and order 
is slowly being regained. It's a 10 to 20-year scheme. 

I drive the campus almost every day going home or coming to 
work and I've been watching this happen for a long time and I 
attribute anything that's good about it to Tommy. I think he had 
his own kind of love affair with these universities. 

5) Sunset Public Demonstration Gardens 

Mellquist: Sunset magazine has, as you know, done some work in public parks 
with demonstration gardens. Our first one was at the Los Angeles 
State and County Arboretum in Arcadia and we did one at Tucson 
Mountain Park outside of Tucson. We finally faced up to one in 
Golden Gate Park, and it was very funny. 




We asked the obvious people to collaborate if they would in 
designing these gardens. The people we asked were Tommy, Doug 
Baylis, Ed Williams, Bob Royston, and Larry Halprin, probably 
the five leading landscape architects in Northern California at 
that time, and they all knew each other awfully well. Sunset's 
agreement as it had been in the previous demonstration gardens, 
was we would pay their fees, and in return, the city would give 
us design control. We would finally be the client. 

We weren't sure how to begin. We had a couple of meetings 
and finally we decided that each of the landscape architects would 
come up with a notion for the whole thing as loosely done as they 
wanted. We had a meeting in Halprin's office and they were all 
there. And I was there and one or two other people from Sunset. 
Everybody took part in a bull session and martinis and probably a 
buffet supper, and then the presentations began, and Church said 
he would be last. 

This was about as competitive a thing maybe as the five of 
them had ever been in, because here was this beautiful tract of 
land in the Strybing Arboretum, and money was available, these 
gardens would be built, and all or some of them or maybe only one 
of them would do the design. 

It hadn't been established that you'd have all five? 

No, and no fees had been paid at this point, 
up with what to do with this challenge. 

This was just coming 

I forget now in what order they made their presentation. I 
remember details about different ones. These were all really very 
able people. I think one of them didn't want to make a presentation 
at that state, I think it was Baylis and he held back. But finally 
at the end Tommy came up and what he did blew them all out of the 
ball park. His scheme was so correct to our standpoint as clients, 
and really was correct to the others. 

Tommy in effect said, let's do five things and let's organize 
the space as a walking experience, and the experiences should 

He had sketches to show where things would go because there 
were big trees and the land moved around (it was higher and lower) 
and he had all that in mind. But my memory of this, and others 
might have a different memory, is that we liked Tommy's scheme and 
we decided we would assign different people of these five in the 
room. (This didn't happen at that meeting but shortly thereafter.) 


Mellquist: We had enough money we thought to maybe develop three of 

these five. We needed an overall supervising landscape architect 
and so I went to see Tommy and said, "This is what we'd like to do 
and we'd like you to be overall supervising landscape architect." 

He said, "Great, except I won't be it." 

I said, "Okay, among us we've got all the talent we need. 
Who shall we get?" 

He thought for a moment and he said, "Well, my nominee is 
Ed Williams." 

So I went to see Ed and Ed said, "Great, I'll do it," which 
meant that Ed's office got the large fees, because they did the 
working drawings. They did this revision but the design remained 
with the designers. 

So the three we chose were Ed Williams, Larry Halprin, 
Thomas Church for the first stages. Baylis had still not come up 
with anything that we liked the look of and Roys ton- -I forget 
what our reasoning was there. 

Then Williams, Halprin, and Church each came up with their 
individual designs. These were built and later some minor things 
were done and added, always with Ed Williams' office as supervisors. 
Royston never did come into it very much or at all. Baylis designed 
a garden work center that was built. 

After a dozen years we pulled out of the Strybing project; 
our name is no longer associated with it. We were interested in 
change and also had limited time to put against public projects. 

6) Sunset; The Lane's View 

Riess: I am interested in what your mandate was as editor—when the Lanes 
hired you, whether landscape architecture and city planning and 
environmental design were important to them. 

Mellquist: The Lane's view of the magazine was a bit more simplistic then than 
history has since made it. They felt that the magazine was for 
helping people take advantage of the western climate, western 
geography, western opportunities. It was a mix here of, in part, 
mild winter? and mild summers, and in part a kind of innovative 
society or fresh society, different from the rest of the country. 


Mellquist: They wanted a magazine that was a handbook to serve these 
western differences, a handbook that would offer encouragement 
or ideas for people that they couldn't find in the national 
press. They were looking for someone about my age and generation 
because they wanted to make a change. They didn t hire me to be 
editor. They hired me to see if I could be editor and it took 
a couple of years, but that's so long ago... 

The man I followed, Walter Doty, he and I became good friends. 
He was himself a gardener and had lived in suburbia, made gardens 
in several places, knew Tommy very well. Baylis designed one 
garden for him. He hired Baylis to be on the magazine at one time. 
I learned a great deal from Walter—more from him than anyone else 
initially. Under his direction Sunset was the first publication 
really getting into landscape architecture and how it could be 
used in a residential way. 

7) House Beautiful and Elizabeth Gordon 


Riess : 

An important thing to Tommy, and possibly unfortunate for Sunset , 
took place in 1950 or thereabouts. 

Elizabeth Gorden, editor of House Beautiful, made some sort 
of ongoing deal with Thomas Churcfu She was publishing his gardens 
and she admired him enormously. She was anti-the international 
school in architecture and very pro-Frank Lloyd Wright. She was 
the lustiest, and in many ways, most effective person in the 
coffee-table magazine business, House Beautiful and House and Garden. 
She carried on through the fifties and the beginning of the sixties 
when she was fired. But in those years she worked closely with 
Tommy and published a great many of his gardens. 

He tended to have rather well-heeled clients, 
were spacious and well-installed. 

His gardens 

Oh, he did a little bit of work on a smaller scale now and 
then with a landscape contractor down here in Los Altos. He 
designed his garden. 

Floyd Gerow. 

Also, he did a really marvelous group of gardens for Eichler in 
a subdivision that I think was called Greenmeadows. [1953] Those 
gardens would now be 23 or 24 years of age and we published them 
in Sunset at that time. 


Mellquist: We didn't publish very much of Tommy's work, though we were 
very much aware of it. There would be single things that would 
come up, or there "d be houses we were doing and the gardens were 
by Church. But we didn't focus in on the gardens and I didn't 
want to have too many gardens that were up in excessively spacious 
and very expensive scale because our readership, though it included 
those people, was predominantly people who had a lot less money and 
a lot less land. 

Riess: That's interesting about Elizabeth Gordon's role in all that. 

Mellquist: I only met her a couple of times and didn't understand her too well 
but she had a genuine head of steam and she had opinions and I 
agreed with an awful lot of her opinions. I certainly agreed with 
her coming in on Church and Wright although at the same time I got 
a kick out of the geometric austerity side of architecture. I didn't 
think they were in absolute collision. 

Riess: Did Church have a contract arrangement with House Beautiful? 
Or, in fact, with Sunset at any time? 

Mellquist: I don't know about House Beautiful but I doubt if Tommy had a 
contract. Contracts are rare in magazine work. Tommy did not 
have any relationship with Sunset that was contractual. He did 
Sunset 's garden at Strybing. 

8) The Message in Sunset Magazine Today 

Riess: I think of Sunset as a magazine with a message. 

Mellquist: A lot of that's been evolving and still is. We don't take postures 
or take stands or campaign very much but I think the world is 
changing in the direction we've been working on for a long time. 

Riess: Then I am interested in what the landscape architecture message is. 

Mellquist: We think that among the choices people have, along with living in 
condensed housing situations, high-rise, or whatever they may be, 
there's satisfaction in getting your hands in the dirt. There's 
satisfaction in all kinds of handicrafts. Our cooking pages 
deal with cooking the hard way, not with short-cuts, not with 
convenience. But with the art of cooking. 







The process of making something is a satisfaction independent 
of the results. We feel this in gardening and horticulture. I 
think myself that there comes a point when you want professional 
help. I think one of these places for most of us is in designing 
a house, and in a differing way, in designing a garden. But then 
you can—some of us--can execute some of the house, if the design's 
good, if you're guided in the practical engineering. 

Farming on the city lot is here today for all sorts of people. 
We've been dealing with that for a long time. But it's dangerous 
for a magazine to go a little too far. If you do, suddenly your 
circulation may weaken and sometimes you cannot recover from a 
circulation reversal. You have to keep your circulation healthy. 


you're making too many demands of people? 

Or you're giving them demands that too many of them don't want 
and not giving them enough that they can do. We play it carefully 
by ear all the time and it works. But we don't dare have the 
circulation signals go down hill. Our circulation signals are 
very good. The magazine is healthy but we run scared. 

Month by month, though, you gage what people are responding to? 

We have a lot of subjective means of gaging, hardly any objective 
ones, but we have a lot of people who are out listening and 
talking to people. 

My wife's just back from visiting our son in Vermont. He was 
a good Californian but he loves Vermont and he's taken the 

subsistence route. He builds his own buildings, grows all of his 
own food. He gets all the protein as well as the vegetables and 
the rest of it. It amuses me. He reads Sunset with interest and 
finds some of it applies to the farm. 

I'm sure it must please you. He won't be there forever anyway. 

I don't know. I think maybe he will. For awhile he didn't have 
a dollar income, but he's been out of college almost eight years 
and he's built buildings on two farms. On the first farm the 
weather was too difficult. He's on one now where the weather's 

Why is it always Vermont that people go to? 

I don't know why so many people go there. John went to college 
there. He went to Dartmouth, in Hanover. He also married a girl 
from upstate New York who doesn't like the Far West very well. 
But there are people like him all around, the subsistence world-- 
and Vermont is a terrible world for profitable farming. 


Mellquist: There's a lot of it going on differently here and we're 
developing a modest readership in Sunset of people who are 
recently married or living together who are maybe on the land, 
or maybe into the handcraft world, or who are into it to some 
extent. They're finding in Sunset things they can make use of, 
even though it's their parents who are the people who buy 
Cadillac Sevilles and other things that are advertised in Sunset. 
It's the parents that pay our bills. We know quite a bit about 
the magazine's circulation—we tend to have people that have gone 
a little further in college than a national matching magazine. 

Among our readers are people involved in city government and 
politics. Our readers include business leadership in cities and 
also in small towns. We have very high circulation in college 
campuses in the faculty, which is interesting. I would guess our 
circulation among faculty at Berkeley probably is comparable to 
Time Magazine, perhaps larger than Time 's, 

Riess: Is there a population of landscape architects and architects who 
go along with this idea of them providing the shell, and 
somebody else doing the work? 

Mellquist: Yes, and not everybody can go beyond the shell but some people 

can—a lot of people can. We publish case histories all the time 
of achievement, and we like to keep it at the scale of a room or 
the improvement of a room. Once in awhile we'll have a whole 
house but not that many — although we did an essay a few months 
ago on what is called the pre-cut house and we had case histories 
of eight families who had achieved the house. (We looked into maybe 
30.) We told in the text of our article about many families who 
had failed and why. They either got bored or got tired. It was 
too much of an undertaking. 

9) A New Pattern of Living 

Riess: Please comment on life-style cycles you've lived through in 20 
years with Sunset. 

Mellquist: I think of cycle in a circular sense as going around and maybe 
moving on to an overlapping cycle. I think that the times I've 
been on Sunset have been times of—well, various kinds of unrest, 
much of the unrest healthy, increasingly. 

I think there was an American pattern to living in Suburbia, 
living in houses, or even in apartments, that was an aping of the 
manor house. You think of a pretentious dining room, with a door 


Mellquist: to the kitchen, and chairs around the table, and serving from 

left to right, and the housewife changing roles and being the maid, 
and getting up and then sitting down again. For many years that 
whole rigamarole got totally thrown out with the coming of the 
open kitchen. The kitchen might be around the corner sometimes, 
but visible, no doors. 

Then you look at the old front garden as an entry path from 
the street with neat plants on each side, an echo of a manor 
house, and in effect useless and it took a lot of maintenance. 

Riess: But it signified prosperity? 

Mellquist: It signified prosperity or signified a certain style. It was the 
accepted way to do things. 

What happened in Tommy's time, but done by many people 
including many architects, was to discard this manor house aping. 
You gave the house what was called a reverse plan. The living 
area was not on the street; it was on the side or back. And the 
landscape made an agreeable appearance to the street but often was 
very low maintenance. The back was a living area in some cases, 
several living areas, and in extreme cases, anything you could do 
inside the house you could do outside, given the correct area for 

All of these things came along, changing the way we lived in 
houses for those who discovered them. Not everyone did. Mass 
housing around the country varies very much. There are still 
comparatively few reverse plan subdivisions in the Middle West. 
There are some in the South and they're taking advantage of what 
is, for much of the year, a moderate climate. I say this as a 
generality only confirmed by my own observations. But almost every 
year in some different states I hike through subdivisions, just 
to see what regional difference is in evidence elsewhere in the 
country, because I'm quite aware of it here. 

I got to a lot of different places in Illinois and Wisconsin 
because I have reasons to get to those states, and in Massachusetts 
and Vermont, because I have reasons to get to Vermont every year, 
and occasionally other places—last year, Mississippi. Some of 
the same change is coming, but it's lagging. It's also lagging 
in the cold winter areas where people can't do some of the things 
we can do in the West. 

But at least this aping of the manor is ending, 
one of the ones that threw it out. 

Tommy was 


Riess: Before we stop, is there anything else you might say about 

California landscape design compared to the rest of the country, 
then (1950) and now (1977) , and how Thomas Church has affected 

Mellquist: I wouldn't want to be too profound. In my observation California 
leads the rest of the country in a landscaping revolution now 40 
or so years old. Tommy was the leading revolutionary. 

In 1950 the revolution was well underway. Today (1977) 
it continues but the big achievements were earlier. 

Some precepts: 

Land should be dealt with for appreciation and also for use. 
Residential land in modest and medium size plots should be part 
of the living plan—land plan and house plan continuations of each 
other, compliments of each other- -with significant differences. 

Changes of scale are first diff erences--indoors is partly 
cave and refuge, outdoors the sky sometimes is the ceiling, trees 
sometimes are. Adjacent properties and distant hills are yours 
to appreciate or to screen out. 

Climate changes — indoor control can be almost total, outdoor 
control possible but always limited. 

Tommy Church saw the outdoor-indoor duo as intimately mixed 
up with each other. He saw landscape architecture and house 
architecture as properly a duet, probably with landscape architecture 
leading. His was the large scale, the larger stage. 

All of the house was fixed, its materials really dead, only 
its innards regularly changeable. Much or most of the landscape 
was alive—growing, changing, flowering, fruiting, dying. 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

Thomas D. Church Oral History Project 

Goodwin B. Steinberg 

Interview Conducted by 
Suzanne B. Riess 

1978 by The Regents of the University of California 

TABLE OF CONTENTS -- Goodwin B. Steinberg 

1) Steinberg's Architectural Training 701 

2) California: Sunset Magazine and Walter Doty 704 

3) First Job with Thomas Church 705 

4) "Related, not Continuous" Gardens 706 

5) Space 708 

6) Helping the Client Express Himself 709 

7) Reputations, Principles, and Other Intangibles 711 

8) Answers to Questions sent Goodwin B. Steinberg on May 21, 1976 714 


Goodwin Steinberg 
May 20, 1976 

Interviewed in the offices of Goodwin B. Steinberg Associates 
Architects, San Jose 

1) Steinberg's Architectural Training 

Riess: Please tell me about your architectural practice, and the beginning 
of your association with Thomas Church. 

Steinberg: My father was an architect in Chicago and I had worked for him for 
a period of years. He had an industrial practice in the City of 
Chicago and because of the limited land available for industry and 
the expanding factories, etc., the practice became one of the very 
methodical engineering approaches to problem-solving. From my 
end--I was very strong on design in school--his practice didn't 
have the aesthetic excitement that I wanted. Working details of 
new parts of hospitals, or working details of new parts of a 
printing plant-- just limited challenge, and I finally got courage 
to say, "I'm going off on my own," 

I had built up a fairly substantial salary and once I decided 
to go off on my own I didn't know whether I could keep up and 
maintain the same standard of living of many of the people that I 
was closely associated to. So, rather than just develop an 
architectural practice in Chicago, and because I had gone overseas 
from California-- 

Riess: You went to Berkeley to school? 

Steinberg: No, I went to the University of Illinois. I had training at 

Illinois Institute of Technology, where Mies van der Rohe taught; 

and then I had graduated from the University of Illinois; and 

then I had training in Fontainebleau, France, under a man by the 

name of Jean Lebateau, who had a very different kind of 


Steinberg: Where Mies' philosophy was pure structure, and a very, very 

simple, clean approach to design, the man in France's approach 
was all mood. It had to do with whether if you go into a dining 
room is it good architecture if the room is dark, if you can't see 
the building at all but you can smell the food, you can hear 
music, you can see the candlelight in peoples' faces. You have 
a cocktail, your senses are numb--your relationship to the person 
you're with, these are all mood situations, and how they affect you 
through the atmosphere in which you are at. It's just a very 
different kind of approach, and it was very stimulating. 

And this man also got me very stimulated on things like space- 
is an open space good, or is a closed space good. My background 
was one where I very strongly think in terms of mood, feeling, 
peoples' reaction to what we're doing. And it's not just sticks, 
stones, construction materials, and that type of approach. 

So, once I decided to go off on my own I wanted to come back 
to California. And at the time I thought that if I do nothing but 
houses in these hills that would be the ultimate as far as a 
practice is concerned. 

Coming out of Illinois you have very good basic training in 
architecture. I mean, you were a building specialist; you really 
understood the circulation through a room, the difference between 
a cul de sac room and a room that you had diagonal circulation 
through, how the furniture went into the room, how to put pictures 
on the walls, where to plant, the difference between windows on the 
short end of the room and glass on the long end of the room. And 
you're thinking "space" and "feeling" from architecture, but then 
you're also adding to it mood. 

Riess: How was landscape architecture viewed at that time? 

Steinberg: My training in landscape architecture wasn't. At Illinois, at I.I.T., 
the European training—although the man from Fontainebleau was 
actually a landscape architect, I had really sort of thought of 
landscape architecture only from my trips to, say, places like 
Versailles, where you had a main lounge burst like a bubble bay into 
the back of the room, and then you'd see landscaping in a formal 
sense over there. But I really wasn't exposed to landscape architecture 

as they practice it in California, where Tommy really, as I knew it, 
was the father of this kind of house relationship to grounds and 
your indoor-outdoor living relationship. Although I did travel to 
Japan and I saw the indoor-outdoor living, but not creating the 
moods of landscaping that Tommy did. 

Riess: So prior to Tommy your solution would have been to have a landscape 
architect come in on the job, or would you sketch in foundation 
planting yourself? 


Steinberg: Prior to Tommy I think that my feeling would be that I wanted my 
architecture to feel the ground, so that it took on somewhat of 
a Japanese quality where you could open the door and you could 
feel the space. But I might have a deck that was only five or 
six feet wide. I really wasn't trained for thinking of using the 
outdoors for living, in the same way that I was thinking of the 
houses 's use for living. 

And once you got associated with Tommy you became aware of 
the outdoor space for dining, the outdoor space for lounging 
around, swimming, tennis courts, the outdoor space for cut flowers 
and how cut flowers look at the different times of the year. 
Thinking about the "off seasons" and how a pool looks nice when 
it's active, and alive, but how does it look with respect to a 
rainy winter day? (At that time most of the pools were white- 
surfaced, compared to the darker surfaces now.) 

So, you develop a broader line of thinking about the outdoors. 
But I wasn't exposed to that. I wasn't exposed to the way that 
Tommy thought in terms of placing buildings on sites; this was 
really a very nice part of my education because you can design 
buildings and design buildings as they orient to ground and trees 
and views and wind. But if you get a knoll, do you set the 
building on the ridge of the knoll, and parallel to it, or do you 
put the building on the top of it like a horseback rider, straddling 
the knoll? And there's just a variety of combinations of partially 
straddling, partly parallel. 

You just develop a whole variety of ways, when you are around 
him, because you saw how he would try one thing, and maybe it 
would work, or it wasn't the best, and then you would try another 
thing. Getting that building adjusted to the site. 

And then how to handle the automobile? 

If you have the knoll you might push the building off the top 
and save the knoll for your outdoor activity, and the combinations 
of knoll, side hill, patios to use the knoll and patios to use the 
decks, you're sloping around on the site to find ways of adjusting. 


2) California: Sunset Magazine and Walter Doty 




Tommy had great ability to teach, too. 
I came into this area... 

I mean, as a young architect 



Yes, how did you come into contact with him? 

I think that when I first started I came out and I really wanted 
to do good architecture, and it was very paramount in my mind to 
do it. 

And Mies was your model, and the man at Fontainebleau. 

At Illinois you had a whole group of different kinds of teachers. 
The background was how to plan, how to put in a building, how to 
respect neighborhoods, vertical and horizontal circulation 
problems, groups of buildings. So you had a pretty good basic 

training, but there was a link there [missing] in the development 
of buildings to site. 

I think I came out here and started in on homes and I saw 
that Sunset magazine did a great deal to help young architects, 
and young landscape architects. And I went over there and I got 
to know Walter Doty. 

When was this? 

Around 1953, 1954. And Walter Doty and I became very good friends 
so I did a small house for Sunset magazine in the Oakland Home and 
Garden Show, and at that time I worked with Doug Baylis, who since 
passed away, and who was a student, or who worked for, Tommy. And 
I got a little touch of landscaping. But Walter Doty was very, 
very sensitive to the role of the landscape architect, indoor- 
outdoor living, barbequing, that whole relationship. 

How was he available to you? 

The whole Sunset magazine operation was very helpful to young 
architects and young landscape architects. They thrived on 
publishing the work of these people and we got publicity so that 
you get more work. It was a very healthy marriage. At that time 
a young person that had $5,000 could go up and tie up a lot and 
build a $25,000 house and lot package, and it was very charming. 
You can't do that today. But you could have a very modest income 
and still have a private home. 


Steinberg: I first got started in that direction with some help from 

Walter Doty, and I became aware of the landscape architect's role, 
At that time 1 worked with Doug Baylis, and I worked with Larry 
Halprin, I worked mainly with those two. Both Larry and Doug had 
worked for Tommy, and I sort of liked what Tommy was doing, so I 
went up and introduced myself. 

3) First Job with Thomas Church 

Steinberg: I had a house, a higher-budget house than I'd had in the past, 
and I wasn't sure exactly how to put it on the site. I went up 
and I talked to Tommy and asked if he'd be interested. At the 
time he was pretty busy, but he was very warm, and very kind: as 
a young architect you're sort of coming with your hat in your hand, 
introducing yourself to a person who was extremely well respected 
and had a whole group of people that he had trained already out, 
yet you knew him 20 years the second you met him. He made you 
feel very comfortable. 

But he told me he was very busy and that he didn't know whether 
he could handle it, but "maybe." So I just kept after him. I said, 
"It's a very important client to me. Would you do it?" He said, 
"Well, okay." I think that was probably the George Long house. 

Riess: So the idea of having Church had come from you rather than the 

Steinberg: No, actually in the George Long house Tommy was brought in before 
I was hired and did a site development plan. And I don't now 
remember whether that was the first house that Tom and I worked 
on together or not. 

In the Long house I think the people had bought the lot and 
they had certain requirements for their house, and before I was 
in the picture he had made a study. And I don't know whether they 
had made the initial contact and I met him that way. But I know 
one thing, that his way of handling me was one of very gentle 
consideration for my point of view; even if I was wrong, he was 
very, very gentle. And now I'm not sure just which way it went on 
the Long house. 

But anyway, he would get the client requirements and try to 
lay out the site. He wouldn't go into the details of the building, 
so that some of the parts had to be reworked; working with the 


Steinberg: client, rework and reshape it, and use your mind and imagination to 
make it work, and then go back and rework it with him. And he was 
concentrating on views from certain rooms; how the entrance was 
set up—whether you walked around a tree or through certain trees 
to get to the entrance; service areas. You might not have enough 
space between the parts of the building to accomplish it exactly 
that way, but then you'd rework that. 

Riess: So he was working from the point of view of the people looking 
out from inside. 

Steinberg: Well, he was really thinking of how you live in the house as well 
as how the different parts of the house oriented to the outside. 
The entrance relates to the outside. The living room and dining 
room activities relate to the outside. The kitchen relates to the 
outside and service. The garage, the distance from there to the 
kitchen. He had very carefully thought out the flow of how you 
move from outside to inside. Then he probably lumped the whole 
mass of inside in one chunk that allocated approximate areas where 
he thought things would go. And then it took a close working back 
and forth between the architect and the landscape architect to 
make sure that the client's requirements as the insides began to 
fill out continued to relate to the outside as he had visualized 
it in concept. 

4) "Related, Not Continuous," Gardens 

Riess: How much of a problem were materials when it came to articulating 
your idea of the house surfaces and his of the garden surfaces? 

Steinberg: Well, he, in most cases, would set up—you see, you can have design 
work two. ways. You can have it work where you can get a harmonious 
blend just in terms of dress, for example: you can take a tan 
outfit, and you can stay all in tans, and not break the pattern, or 
you can come along and work with more contrast, you might have a 
black skirt and a color contrast blouse [describing what interviewer 
is wearing] and you can contrast. 

He generally would work so that the grounds flowed with the 
building, but his material choice might contrast. For example, if 
we were using a brown floor tile in the living room and it carried 
to the window wall, he might contrast it and use concrete on the 
outside, as compared to if we had—many of our houses have very 
strong grid patterns, and we'd bring that tile to the outside and 
continue that through. 


Steinberg: As a general rule his design was so strong that to carry that 
[the house] system through was not a normal way for him to work. 
It was generally a Church garden related to the house. But the 
Church garden satisfied the client's requirements; in other words, 
it had a Church signature that you could feel but the basic 
requirements of that garden were exactly as that client wanted to 

Riess: And this didn't present problems to you, the architect? 

Steinberg: On most houses it didn't present problems. On some houses, where 
you have a strong vocabulary, it could present a problem. In a 
case like that, he would adjust and work it out. But as a general 
rule he contrasted the inside with the outside. 

For example, most houses would be just geometric because the 
structural materials are geometric, where his grounds would shift 
and go into soft curves. Because you do contrast somewhere along 
the line, whether you contrast at the house line, or you carry the 
geometry out into the patios and then carry the geometry to a degree 
in the grounds, somewhere from the grounds to the hills beyond 
you're switching to a very natural, flowing relationship with the 
building. Generally on most of his buildings the contrast switched 
from the nature and the curve at the building line. 

Riess: In an article by Michael Laurie he said that in 1933 Thomas Church 
wrote to the effect that the small garden could not be natural if 
it was to serve as an extension of the house. 

Steinberg: That's a little bit maybe what I was saying. I sort of hedged when 
I talked about the house getting through as an extension. You 
could really feel it, he didn't work with you that way. He really 
extended the natural landscape into the garden and up to the house, 
rather than taking the house and extending the living area of the 
house outside and then making the transition at the end of his line 
to nature. He brought nature to his place and then stopped it. 

Riess: That's very interesting. 

Steinberg: That doesn't mean that you can't do it both ways. You can. As 
an architect you're really trying to move it out. I have worked 

with others . I have one very important house that I worked with 
Doug Baylis on for that very reason because I had certain materials 
in that house that I wanted to move out, and I felt that Tommy 
would not move it in quite the same way, he would be moving it the 
other way. A line that I wanted to move to "there," he would want 
to move "here." But whatever we've ever done together I have just 


Steinberg: It's interesting. I've never heard him say that [referring 

to quote above] but I've just felt it. He really verbalized it 

5) Space 

Steinberg: Also, there are other things. Space is a very intangible thing 
in architecture. People look at photographs and they can't feel 
the space. They only can look at the detail, the bookshelves, 
the fireplace: most architectural photographs, if you look at 
them, will have some accent item, a piece of furniture, a piece 
of sculpture. When they photograph a building interior they are 
photographing a detail, and then the building behind. It's very 
difficult to photograph the space, and the space sets the mood. 

Tommy's space, on outside work, was incomparable. Nobody 
touches his outside space. So many people would come along, and 
they'd have a very nice yard, and they'd stick a couple of trees 
in the middle of that open space because it would give shade or 
it would do certain things. 

He would take very bold, strong effects and leave some very 
open holes, and then surround them with trees in a certain way so 
that you had a degree of magnificence in the way that space held 
together, and if you put a tree in it it would clog it. I don't 
think many people really understood how to handle the outdoor space 
really well, and Tommy's outdoor space I think is one of his great 
fortes. You see his details and his pools and his shapes and his 
curves, they are photographable, but his feeling for space is not 
so photographable. And that's what you feel; you feel a special 

Riess: He saved the planting for the last, didn't he? 

Steinberg: He planted at the end, but he knew, when he shaped those curves 
and things like that, he was feeling the three-dimensional space 
at that level, even though he might have used Monterey pines to 
form the wall of space or he might have used a variety of other 
types of trees to form the wall of the space--maybe oaks, maybe 
birch, anything. But he might open up a space and give you a 
great big lawn area and patio in it, and then you'd come through 
another area and you may have it just loaded with birch and you're 
going through a tunnel of birch trees. You'd come out this tunnel 
at the other end, and it would explode a certain way. You might 


Steinberg: come through a tunnel and go into the house and then come out and 
have a touch of tree and then the space would explode. It was 
not just materials, plant materials, but he was really shaping 
rooms out there the way that he did it, in flowing ways: it 
would open up and curve and widen and narrow. 

6) Helping the Client Express Himself 

Steinberg: Tommy really looked the client over so that he had a feel that 

the client really wanted what he had to offer. If the client was 
going to change or bungle or go off and not carry it through he 
tried to anticipate that and eliminate that. He wanted a client 
who really cared. 

Riess: You can pick those people out? 
Steinberg: Not always, but you can to a degree. 
Riess: Sounds like a good skill. 

Steinberg: He had a marvelous faculty for understanding people and what they 
wanted. One of the beautiful things about Tommy was that he had 
great flexibility to design for almost any client, and could do 
it within a framework that didn't violate his own integrity, and 
this is not easy. 

It's like a client coming in and saying, "Give me a Colonial 
home." Some architects would say, "Absolutely not, I won't do it." 

And another architect might say, "What do you mean by a 
Colonial home? Do you like a red brick two-story house with a 
white portico?" And then the architect may take the time to 
explain to that person, say, "Wait, just a minute, if you do the 
traditional Colonial home, you'll have a living room in the front, 
facing forward, and a dining room in the front, facing forward. 
You've got a piece of property that has a road in the front. Yet 
the ground drops off in the rear and you've got an exquisite view 
over the valley looking out at the rear. Do you really want to 
take that living room and dining room and face the front where it 
would almost be looking into the hill, or do you want to take that 
and work it another way? 

"Or maybe you would rather go out and find a site that fits 
the house you have in mind." But in most California situations 
you start with a beautiful site and then you try to take advantage 


Steinberg: of it. You tell them, step by step, teach them, how you can 

really make that building fit the site and then you might adapt 
some of the qualities from the traditional. "I don't really want 
all glass walls on the back. I want a greater amount of closure 
so that I can hang pictures on the walls, but I'll still have 
windows. " 

He had the skill to work with people, to teach them, to help 
them understand, and gain their respect, and yet please them. 

Riess: That sounds reasonable. Is it frequent that architects deliver 
ultimatums to clients? 

Steinberg: Ninety-five percent of the architects, if somebody would come to 
them and say, "Give me a Colonial home," would pass that client 
off without really digging into it to find out and understand what 
it's all about. You have to establish communication. You bring 
your prejudices into a situation and you don't take the time to 
develop a method of communication, to really understand. Sometimes 
a client who seems so rigid, once you start to work with them, talk 
with them, develop communication, they are not rigid. Most people 
are pretty open for two-way communication; they are looking for 
something or they wouldn't have come to me, or they wouldn't have 
come to Tommy. 

Riess: Can you contrast the way other landscape architects work with 
the way Tommy works? 

Steinberg: Some people, like salesmen, you can find some salesmen who have 
the patience and care and try to understand you and please you, 
and they sell you by finding out what you want. Other salesmen 
are very powerful and they just steamroller over you, and you buy. 

Tommy was not pressure. He had the ability to find out what 
you wanted, and to do it within a highly principled system of his 
own. He really didn't compromise his own integrity. But he found 
common grounds for your ideas and his approach to architecture. 

You have to really reach in. People don't always tell you 
what they want. (People will say, "I'm a reader, I never watch 
television," but if you incidentally give them a television in 
their bedroom they really won't mind. In fact, they are avid 
television watchers.) A person may say, "I have a limitless 
budget," and they have a budget that is plenty limited, and the 
other way around. You have to feel and understand whether they 
want a small-budget garden or they really want this very large, 
extensive program they are asking for. 


Steinberg: What do they really want? You have a way of smoking it out, 
and you do it with humor, so it's not a tense, dramatic crisis 
when they are giving you conflicting, impossible situations. With 
a quip you can make them realize that they have given you a 
ridiculous, impossible problem. And they can come back and say, 
"I can see what you mean, Mr. Church. Perhaps my two requirements 
are in conflict." You can loosen them up and open them up. 

But he was a very whole person. To be a good architect, or 
a good landscape architect, you aren't just playing with design 
forms, you are shrewdly understanding people, and he did, he really 
understood people. 

Riess: Sounds like you were in on these discussions often. 

Steinberg: Oh, I'm projecting some of my own experience into this. But out 
of all the professionals that I've ever seen in architecture or 
landscape architecture, I really admire him the most, because he 
did everything with kindness and yet was very strong. He never 
got hung up in tension with a client. He could make the client 
happy and go in the way that he thought was proper for the client 
and he was right in his judgment as to what he thought the client 
really wanted. And he led, in a strong way, but a kind way. 

7) Reputations, Principles, and Other Intangibles 

Steinberg: Generally I'd call Tommy in on fine homes where I was really 

concerned with the client. I'd try too—when I first started I'd 
do small homes and I'd work with the client on the architecture, 
and the landscaping and the interior design, but when you've got 
a larger home and it is elegant, and the client can afford it-- 
I try to concentrate on the architecture, work with an interior 
designer that I knew would enhance the building, and concentrate on 
the details of the building to help carry it out. And I met with 
them, so there was a real coordination between the interior designer 
and the architect. The same with the landscape architect. 

Riess: Is that usual, to include the interior designer so early? 

Steinberg: Well, we've done a lot of really very expensive homes, and I think 
in that range it's not unusual. But I think in smaller homes, 
people try to "do it themselves." The mistakes that a lot of 
people make have to do with their not understanding proportion, 
and they can get a piece of furniture that's too heavy in scale or 









pictures on the walls that are not appropriate. And if somebody 
has really a nice art collection you design the house so that it 
can handle varieties of things. 

I should think having it known that you have worked with Church 
would enhance your reputation. 

Oh, it does. Over the years these houses that we have turned 
out together have been well respected. 

Yet he hasn't wanted to work with you on the motels or churches 
that you do. 

No, Tom has always stayed modest in size, and he's surprised me: 
over the years he's been able to maintain enthusiasm on each job 
that he does, so that it isn't canned. And he's 70 years old now. 
I think that a lot of people in architecture, after they've done 
it for 20 years they begin to tire and they slip, or they pass it 
off to others in the office, but Tom doesn't. And I think that 
he's probably found the greatest regard in doing homes. And doing 
universities has some other special appeal to him. 

Has he ever talked to you about the major influences on him? 

Once in talking to Tom I said, or I implied, that he was sort of 
the father of California landscape architecture. I said that to 
him and he said no, he was very much enamoured by somebody else 
that was in the area, but I don't know who that was. 

I've worked with so many of the landscape architects in the 
area, and there are some excellent ones, like Bob Royston, and 
Baylis--he was a fine person and a real sensitive kind of person-- 
and then there's a whole crop of young new ones there, like Tony 
Guzzardo and people in Royston's office. These are all fine 
landscape architects. But there is an intangible in Tommy. There 
is a special degree of elegance, and a special degree of outside 
space. And the quality of his detail. It may be that there is 
just a touch of formal understanding that goes with the formal 
training, the formal background, that comes through, that allows 
him to work informally but with a very classic elegance. 

Sounds impossible for this generation to recapture. 

Well, there are always exceptions 
his generation. 

But he was an exception in 

Riess: Did he speak of the influence of any architects? Like Wurster? 


Steinberg: I don't know what the relationship was. I think that he probably 
would be hesitant to talk to me about his relationship with 
other architects. He would be very sensitive to people's feelings. 
He would not have spoken to me about other landscape architects. 
If I were to sit down with him and ask him about it, about what the 
relationship was, he probably would have unloaded, but I never-- 
we were always on our subject and the client's problems and our 
project. But it's fun where you go out on a job and you sit down 
and have some fried chicken in a bag, or a coke, out there, 
something like that — it was like going on a picnic, and you sit 
down and talk with a client. 

Have you heard much of what I'm saying from many others? 
Riess: Not of the relationship with the architect. 

Steinberg: Well, I think what might not come out--oh, it might with other 
landscape architects — is his understanding of people is a very 
fine thing. Maybe other landscape architects wouldn't comment on 
his feeling of space, but his outside rooms were just that, rooms, 
spaces, that he blocked out and shaped, and that is a very, very 
important piece of landscape architecture. 

Riess: In the 20 or more years that you have worked with Church, have 
you seen trends, changes, in his gardens? 

Steinberg: Each job is different depending on clients. But I think that he 
has always fallen back on traditional forms. In architecture a 
traditional form would be a bay window, an eight-sided figure and 
you'd have two sides and a beveled edge. He used that form all the 
time in landscape features, where it would be an octagon shape or 
a beveled corner. If he's got a rolling surface behind it he can 
use that as a construction shape that is natural to construction. 
I think he was very sensitive of that stage. I think today he 
would fall back a little heavier on traditional. 

In planting, well, he did a house 12 or 15 years ago, and then 
he did a house for me, my own house, five years ago, and he used 
birches very much the same way. I think he's probably designing 
more with an eye to maintenance because of the change in costs for 
people that do maintaining. He's adjusted to the changes in society 
and the financial position of people to maintain gardens. But I 
think the design approach would be similar. 

Recently, because he was sick, I went ahead and worked out 
the siting of a building a certain way, and then he came back and 
took another look at it and did a rough over it and pushed it around 


Steinberg: somewhat, and though I've gotten fairly skilful at doing it over 
the years, he still had enough of a change there for me to look 
at it and have a great deal of respect. I had it very close to 
what I thought was ideal, yet he came along and gave me a design 
crit on it that was a definite improvement. (And that doesn't mean 
that I wouldn't be able to do the reverse on something that he's 

Riess: Let me be sure of what you mean when you say he falls back on the 

Steinberg: I think shapes come and go in fashion. I don't think that Tommy 

has ever jumped on the fashion of the idea. There is an underlying 
principle that is embedded down deep, but developed in a very 
skilful way. Like van der Rohe's approach to design, it was very 
simple: you take a large sheet of people and put two lines on it, 
and then just move those two lines and study the four squares, or 
rectangles, in those lines. Pure proportion. He doesn't put a 
million things on that sheet of paper, he's just studying simple 

Tommy has an underlying something, that means just falling back 
on a very solid set of principles, using good quality, good design, 
good space, and those principles haven't changed over the years. 

8) Answers to Questions Sent Goodwin B. Steinberg on May 21, 1976 

Questions from Riess: 

1) How many jobs have you done where Church was the landscape 

2) Were there any that were refused for reasons that would give 
insight into his practice, such as thoroughly abhoring the 
site, or feeling that for him the client relationship would 
not be right, or others? 

3) Would you care to specify the collaborative work that you 
especially point to with pride, and which would underline some 
of the points you made in the interview, such as the sympathetic 
but separate treatment that Tommy gave the gardens? 

4) Can you add anything anecdoctal or otherwise 
further sharpen the picture of Tommy's work? 

that would 


May 28, 1976 

Ms. Suzanne Rless 

University of California, Berkeley 
Regional Oral History Office, Room 486 
Berkeley, California 94720 

Dear Suzanne: 

The following Is an answer to your questions in reference to your 
letter of. May 21, 1976. If this is short of complete, it Is due to 
Mr. Steinberg's schedule which has been very hectic. He gave me the 
following summary as he ran out the door. He asks that you accept his 
sincere apology. 

Jobs done with Tom Church: 

Off hand, he estimated at least ten, but feels there are two or three 
more that he does not Immediately recall. Some of the jobs are as 
fol lows: John Welngarten residence, George Long residence, John Mackay 
residence, Robert Klein residence, Da I ton Martin residence, Os Crosby 
residence, Laurence Dawson residence, Goodwin Steinberg residence, 
Robert Sackman residence and Harvey Pope I I residence. 

Refusals by Tom Church: 

Yes, there was one Instance where the building was designed and built 
and then the client Interviewed Tom. Tom decided against doing the 
project. Perhaps the reason could have been either a feeling of lack 
of rapport or lack of direction by the client. In no case was there 
a situation where Tom really did not like the site. I believe 
Mr. Steinberg was very selective In this area. 

Col lobaratlve Work: 

Laurence Dawson residence: Very Informal. Ruth Dawson stressed a no 
maintenance garden. There was just a retaining wall and parking area 
with green shrubs adjusting the house to the hillside. The landscape 
was strictly a natural terrain and the building rested on glue laminated 
columns floating above the site. Tom used a combination of evergreen 
shrubs and meadow forming a carpet underneath the house and into the 
meadow beyond. 

John Mackay residence: The relationship of the stable to the activity 
in the house was done so the stable could be seen from the living room 
window. Unusual but very Interesting site planning. 


Ms. Suzanne RIess 
May 28, 1976 
Page 2 

Dalton Martin residence: The pool area worked very closely to the 
house and under a cantilever roof. Lovely outside rooms developed by 
planted trees. 

Robert Klein residence: Had formal cut flower garden tucked away from 
the outdoor living areas. An unusual entry court had birch trees planted 
to create a forest quality mood as you walked to the front door. 

Other features of Tommy's work were the variety of materials formal and 
informal In developing patios, pools, etc. Combinations of decks, patios and 
retaining wal Is varied depending on the desire of the client for formal or 
rustic gardens. Tommy has a fantastic feeling for shapes and spaces that are 
always three dimensional and not limited to surface decoration. 

Mr. Steinberg said he really could not define any one home he liked 
better than another. Tom's work has a certain variety in his touch that par 
ticularly represents good design. 

Tom did refer several clients to Mr. Steinberg over the years. 
Mr. Steinberg considers Tom to be a very special person. 

I hope you can decipher my interpretation of Mr. Steinberg's statements. 
I wanted to forward this rather than delay answers to your questions. Hope 
this Is helpful . 




(Mrs.) Mary Anne Torrez 
Secretary to Mr. Steinberg 



June I, 1976 

Ms. Suzanne Rless 
University of Cal Ifornla, FJerkeley 
Regional Oral History Office, Room 486 
Berkeley, California 94720 

Dear Suzanne: 

Re: Tommy Church 

Another house that we did together which turned out 
very nicely was Hugo Friend's house In Woodslde. 

Also, before we did the George Long house, we did 
the John Welngarten house and Robert Sackman house together. 
On these two houses, I laid out the actual building on the 
site and worked with the client prior to Tom's being 
Involved. On the George Long house, Tom was hired before 
we were hired and did the site planning and conceptualization 
prior to any architectural Involvement. I think this might 
clarify one of the questions you asked me. 



Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

Thomas D. Church Oral History Project 

Grace Hall 


Interview Conducted by 
Suzanne B. Riess 

1978 by The Regents of the University of California 


Mr. Church's Secretary Reports on the Updating of Gardens are 

for People 718 


Grace Hall 

March 3, 1978 

Interviewed in the Thomas Church Office, 402 Jackson Street 

Riess: How did you get your job with Mr. Church, Grace? 

Hall: I was working for another firm in the city, and I had been with them 
for about 14 years, but there were some changes in the ownership and 
I began to feel that I should make a change. So I went to an agency 
and I explained that I would like to have something else, something 
rather different, and I said, "There's no hurry, because I want a 
very interesting job, and I want to work for someone who's very 

After about four months there was a phone call, and she said, 
"How would you like to go to work for Thomas Church?" Well, I nearly 
dropped the telephone.' I said, "You must be kidding!" 

"No, I'm not, he needs a secretary." 

I went to see him the next day, and I really hoped so much that 
I would get the job. And he didn't make any decision for a few days, 
so I did spend some rather nervous days, waiting and hoping. 

Riess: What questions did he ask you? 

Hall: Not really many, not many at all. But he took about a week to decide, 
and was I ever thankful when he did make up his mind.' 

Riess: You knew of Thomas Church? 

Hall: Well, when we first came to live in San Francisco it was in the mid-1950 
and rather soon after that his article in the Chronicle every Sunday 
came out, and that was where I first became acquainted with what he 
did. And from that time on I guess I was just a fan. 

Riess: Who was in the office when you were hired? 


Hall: Walter Guthrie [ca. 1960-1973] and Jack Valette [ca. 1970-1971], and 
Rick Bennetts [ca. 1971-1972] was the third architect. Sam Ciofalo 
replaced Rick and was here from 1972-1973. I replaced Eurydice 
Uhrman, who was really Mr. Church's accountant --and still is--but she 
had combined the job of accountant and secretary for two years. And 
then she left to go back to college, and kept the job as accountant. 
This was in 1971. 

Riess: Of these men, Tommy was the designer. 

Hall: Oh, yes, absolutely, and Walter was his right-hand man, marvelous, with 
a tremendous knowledge of the engineering side of it, as well as the 

Riess: And were new commissions coming in then? 

Hall: Continually. People were waiting years to get a Thomas Church garden. 

Some were repeat gardens. One lady I think he's done seven gardens for. 

Riess: Interesting that people could postpone getting the garden they wanted-- 
that they were indeed wise enough to wait. 

Hall: There was one lady in Sacramento who bought quite a large property and 
he was away at the time she asked him to design it, so somebody else 
did it and she's regretted it ever since, and from time to time she 
calls, and he's helped her enormously with plans on paper and advice 
when she comes into the office. But she said it's the biggest regret 
of her life that she didn't wait until he came back and then wait until 
he had time to do the garden. 

Riess: Grace, when Tommy became sick, how did he decide what he was going to 
do with his time, when he was able to work; and at what point did he 
decide that a revised Gardens are for People was important for him to 

Hall: First, and most important, he felt that he must finish the jobs that 
were incomplete when he first went into the hospital. There was one 
client, especially, with a very large job, and he was right in the 
middle of doing this when off he went for a long session at the 
hospital. But they said, "We'll wait, we don't mind how long, there 
is no pressure. We only hope that he can come back." And of course 
he did; he went back and finished it. 

There were other small jobs, but that was the major large one. 
And when he could just about walk, with help, we went to visit several 
jobs --he wanted to see that they were being carried out the way he had 
first intended—so we went to several sites where the work had been 


Hall: Then when he couldn't really visit any more, he began to work 
on the book, and I think there the most important thing was when he 
received the copyright for Gardens are for People. Then he knew 
that he could revise it, which was so important. You see, Reinhold 
owned the copyright, and I believe the term was a 28-year period, and 
after that period I believe it would have been reassigned automatically 
to Tommy unless they wanted to extend their own copyright. Well, we 
wrote Reinhold and said, as it hadn't been revised and as they hadn't 
printed any more editions, would they be interested in reassigning to 
Mr. Church. And they did. 

Riess: When was this? 

Hall: Four or five months ago. 

Riess: The idea of a book hadn't been in his mind earlier? 

Hall: Well, there were two things we could have done: we could either have 
put out a complete new book on his pools — but that have been more 
difficult I think to sustain and it would have been more difficult to 
do owing to the state of his health. Now , the book that would have 
been the pools is going to be the final chapter of Gardens are for 

Riess: And in what other ways is the book being revised? 

Hall: There will be many additions, and a few deletions. Every chapter will 
have some work added to it. 

Riess: More examples? 

Hall: More examples, more written work, and more photography. 

Riess: Will he keep the fine old archival pictures and the Humphry Repton 

Hall: Oh yes, especially the quotations. It may be that some of the 

photography will have to be redone; this we will talk over with the 

Riess: What will be deleted? 


Hall: Just a few things. 

Riess: Gardens he no longer wants to show? 

Hall: No, just places where he thinks he has a better example. 


Hall: This project has been in the back of his mind, I think, for 

many years. What he called "the interim book," Your Private World, 
was to record some newer work and ideas and examples until he had 
cime for the last book. People kept on saying, "When are you going 
to put out another book? How about another book?" He was so busy 
in his work, so these articles, which had been in the Chronicle. 
were assembled, and he added to them, and Your Private World evolved 
from this. You see, with Gardens are for People out of print, there 
was nothing for people to buy. 

Riess: People? Clients? 

Hall: Everybody — students, clients, people interested in gardens, they just 
wanted to buy something of Thomas Church's. 

Riess: As far as the swimming pools go, most of them had been done since the 
fifties? Well, I guess the Donnell was one of the first great ones. 

Hall: That was in 1950 or 1951, I believe. And at that time not so many 
people had either the means or the space for a pool. 

Riess: It's interesting, looking at the pools, that the shapes didn't continue 
to evolve from the Donnell pool abstraction, indeed the ones we are 
looking at [referring to draft of chapter on pools] are quite regular, 
and rectangular. I wonder if he sat and doodled pool shapes, or had 
designs in his mind that he would have wished to execute, but never 

Hall: That's interesting, and I'll ask him when I see him. 

Riess: As you work on the book, do you have any sense of which Tommy's really 
favorite works or proudest achievements were? 

Hall: Well, maybe some of the things that he's choosing for the final 
chapter of his book. 

The [Corydon] Wagner is in that, and the [Dewey] Donnell, and that 
magnificent [Louis] Ruskin one in Arizona, the [John] Gilbergh in 
Atherton is in it, the [John] Brookes is in it. 

Riess: [Looking at draft of swimming pool chapter, which opens with a 

photograph of Thomas Church sitting at the edge of a pool on the 
Corydon Wagner estate, Tacoma, Washington.] "Swimming in Your Garden." 

Hall: Yes, I asked him once what he was going to call the last chapter. He 
thought for a long time, and then he wrote out on his pad, "Swimming 
in Your Garden," and that is it. 


Hall: Now this pool is also going in, the [Louis] Goldsmith's. It's 
in a very small space, Suzanne. It's in Palo Alto, and this is the 
photograph, these are the notes, and the before plan is going to be 
there, and the after plan, larger, will be here. 

Riess: Isn't it unusual to show "before" in plan? 

Hall: He did the plan showing how the garden was before and then another 
one completely of it afterward. Before, the house had the driveway 
going all the way around, through the back garden, to the garage here. 
Now he has this glorious garden and the pool in back. 

Riess: I am interested in what his purpose was in doing the plan of the 

Hall: Maybe he had this in mind, to show in a book. Because people are going 
to be terribly interested in this. You see how the outline of the house 
comes and how things are switched around. 

Riess: Of course an aerial view is invaluable. 

Hall: It is unusual. We don't have very many of the before plans like this. 
We have before photographs, and people are so interested in them. 

Riess: Did he ever have aerial photography of a house or site done first? 

Hall: Yes, there's a vineyard [in book] where he had an aerial view. And 
there is an aerial view of a place up in St. Helena which was done 
after the garden was built so we could see the new garden. 

Riess: How has he done the text here? 

Hall: These are mainly his notes. A few are mine, a few that I've gotten 
' from different sources and changed around a little bit. 

It's very hard to say when this will be finished, because it's 
so easy to polish and polish and polish. So we just do as much as he 
feels he can do each day, sometimes up to two hours. He has 
fantastic concentration. 

Riess: Has there ever been a museum exhibit of his work alone in San Francisco? 

Hall: I think there was one at the San Francisco Museum, and I know there was 
one at the Redwood Society up on Montgomery Street. 

Now this is the [John] Gilbergh garden [I960]. His notes give 
it to you in a nutshell. 


Riess: [Reading] "Many people want, on a small lot, what used to be on an 
estate... and it all got there without seeming too crowded. The pool 
is raised because the land was high. Two sides have no path around 
the pool, which saves space. It's a series of outdoor rooms. The 
pool is filled with tile they collected in Spain." 

As I skim over it, his statements seems like lessons to the 
young landscape architect. 

Hall: That I think is what is going to make the book so valuable. It isn't 
just a book for coffee-tables. 

Riess: [Looking at the Pardee Erdman garden plan] This plan is almost 
modular, and certainly very linear. 

Hall: There's no free form at all. It says, "This is a garden for a modern 
house in Santa Barbara which recalls the simplicity and scale of 
classic European gardens. The only immigrants are the Italian 
maidens.. .one-way tickets from Florence to their present abode." 

Riess: His pools are all so different. 

Hall: He did design for the site, and for the people, and if the people 

wanted something that he didn't feel would be right on the site, he 
would say, "I just don't think I can do that. Better get somebody 
else." This didn't happen often. 

Riess: Who was the architect for the Erdman house? 

Hall: Clayton Cook. 

Riess: And the Wellington Henderson house is included here too. 

[Looking at the plan of the Wagner pool] He designed this 

Hall: He designed, in the last years, all the architectural features in his 

Riess: But whereas he knew his landscape contractors could carry out his 

garden plans, he must have had to work differently with the building 

Hall: He supervised every single thing. He was right on the site. Even in 
the East and the South when he did designs he would go to supervise. 
He was away a lot of the time; he was continually going away. When I 
first came to work here he would make so many trips. 


Riess: Costly for the clients. 

Hall: But then it was worth it because it would probably them enormous 
sums if they had a contractor who was doing the job improperly. 

Now this is the Roberts, in Woodside. And this is the Budge, in 
Hillsborough, a long, narrow pool. And in this case the pool needs 
to be rephotographed. 

Riess: I wonder if there will ever be a list published, or available, of 
all of Tommy's gardens. 

Hall: Suzanne, I began it, and I'm about two-thirds of the way through it. 
I am going all through the files according to district. That's how 
he wanted it done. It needs a lot more time to work on it, and now 
I spend most of my time on the book. 

Riess: Of course that doesn't at all mean that the gardens will be available 
to view. 

Hall: Most are private gardens, and viewing them will depend on each individual 

Riess: How much has this office been a sort of headquarters for visiting 
landscape architects from all over? 

Hall: People would come in from all over, sometimes complete strangers, and 
he always was busy, but always delightful to everybody. 

Once he had a request, and this was by telephone, and they 
wanted him somewhere in Iran. This must have been about 1973. I 
went into his office and I said, "There's someone from Iran on the 
telephone and they want to know if you'll be available to go and 
design their garden. There are seven acres." 

He thought for a long time. He asked, "Are they waiting?" I 
said yes, but they didn't mind. Then he said, "I just can't do it, I 
haven't got the time. It would be interesting, but I haven't got the 
time, I've got too much backlog." So he had to turn that down, but 
he did think for a long time before. I know he certainly was interested. 

Riess: Would you have told me if it was the Shah of Iran? [Laughter] 

Hall: No, it wasn't the Shah. But even so, I think the Shah would have been 
turned down. 

Riess: What is your recollection of his opinion of other landscape architects' 


Hall: Whenever people asked for a recommendation, if he couldn't do a job, 
he would say, "You know, I've been so busy I haven't really had time 
to go around and look at other people's work." Now, I've heard him 
say this several times when people would ask, "Well, if you haven't 
got time, who should I go to?" 

Riess: Was he just being diplomatic? 

Hall: I really don't think he did have the time. He always had too much 
work, and when you have so much going yourself there really isn't 
much time to go around and criticize other people's work. 

Riess: For many, seeing others' work would be a source of ideas. 

Hall: Well, his main source was his study of the classical designs, and 
then since then all of the designs came out of his own head. 

Riess: But there are breakthrough gardens, landmark gardens, like the 

Hall: Another breakthrough was the Sullivan garden, a long narrow garden, 
where looking at this particular garden from the end you didn't just 
see a long narrow garden, you saw a very interesting shape towards 
the end of the garden which changed the whole view, somehow, and 
made you wonder what was beyond that shape. 

Riess: And the sources for that? 

Hall: The source was from his own mind. 

Riess: Has he elaborated on his notes on the Donnell garden, for the revised 

Hall: I just started on that with him. 

Riess: And on the Sullivan garden? 

Hall: No, but I think he will. 

Riess: Tommy and Betsy went to Europe often. What did they visit? 

Hall: The chateaux, and the old gardens, the old parks. 

Riess: And do a lot of photographing and sketching? 

Hall: Very few sketches, but a lot of photographs. 


Riess: He worked better from photographs, if he were referring back to 

Hall: I suppose so. I never asked him. And ycu know he was always a very 

quiet man, and so busy, that one hesitated to come in with a whole 

load of things that one would like to ask. But he did work from 

photographs a lot and he would scotch-tape as many as six or seven 

snapshots of the site together so he would get the whole panoramic 

And his photography files are very methodical. It is an important 
part of his work. Let me show you. [Grace Hall and interviewer look 
at photography files organized by details — steps, walls, curbs, etc.-- 
and files organized by clients; those comprise one groups of files. 
There are also files of plans, correspondence, etc., organized by 
clients. Grace Hall refers several times in the interview to the 
Scrapbook, an enormous compendium of pasted cutout articles on the 
work of Mr. Church that has been kept up in the office over the years.] 

To sum up Thomas Church, in a few words, if that is possible: 
He is a great man and the world has been truly fortunate to have 
benefited from the lasting beauty of his designs, and the importance 
of his ideas which have contributed so greatly to the profession of 
landscape architecture. 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

Thomas D. Church Oral History Project 

Lawrence Halprin 


Interview Conducted by 
Suzanne B. Riess 

1978 by The Regents of the University of California 

TABLE OF CONTENTS -- Lawrence Halprin 

1) Histories and Influences 727 

2) Bay Region Styles: The Forties 732 

3) TDC: Personal Involvement and Remarkable Evenness 734 

4) First Impressions and Later Associations 736 

5) "His Own Inherent Style" 740 

6) Some Fine Gardens 742 

7) Consolidation of the Church Office: The Fifties 745 

8) A Little Discussion of "Art" and "Artists" 749 

9) The Donnell Garden: Weaving Shapes 750 
10) TDC, In the Light of Landscape Architecture History 753 


Lawrence Halprin 
October 7, 1977 

Interviewed in his office, The Roundhouse, Sansome Street, 
San Francisco 

1) Histories and Influences 

Halprin: I was very interested in the Zionist movement and after prep school 
I went over to Israel and lived on a kibbutz for a couple of years. 
I had intended to be a painter, and after getting through the 
kibbutz--and I wanted desperately to live on a kibbutz--! thought 
that the most relevant thing to do was not to be a painter but 
somehow to get into something which had some meaning for the develop 
ment of the country, which didn't at the time seem to be painting. 

With that as an idea I went to Cornell to study agriculture 
in a social context. There wasn't, at least I didn't know about it, 
an ecology movement in those days, but I was interested in agriculture 
and the landscape as kind of an ecological synergy, if you want to use 
that word, and I trained there. 

I was going to go back to Israel, get on the kibbutz--which 
I'm still sort of an ex-officio member of --when the war intervened, 
and I didn't go back. I had just gotten married, so I didn't go 
right into the war. I got involved in one thing and another and I 
finally ended up at Harvard, the graduate school of design. 

Now, I don't know how much you want to know about me, because 
I don't want to bore this tape with my background. 

Riess: More about you. Seems like going to Harvard was joining the 
establishment, for one who was looking for more relevance. 

Halprin: That's an odd interpretation. It was anything but the establishment. 
In those days the Bauhaus was at Harvard, Gropius was teaching there, 
1941. And Breuer. Moholy Nagy used to come. Christopher Tunnard 
was teaching landscape architecture. 








Well then it's not an odd interpretation, just unenlightened. 

See, Harvard became an establishment afterwards, but at that time 
it was in a tremendous ferment. It was a couple of years after 
Garrett Eckbo was there, and Dan Kiley. Philip Johnson, I.M. Pei 
and Paul Rudolph were there. What happened actually was that I had 
been at Wisconsin as a teaching assistant and I went over to Frank 
Lloyd Wright's Teliesin East [Spring Green, Wisconsin] one day, 
with my wife, just to see it. 

I didn't know anything about architecture, and landscape 
architecture. It was like a bolt of thunder. I walked in one door 
and walked out the other and decided I must find out more about 
architecture as a profession. I went to the library and found 
probably amongst the significant books in landscape architecture just 
by chance one by Christopher Tunnard. Do you know that book? It's 
called Gardens in the Modern Landscape. It's the only important 
book on the subject that I know of really. And the others are all 

Up to that time? Or still. 

Still. Or, they don't say any more than Chris said, only they say 
it in more pages, or some damn fool thing. 

A book of theory? 

He was dealing with the whole social context of landscape architecture, 
that was the whole theme, and he was trying to deal with it in a 
holistic way, which is to say it is not only an art form but it is 
also a social issue and has to do with transportation and has to do 
with how to rebuild cities and how to deal with what the landscape 
of the world ought to be and how people can live in it. And that's 
why I bristled a little bit when you said I had joined the establish 
ment, because nothing could have been further from the truth. Chris's 
was at that time, and for some time afterwards, the only avant garde 
thinking in landscape architecture in the world. 

Well, I was thinking of the thirties as the Bauhaus era. 
was my ignorance. 

But that 

Well, I don't think you're the only one. I think if I mentioned 
this to the landscape department over there nobody would know his 
name, that is Tunnard 's. 

When Tunnard talks of "Gardens in the Modern Landscape," he is 
talking about a very big definition of all of those words. 


Halprin: Sure, the word garden he uses in the English sense, which is what 
Capability Brown did, and Repton did, and even Olmsted did, and 
what I do. It has not got to do with little piddly gardens. It 
has to do with how you live in the world as a garden, or the Garden 
of Eden. 

What happened was that after reading this book I thought, 
"Jesus Christ, this is exactly where I want to be," because of the 
social interests I had from the kibbutz, and my interest in art and 
so forth. "This is exactly what I want to do," and it is weird 
I had never heard of it before. So I looked up in the catalog and 
I saw "Landscape Architecture"--! 'm very sympathetic with a lot of 
young people now, and if they wonder why I'm so sympathetic and help 
so much young people who are going from one profession into the 
other, it's because I went through the same thing [at Wisconsin]. 

I'm encapsulating this, of course. I saw the only thing that 
said "Landscape Architecture was in Horticulture. I went in and I 
said, "I want to take a course." 

They said, "It's already started." 
I said, "I'd like to take it anyway." 
"Well, why should we let you in?" 

I brought them a couple of paintings and then they said, "Oh, 
okay, come in." The paintings really did it for them, which is 
quite appropriate. 

And after three weeks Professor Aust said, "Oh, it's like 
throwing a duck into water. You better go to a real school." And 
they called up Harvard on the phone and arranged for me to have a 
scholarship, and four weeks afterwards I was there, taking from 
Chris Tunnard who was teaching. 

You say the Bauhaus was in the thirties. The thirties, even 
more the late twenties, was the Bauhaus in Germany. But they got 
disrupted by the Nazis. And Gropius went to England. He only stayed 
there for a short while. He wasn't very happy in England. 

Joseph Hudnut, the dean of architecture who was brought in to 
Harvard to reform the department and make it something instead of a 
rich man's plaything, went out and got hold of all the people from 
the Bauhaus he could bring over, including Gropius and Breuer and 
others. Moholy-Nagy had started a new Bauhaus in Illinois, but he 
used to come and lecture a lot. And they brought in Chris Tunnard, 


Halprin: who as I said was the only thinker at the time in landscape 

architecture. The whole school was in ferment; it was really 
exciting, really exciting; I can't imagine anything better. 

See, people misunderstood the Bauhaus also. They think it 
has to do with form and how you design particular forms. It had 
nothing to do with that at all. 

Riess: It does for architects, doesn't it? 

Halprin: No. Oh, it has to do for those architects who don't penetrate 
behind the surface of things. 

But the Bauhaus had two ideas, and one of them was that all 
art and life are related to each other, and what you need to do is 
take young people and educate them in art and life on an experimental 
level, and don't worry about which discipline is which. And so they 
had Paul Klee and [Lionel] Feininger and Anni Albers, the tapestry 
woman, and dancers, and singers, and [Kurt] Schwitters, and [Oskar] 
Schlemmer, from the theater, and [Lasslo] Moholy-Nagy, all teaching 
there, and they were all teaching together. And the people that came 
out of that (and some of them were architects) knew everything about 
art that there was, film, graphics, everything. It was the most 
incredible school in the world, and it had nothing to do with the 
form of things. 

And the second thing is that they tried to link all of that 
into an industrial society, so they put a lot of these people in 
craft situations as apprentices in industry around the school. 

And so then also they produced things for industry. They said, 
"We are available to design objects for industry in a modern way on 
a mass-production level," and that's how a great deal of the 
industrial design started in this country and all over the world. 

Riess: How does Alvar Aalto fit into that? He doesn't, does he? 

Halprin: No, he was a unique guy. Tommy was very influenced by Aalto. 

(Tommy wasn't at all influenced by the Bauhaus. I don't think he 
knew very much about it. I'm just explaining how j[ happened to 
get there.) 

Tommy and Bill Wurster had spent quite a considerable amount 
of time with Aalto, who was a very brilliant, craftsmanlike 
architect, much looser than most of the architects were around the 
U.S. at the time. Many of the problems that he was facing in the 
natural landscape were very related to the Bay Area rather than the 
East Coast, and so Bay Area architects, who had very little as 


Halprin: fundament for their way of thinking, because most of the theories 
were developed more in relationship to eastern conditions, found 
Aalto a very good paradigm, or model, for what they would like to 

Riess: They wanted a model who was a theoretician, not a Maybeck, or Julia 

Halprin: No, it wasn't that, it was that they looked to someone wholly modern 
who echoed in a more positively modern way what they saw as some of 
their own issues. Because Maybeck and Julia Morgan after all formed 
a transition between 19th century romanticism and modern times. The 
Bay Area moderns were trying to strike out further. 

I think Aalto seemed to them a much more relevant person for 
their time, just as the Bauhaus seemed to me more relevant than 
anything else at the time that was going on. 

Riess: It's interesting that within a short time, 10 years or so, the Bay 
Region had acquired a style that had people coming out here to find 
out what they knew here. Architects here seemed to need very little 
from the east and Europe, and even from Aalto. 

Halprin: Well, as I say, you never know from what you learn. First of all you 
must learn to feel not lonely when you're innovating. The fact that 
he was doing something like what they were doing made them feel less 
lonely, more secure. Also Tommy then got involved with the furniture 
that Aalto produced. 

Well, I'm not sure at this point what the question was, but I 
know that both Bill and Tommy coming to Europe, seeing Aalto working 
there, also perceiving some things that were not being attacked here, 
like problems of social housing and so forth—which was more 
interesting to Bill than Tommy, actually, but Tommy worked on them 
too—which Aalto was working on, and the Finns were working on, this 
brought them a leap forward from Maybeck and Julia Morgan who still 
were working, on the whole, in a context which was non-socially 
relevant and had nothing to do much with social housing or the New 
Deal or any of the problems that were really fermenting at that time. 
And the same thing applied to Vernon deMars, who was Bill Wurster's 
protege—and knew Tommy and Bill very closely during that period. 

Riess: [Laughing] So many people say that "So-and-so knew Tommy very closely." 
I'm just getting sort of jaded about that. 

Halprin: I'm sure everybody claims they knew Tommy. 


Riess: Claim they knew him but then feel that they didn't "really" know 
him personally. That he was outgoing and charming, but for some 
inaccessible. I sense this from men who worked with him, and maybe 
it was the times, or the distance men often keep. 

Halprin: No, I don't think it was the times. I think Tommy was what they 

perceived him to be. I felt very close to Tommy, but I never talked 
at great length about personal issues, if that's what they mean. 
He wasn't that kind of a person. I think there were only perhaps a 
few people who knew Tommy intimately. Bob Howard maybe, because he 
was down at the farm there a lot. And the Gregorys. And Bill, to 
an extent, but even there not so much. I think the confusion is 
that Tommy's friends were social people whom he went to dinner with 
and played around with a little bit. And the professional who wanted 
to be warm and friendly and close—well, Tommy didn't particularly 
want to be. 

Riess: What was Harvard like when Eckbo, Kiley and Rose were there? 

Halprin: It was an important time. They came to Harvard, which was a very 
rigid, staid school teaching authentic ways of designing which had 
grown down from the Olmsted office, but without any attention to 
social context or knowledge about the new way of looking at the 
world in terms of art or anything else. They came there and did 
make a tremendous shift in the school in terms of what they were 
interested in. It started in architecture later, when Gropius came. 
Tunnard wasn't there at the time (when Kiley, Eckbo, Rose were). 
I think that was an important time for them, the three of them, but 
not so much an important time for the school. 

2) Bay Region Styles: The Forties 

Riess: Well, then Eckbo came back, and his firm, and Church's, were the 

two major Bay Area firms in the forties. I have a list I made from 
a San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Catalog on the Bay Region 
Style, 1949, and can see that the firms seemed to divide the architects 
of the area between them. I've grouped them, and I wonder what you 
think it all signifies.* 

*See Rockrise interview, p. 363. 


Halprin: [Looking at names] Well, this is part of the time when I was in 
Tommy's office, so I think I would know some of the answers to 
that. Part of it is stylistic and these guys (Eckbo, etc.) are 
much more formalistic than these on the whole. 

The other thing is that you always have to take in the question 
of personality, too. Working with somebody is like marriage, without 
the fun of sex. It's hard to explain; when you really get to working 
with somebody on a creative level, it's a very incredible relationship. 
That's why when you talk about people working with each other, if 
they really work with each other a lot it's a very close relationship-- 
I'm dead serious about that--on a creative level, and it's very 
profound. And in many ways it's more important than a personal 
relationship. What you're doing is you're spilling out your guts 
with each other, and it's digging into what the real essence and 
meaning of your life is about, which is not just chitter-chatter 
about playing cards with each other. 

So, a lot of it is personal. Does Tommy, or do I, or so-and-so, 
get along with each other, or don't we? You've got to be a little 
careful about getting too profound about it (the distinct lists of 
architects who worked with either Church or Eckbo) for that reason. 
That's number one. It's also not black and white, because [Clarence] 
Mayhew and we, when I was in Tommy's office, used to work together. 
And we worked also with Worley [Wong] and with Anshen and Allen. It's 
not a sharp line. 

But it is fair enough. I think some of it is age, and a lot of 
it is stylistic approach. These guys, the ones you list as working 
with Eckbo, except for Worley, were trying to work much more with 
the idea of form in a modern sense. A lot of the people linked to 
Tommy were more easy-going about just trying to design nice houses 
without worrying too much about form. 

Riess: Okay, and form in a modern sense is that perverted understanding of 
the Bauhaus. 

Halprin: Umm hmm, and it's very perverted. So I think that is part of the 

reason for the difference, and part of it is personal. And also, I 
think if you look through this list there is another interesting 
thing, and it may be more important. Most of these people [Eckbo side] 
perceive gardens as decorations, and the Church people did not. These 
architects, particularly Bill Wurster and Joe Esherick and Gardner, 
perceived them much more as—Gardner Dailey after all started out as 
a landscape architect—perceived it much more as a real essential 
marriage of two spaces, open and closed, indoor and outdoor, and 
treasured that relationship, and were really trying to explore it. 


Halprin: Most of the other guys gave it complete lip service, but weren't 
really interested in it. And so they worked with Eckbo, Royston 
and Williams who have a much more decorative approach, or did, 
than Tommy. 

Riess: I guess I get the idea of what decorative means. 

Halprin: I mean fussy, and formalistic, and paying a great deal of attention 
to shapes, little angles, and very derivative from painting rather 
than from the essence of a landscape architecture. And that ties 
in with a lot of what these guys were interested in in terms of 

3) TDC: Personal Involvement and Remarkable Evenness 

Riess: And as to the personality and personal thing, you've just described 
a creative process, "spilling the guts," that sounds a good deal 
more deep and profound than what I would have pictured Tommy's 
creative process to be. 

Halprin: Well, I really was expressing my own point of view. On the other 
hand, you have to be a little careful about Tommy, because he was 
not an expressive person. I doubt he would ever say these things, 
but they were part of his life even though he did not articulate 
them. The same about a close personal relation, professional 
relationship, with those people whom he really liked and got along 
with in working. 

He also had that same thing with clients that I just expressed 
to you. He became very involved with his clients and their lives 
on a--I don't know what level, but he really liked them and perceived 
them as people whom he wanted to have the same relationship with that 
I have expressed about professionals, and I think that's why he got 
along so well with clients. He was very non- judgmental about clients 
and he really appreciated the best in everybody rather than seeing 
the worst in them. I never really saw him dislike anybody. And 
that was quite different than me, so I appreciated it; I tend to be 
somewhat judgmental and I'm very fussy about clients, and if I don't 
like them I don't want to work for them, and so forth. 

But Tommy really never was that way. He really liked to work 
with people. There didn't seem to be any difference between them 
in how he related to them. That's part of the reason he was so 
successful in dealing with them. And it wasn't put on at all. 







Riess : 


Because I think one of the greatest art forms that he had was how 
he brought the best out of people, and did the best with them. In 
tny way of thinking, that's the most artistic thing he ever did. 

Then it's true that when he would come on to a job, or see a site, 
he wouldn't have his own design response so much as he would really 
want to talk to the clients and find out what they wanted. 

Yes, in a very real sense. And he also would want to look and see 
what the site wanted. Now, he was very good at that, extremely 
good, at both asking the site what it wanted, and asking the people 
what they wanted. 

His ability to get along with the client in perpetuity is really 
also remarkable isn't it? 

Yes, people were very fond of him. But I've seen a lot of con 
artists who tried to get along with clients and be smooth and so on. 
It was just put on, they knew that that was a good way to work. But 
that was not true of Tommy, he was deeply that way. That's why it 

The combination of people, site and client, and architect, wouldn't 
be uniformly propitious each time, consequently the results couldn't 

No, of course not. But most of the time it seemed to me there was 
a kind of evenness about him that also was quite admirable. Many, 
many architects, important ones, are quite uneven because the 
chemistry isn't right, and they inject a tremendous amount of 
themselves into situations. And therefore, some things come out 
brilliantly and some things come out extremely poorly, and some in 
the middle. That isn't true about Tommy. 

Most of his stuff came out quite well. Some extremely well. 
He was much more even in what he did than most of the important 
architects and so forth that I know. He was much more even in that 
than I am. You know, some of my work is extremely good, and some 
is not so good, depending on how it works. 


4) First Impressions and Later Associations 

Riess: Had you heard of Tommy's work when you were at Harvard? 

Halprin: No, except for one time. I remember there was an exhibit of his 
work [at Harvard] I think the last year I was there. I remember 
it very clearly. It was very different than the things that we had 
been seeing before. It was all curlicues and very baroque--sort 
of strange, really. It was not a very good exhibit. It was very 
highly criticized, and I didn't like it very much, and it didn't seem 
terribly serious. It only had to do with private gardens, and at 
the time at Harvard we were all interested in—first of all the war 
was going on, and we didn't know why we should look at gardens, 
which did seem a little weird. 

I recall—I'm just free associating now because I haven't 
thought about it--I recall also that it had nothing to do with what 
seemed at the time to have some importance as a striking point of 
architecture and landscape architecture. Bear in mind also that I 
keep on talking about architecture and landscape architecture, but 
I don't make that much differentiation between them. And also, at 
the time I wasn't sure which I was going to be. So, that's why I 
combine the two words at this point. 

Riess: Okay, but generally a negative first impression. 

Halprin: Oh, yes, I didn't like it, I thought it was foolish, and frivolous. 
And I had not heard about Tommy, nor had anybody else I think at the 
school. He had not got a national reputation. 

The way I got to know him is that Bill Wurster came to Harvard 
the last year I was there, with Catherine Wurster, and we became 
close friends, we used to go on bicycle trips together and so forth. 
My wife loved Catherine personally, as did I. When I went to the 
Navy, they gave me their apartment here to stay in for the few days 
that I was waiting for my ship, and Annie and I stayed there. It 
was up on Telegraph Hill, and she waved good-bye to my ship from there, 

When I got out of the Navy, finally, Bill Wurster had left word 
in his office that when I came through San Francisco (he knew I 
was going to come through) that they should intercept me and ask me 
to work for them. So I went in and they said, "The only thing Bill 
said was that Tommy Church wants you to work for him. And you 
should go down there first." This was the message from Bill Wurster 
who was in the office above. 









I went down, and talked to Tommy. I went upstairs and I talked 
to Wurster's group. And I went away for three days, pounding the 
pavement, trying to figure out whether I should be an architect or 
a landscape architect. Because I knew that that was the turning 
point, "which." 

Was that some particular insight of Bill Wurster's. 
made that decision for you in a way? 

Do you think he 

I think he thought I would make a more important contribution in 
landscape architecture. But, if I wanted to work and be an architect 
in his office he'd love to have me. I think so. I forgot to ask 

Was that because of conversations with Catherine, and it was apparent 
to him that you were more-- 

I think so, into landscape architecture, into planning and so forth, 
yes, I think so. 

And he'd mentioned a little bit to me about Tommy when he was 
at Harvard—we talked a little bit about Tommy and his working 
relationship with Tommy. H_e wasn't very articulate about it either. 

I decided finally, yes; I thought I had emphasized much more 
the landscape in my point of view and I should hang in there with 
it. So, I went and worked with Tommy. 

What was that interview like? 

Oh, he said, "Bill said that you should work for me. I understand 
you're very good, and I'd like to have you come. I'm not going to 
argue with you about salary, so I'm going to give you $75 a week. 
Can you start tomorrow?" I said, "Sure." 

No talk about the future or anything like that? 


You didn't care. 

Why would I care? [Laughter] No, no, no. We didn't talk very much. 
That's all I can remember about it. I remember him saying, "I'm 
not going to argue about it." This I remember very distinctly because 
I didn't know what people's salaries were. So he said, "I'm going 
to give a little bit more than what I should. $75 a week." 


Riess: And who was in the office? 

Halprin: June Meehan was the only one in the office, June Meehan and I. 

She, Tommy and I were the only ones in the office for the first two 
years I was there. 

Riess: He was still recovering from not much going on during the war? 

Halprin: I guess so. We seemed to have enough to work at. The only reason 
that Rockrise got into the office was that Ed Stone commissioned us 
to work on this Panama Hotel, and Tommy realized that it was a 
relationship between architecture at a large scale and landscape 
at a large scale, much more structural than anything we had been 
working on, and that we had to put out a set of working drawings, 
documents, that were much more refined and "professional" than 
anything that we had done up to then, and that the best way to do 
that would be to bring some architect from Ed Stone's office into 
our office who would be able to make that linkage. Rockrise was 
working for Ed Stone at the time, and he [Church] asked him to come. 

Riess: He had had Royston and Baylis; I guess he just couldn't afford to 
keep them on, or they were drafted. 

Halprin: Well, Royston went to the Navy. And Doug-- 

Riess: Maggie Baylis says that he was actually sent off on his own by 

Tommy. I've heard that from Rockrise too, always stated positively, 
that, "One of the greatest things that Tommy did was to encourage 
me to go out on my own." Funny, nobody particularly talks about 
the other possibility which might be to invite one to join in a 

Halprin: Yes, he talked to me a little bit about that. And that was a 

possibility and we mutually agreed it wasn't a good idea. I don't 
know how we mutually agreed. It sounds too formalized in what I'm 
saying. And I'm very glad I didn't join him as a partner, both for 
me and for him. I think it would have been inhibiting for me, and 
inhibiting for him. 

Riess: But it was talked about, it wasn't just the absence of talk that 
decided it? 

Halprin: No, no. So in a sense, that's the same with me, and that is that 

having done that, he encouraged me to go and do well. Except that I 
decided, in that case, I decided that I wanted to leave. I have an 
inscription which I treasure from him in a book he gave me as I left 
the office. It was a book by Siren on the gardens of China. "To 
Larry Halprin, that heel, who loved me and left me." [Laughs] Very 


Riess: And did he send you off with some jobs? 

Halprin: No, no. 

Ricss: You didn't reed that, or-- 

Halprin: I don't know. I had one job as I left which happened to be for my 
father-in-law, a kind of a model of how many young people get 
started. And that was all. 

I just decided to go off. That's all. I felt I had finished 
my apprenticeship, that I wanted to strike out of my own, that there 
were a lot of things that I wanted to do that Tommy wasn't interested 
in, that on an aesthetic level there were a lot of explorations I 
wanted to do on my own that had nothing to do with his style. And 
the world was a big place and I wanted to just get out and do it. 

I really never had intended to stay with him for a very long 
time. But I did treasure the apprenticeship, and the association. 
I thought it was terrific. I learned a great deal from him--on a 
craft level. 

Riess: And that's how he would have thought of the people there, as 

Halprin: Sure. 

Riess: And was he a good teacher? 

Halprin: Only in the sense that he was a model. He never told you anything 
very much, but working on projects with him you observed it. And 
towards the end he gave me a lot of freedom which he just then patted 
a little sideways, "do this, do that." But after all that's what 
I used to do in my office, too, so that's fine. 

Riess: And do you think h£ learned very much from his apprentices? Since 
they all came from different periods and places, and had a lot to 

Halprin: What do you mean by learn? 

Riess: Well, took and used in developing his own further style. 

Halprin: I think that his interests remained the same all the way through, his 

objectives remained the same. I think that each person that was 

there, as I perceive it in all events, influenced strongly the 

aesthetic of the moment, on an aesthetic level. Because the aesthetics 
shifted a great deal. 


5) "His Own Inherent Style" 







And then finally when I left—you asked, yourself, why did Tommy 
stop having creative people come in, which I'll be glad to talk 
about—after that he shifted back to his own inherent style, which 
was almost a shift back to 10, 15 years before. 

Okay. What is his own inherent style? 

I think it's got two things going in it: First, it's functional. 
Have you ever read that magazine article that we did together in 
House Beautiful? "The Backyard, America's Most Mis-used Natural 
Resource." This was a sketch I did. [Chuckles] It was a preamble 
to the book [Gardens are for People]. And it set forward most of 
the principles that were being put forth at the time, that is, that 
the small garden was an important resource for people, that one of 
the things you need to do is to solve some of the functional needs. 
After all, a lot of people were coming back from the war; young 
families needed to have play areas; and the suburbs were blossoming. 
It was the time of the great explosion in the suburbs. 

It's interesting that Tommy had a message that he wanted to get 

Yes. He did have a message. House Beautiful commissioned him, so 
we went down to his farm, spent two weeks down there, and put 
together this issue. 

I see. 

He didn't do a lot of writing. 
Gardens are for People. 

But he did do a fine book called 

But it is a message that he wanted to-- 

That's right, it is a message that he does want to get across, which 
is how people can enlarge their lives through their gardens. And 
that there are some basic principles that are simple, and they have 
not too much to do with aesthetics. They're simple, down to earth, 
Sunset-type points of view. And that's where his great strength lies 
in that he is addressing himself, I think, to very simple basic ideas 
and doing it beautifully. 

Right. And I realize that what we were addressing ourselves to was 
your statement that after you left he went back to his style of the 
earlier days which was functional in its motivation, and what's the 

— America's 

ast mis-used 



House Beautiful 
January 1949 
pp. 38-55 

kjyKHm^ ••"''•' "^rtir*^. 


The land on which you built your house represents 10 to 30 per cent of your 

total investment. Are you using it to enlarge your living space, better your living, and 
provide winter-summer beauty? Most people are not. But they could. And so can you. 

The next 28 pages show yon how to utilize one of your greatest undeveloped 


Halprin: And more formalized design. 
Riess: Axial? 

Halprin: Yes, more axial, symmetrical, classical, and rich. Tommy paid lots 

of attention to patterning in gardens—paving patterns, wall patterns, 
overall patterns. Less to volume, very little to mass. His expressive 
quality was largely light, springing out from hills, on decks- 
cantilevers, not massive. My impression, anyway. 

Riess: You say "rich," meaning textures, materials? 
Halprin: No, rich people. 

Riess: Yes. [Laughter] Yes, by that time, in a way it was all gravy, it 
seems to me. He was just automatically called upon. That's why I 
think of it being somewhat damaging to one's creative output, to 
just automatically be asked. He could do no wrong. 

Halprin: Now I'm expressing a personal point of view. I think it did him in. 
I think he made no forward movement after 1948 or '49, or '50, and 
stopped innovating anything after that. But that's a personal point 
of view. And you know, in a funny way I think that's what he wanted. 
I think he had said what he wanted to say; he was not a deeply 
theoretical person at all; he was very pragmatic, and very down to 
earth, and basic, and that's where his strength lay. 

Riess: Well, and the main emphasis in the fifties was in the public sector. 

Halprin: That's right, in the public sector. It started in the fifties and 
went on, and he wasn't much interested in that, and didn't want to 
get involved in it very much. 

During these past 20 years, almost 30 years, I don't think he 
has shifted his interests much. I think it was all from before that. 
He worked for rich people whom he loved--he liked rich people. He 
talked their language, they talked his language, they got along well. 
There was no social content, there was no abrasiveness, and that's 
what he really liked. 

Riess: The master planning, do you think that that was a special aspect? 

Halprin: You mean to the various universities? I think there too he was 

dealing with elite people on the board of directors, who got along 
well with him. And I don't think he added very much. I don't think 
it was a major contribution of his at all which is a shame because 
he had the potential of being--if he wanted to, and I just think he 
didn't want to--of being a really significant landscape architecture 
in the history of the world. 


Halprin: I don't know where he'll fit. I think he will fit in a very 

important way in having been one of the people who helped shift 
into the modern movement --one of them, because he isn't the only 
one by a long shot. And that he has done some beautiful gardens, 
and simple gardens, without a lot of fuss and feathers, and really 
dealt with basic landscape issues on a craft level, that really 
made a big impact in the landscape. Period. 

6) Some Fine Gardens 

Riess: What are the Thomas Church gardens to be remembered? 
Halprin: Oh, I don't know. I'd have to look through the book again. 

Riess: Pam-Anela Messenger [in her M.A. thesis] talks about the Martin 
garden at Aptos, and the Donnell garden and says that those are 
the things that he's known for and yet that they're really not 
typical. And from what I gather from Rockrise, I would say that the 
Donnell is a lot of your work. 

Halprin: Yes, it was. I'm always nervous about people taking credit because 
the world is full of people who've come through my_ office and 
said, "Oh, Larry didn't do this, I did it." 

I think it's fair enough to say that my hand on that thing was 
very strong, on both a conceptual level, and I supervised it, I had 
the idea of the island in the pool—and so on. Yes, I was the 
designer of it, but I don't think I would have, at that time in my 
life, I probably would never have been able to get it done on my 
own, and I was in Tommy's office after all. I don't want to detract 
from—it's his project. I'm not being equivocal. He made it 
possible and lent his great knowledge to making it. 

I think it's probably true that the Donnell garden is one of 
the important gardens that has ever been designed, and I'm very 
glad I had a hand in designing it. 

Riess: But if it's being referred to as Tommy's most important garden by 
garden critics-- 

Halprin: It was published under our joint names. That's fine. 

Riess: --then could you point to others that exemplify what his contributions 
to modern landscape architecture were? 


Halprin: This one I think is a very good garden, the Martin, and Tommy did 
that one by himself, [p. 130, 131, Gardens] I was sitting there 
and watching him, so I know damn well that nobody helped him on 
that one. I drew it but I didn't have anything to do with that 
garden [Martin], and it's a very good garden. Excellent. 

This was a very important exhibit. [Landscape Design, SFMA, 
1948] The catalog was more important than the exhibit, I suppose. 
There's the Donnell. 

Riess: The two interlocking amoeba shaped things, that's your-- 

Halprin: Yes. 

Riess: The whole thing? 

Halprin: Again I want to say the garden came out of Tommy's office. I didn't 
detail the architecture, George did that, but I did the siting as 
part of the overall composition. I spent a lot of time up there 
supervising because a good deal of the issue was to move these rocks 
around in a good way. And the client and I--I used to go up there 
quite often--! was living in Mar in anyway and I used to go up there 
day after day and move the rocks around with him. That was fun, and 
very nice, and was something that I was always interested in anyway, 
how rocks and nature can kind of mesh. So this was a good experiment 
in that sense. 

Riess: Was that towards the end of your time in the office? 

Halprin: It was almost at the end. 

Riess: Because it must have seemed apparent to everybody then that you were-- 

Halprin: That I was ready. Yes, sure. 

I think another thing that happened was towards the end Tommy 
was away a lot. I can't remember exactly, I think they were in 
Europe for six weeks or something, and he was away enough so that 
going out and supervising everything and doing one thing and another 
it became apparent to me that maybe it would be just as well if I 
struck off on my own. But it was very amiable. I'm more than very 
fond of Tommy. 

Somebody on a professional level would have to go through his 
work carefully—other than the ones who have appointed themselves-- 
somebody who knows about garden design, and decide which is the most 


Riess: Well, who do you think is the dean of the thinkers? You said that 
there's nobody since Tunnard who has a real view of the field. 

Halprin: No, I shouldn't say it that way. I think Garrett has made an 

important philosophical contribution, and has done some articles. 
I suppose I consider that some of the books that I've done and so 
forth have contributed something in that regard. Do you know of 
the RSVP Cycles, for example? 

Riess: I've just read Cities. 

Halprin: Well, that's the first book I wrote. I've written four since then. 

Riess: [Laughs] I know, I pass them all in the card catalog, but I always 
go for Cities. 

Halprin: Well, Cities is a simple, straightforward book. The RSVP Cycles 
is a much more philosophical book. You might read that sometime. 
It has much more to say than Cities. 

This [p. 192, Gardens are for People] was a very important 
garden that he did for the World's Fair which had a tremendous 
influence on a lot of people. I think a lot of that then influenced 
Royston and some of the people who came out of the office at that 

And the Bradley garden is a very good garden. Now, I must say 
I don't know who was in his office at the time of the Bradley garden. 
But those forms were very important as an influence. 

Then I think even here [p. 221]*what started to happen is things 
like this which are less than mediocre, and this stuff which is 

That's a very good garden [p. 225]. 
Riess: A number of your drawings are in this book. 

Halprin: [Chuckles] That's my wife [p. 232], Yes, a lot of these [drawings] 
are mine. I would have to go through it, and think about it. 

This was very nice [p. 159], I worked with him on that. But 
a lot of that was his hand, too. This whole deck. And one of his 
major contributions, I think, was the idea of decks. 

Riess: The Everett Griffin house in Santa Cruz. 

*This and following page numbers refer to Gardens are for People. 


Halprin: This [p. 155] is a very nice small garden — one of the best that was 
ever done, had an influence, a little bit, I'm afraid, on mine. 

This [p. 150] was an elegant city garden. 

Riess: Were those curves labored over, or did they arrive with the 

Halprin: Well, no, what Tommy used to do would be to say, "Okay, you have a 

space like this." The house is, say, like this. And I want to put a 
something here, and then we'll tie it together like that. [Draws 
sweeping one-and-a-half S curve] Okay, there's no sense of laboring 
over that on a piece of paper. You might just as well go out and do 
it. So, he'd go out and--or we would. Sometimes you can either run 
a thing like that with a stick or you can run a hose out there, 
curve on the side, on a small scale project which is private. You 
can't do that on a big project or where public funds are used because 
it has to be contracted and everything bid. But that's how these 
were done, they were just what I said. And you spring these header 
boards into place by driving stakes along the redwood, let the 
redwood find its own form. 

Riess: Then even your contractor ends up being the one who's doing a bit of 
that designing. For instance, if the ground were unworkable 
underneath or something like that, if there were a big rock there, 
the contractor maybe would-- 

Halprin: Bring it to somebody's attention, yes. 

Riess: Or swing the header board in another direction? 

Halprin: Well, not if you--god, no. 

Riess: Better not do that? 

Halprin: No. [Laughs] The point is that much of the elegance and beauty 

of these gardens was achieved working in the field with the workmen 
by Tommy who was an absolute master of the craft of gardens. 

7) Consolidation of the Church Office: The Fifties 

Halprin: I haven't tried to keep up with what Tommy's work was since the early 
fifties. And I haven't seen anything when I saw it that seemed 
terribly worthwhile worrying about. He had good people in his office 
after that but not innovative or enormously forward -reach ing. 


Riess: What kind of an influence had Catherine Wurster and the returning 
Bill Wurster on Tommy? 

Halprin: Catherine had very little influence on Tommy, except as a person. 
They were friends. 

Riess: Well, did Bill and Tommy resume their good old friendship, or was 
that impossible now that Catherine and Bill were married, and 
Catherine such a strong individual? 

Halprin: I don't think they saw as much of Tommy as they had before. I can't 
say how much they saw each other, but my intuition tells me-- 

Riess: She didn't have any impact on him? 

Halprin: Not particularly, except as a person. He was fond of her, and she was 
fond of him. 

Riess: But she was one of those people who really was committed to what she 
was doing. I don't see how that couldn't have an impact on him. 

Halprin: Well, they used to go down on Fourth of July to the Gregory house, 

and walk around in blue jeans and ride on horses, and drink beer and 
so forth, and I don't know how that necessarily would have had an 
impact on Tommy. Except for Catherine's person. She had a very 
straightforward, down-to-earth side. 

Catherine was an intellectual and a philosopher, as well as a 
pragmatic doer. And she was interested in areas that didn't interest 
Tommy, as far as I knew. So, I don't think there was much of an 

Bill Wurster, after he came back, saw Tommy a fair amount, and 

worked with him for awhile, but then later he shifted over to my 

working with him a lot, and Tommy didn't work with him very much 
after I opened my office. 

Riess: Was that a matter of the scale of the things? 

Halprin: He could have done it if he wanted to, but he didn't want to. That's 
what I keep on saying. He could have hired more people very easily, 
but he just didn't want to. Because, after all, I just started with 
one person, and then I had two, and then I had three. I didn't start 
with a big office. I wanted not so much to become big but I wanted 
to work on projects that required a fair number of people working 
on them. But there were some gardens that I worked on with the 
Wuster office, including their own garden. 


Riess: You don't think he assessed himself as being unable to do all of 

Halprin: Tommy, no. 1 think he just didn't want to. He could have; he had 
enormous capacity. I think that he just felt that he was most 
comfortable with a small group of people whom he could direct. And 
that he would limit his practice to the things that he really 
enjoyed doing, and that he could have a personal relationship with, 
and that would not involve large organizations where he couldn't 
have a personal relationship. 

And he had tried a few things, and it's a different ball game. 
He had done some work in housing [Valencia Gardens and Parkmerced] 
but they seemed peripheral to his main interests. He had worked 
with Saarinen on the General Motors with modest success, I think. 
And you have to spend an awful lot of time, you have to have a 
bigger staff than he had, and so forth. I think he just didn't 
enjoy it as much, that's all. He wanted to be his own man. That's 
admirable in a way. 

Riess: Did you have environmental, ecological, relativistic concerns when 
you were in his office, and did you talk to him about those things. 

Halprin: I had those concerns but I don't remember talking about it much at 

all with Tommy because what I remember his exploring is the questions 
we've been talking about, the small garden, how it could fit into 
people's life patterns, how you could aggregate small gardens into 
small communities of streets. I remember the first thing that really 
interested me in the office was some Belevedere houses where we tried 
to link them into a street, which I was very interested in doing. 
Those were the concerns Tommy had at that time: How the small garden 
could profoundly improve and enhance the life of the people who lived 
in it; how it is a creatively life --enhancing resource affecting 
families' lives. 

But I always knew I wanted to get involved in the other things. 
Now, at the time, there weren't major questions of ecological impact 
that were coming up. There were no shopping centers, there were no 
very vast suburbs that were being built at the time, and therefore I 
didn't talk to Tommy very much about that. I remember thinking I 
wished the hell we would get into some of those things, but that was 
sort of towards the end, and I had a lot to do just doing the beautiful 
gardens, so I didn't, no. 

Riess: People weren't talking about urban blight, and so on? 
Halprin: Not very much at the time. 


Riess: How about Telesis? Was it an active group? 

Halprin: Oh, yes, yes. Telesis was active. I was one of the editors with 
Chris Tunnard in Harvard on one of their issues. Yes. But Tommy 
was not very interested in that. I keep on coming back to that. 
He really was not interested in that. 

I think that isn't to mean that he wasn't supportive of the 
ideas. If you asked him about those things he would certainly agree 
that they had importance, but he personally didn't want to get 
involved. He didn't get involved very much. He didn't make speeches. 
He didn't give lectures. He didn't teach very much. He didn't 
involve himself in social issues. He didn't involve himself in 
anything except in gardens. They were his life. 

Riess: And that was probably as much the pull of Elizabeth Gordon who got 
him involved there. 

Halprin: In House Beautiful? Yes. She came in like a ton of bricks, and 

[ interrupts tape] part of the reason I thought she was a bitch was 
she attacked Gropius and the Bauhaus for being unAmerican during the 
McCarthy era, and wrote stingingly--one whole issue—on how these 
people should be thrown out of the country, on an architectural level 
that is, because they were non-American, and were designing in a 
non-American way. I remember writing a burning letter, and a lot 
of people did to her, and saying I never will write for your magazine 
again. She acted like an American Firster. 

Riess: She must have been rabid. 

Halprin: She was a horse's ass, as far as I was concerned. 

Riess: [Laughs] And how about Sunset? 

Halprin: I think they felt that he was an absolute (and I think it's true) 

paradigm of what Sunset meant and was, that in his designing in all 
events, his approach to people, he was non-elitist, although he was 
a socialite. He was pragmatic and addressed himself to straightforward 
issues that were very relevant for the average person. And he had a 
lot to offer in terms of how to do it; people could learn a great deal. 
I think that was absolutely true. And also he was not abrasive. 




It's like Cliff May at the time. Have you talked with Cliff 


Halprin: You ought to talk to Cliff May. Cliff May and Tommy worked together 
for quite awhile, and they were both very similar in the sense that 
both of them were non-abrasive. Building on the thing that was right 
tor the time, and not pushing too hard, and not pushing themselves 
or the world too hard, but just enough to be really good. 

I think he was a terrific landscape architect, and a great 
craftsman, and that the movement he was part of, and exemplified 
here more than anybody I suppose, particularly at the very beginning, 
was a very important movement. But there were people who pre-dated 
him in this movement. 

Riess: And that's the outdoor-living movement? 

Halprin: No, I was thinking of modern landscape architecture, which he didn't 
invent. There was Andre Vera and [Gabriel] Guevrekian in France, 
and that guy in Florence whose name I've forgotten, and Chris Tunnard, 
all of whom were working at it on an artistic level, and [Roberto] 
Burle Marx who in a way is a much greater aesthetician. And so was 
Christopher Tunnard in a way. Tommy was a--I'll say it again—Tommy 
was a great craftsman who understood very profoundly the relationship 
of the materials, including the people he was working with, and the 
craft of making things — in my view. I think that's a very important 
thing to have done. He influenced a lot of people. 

8) A Little Discussion of "Art" and "Artists" 

Riess: And is landscape architecture a fine art? 

Halprin: Well, is architecture a fine art? I think you have to understand 

that there is no field of landscape architecture, there are landscape 
architects, and Landscape Architects. Like everybody else—there is 
no field of medicine, there are Doctors. Some are artists, so they 
make it a fine art, and some of them are craftsmen and they make it 
a craft. Some of them are mediocre so they make it mediocre. 

Riess: [Laughs] And it just depends upon who is in the ascendency one year 
or another, what you read in the catalogs and magazines? 

Halprin: That's right, and even then you tend not to hear the practitioners 
very much, but you hear all the critics. You don't hear Tommy, but 
you hear what someone wrote about him. Or you don't hear about a 
designer, you hear from a professor who isn't a designer. 

Riess: I really do know that. 


Halprin: And that's all I'm saying. I'm not being snide, I am being serious. 
When you ask me, what is the profession? I say the profession is 
what the practitioners in it are. At the moment it always ends up 
being the practitioners and how they are written about by the 
critics. That's all. I have a simple answer when people ask me 
what landscape architecture is for me, and that is, it's exactly 
what I'm doing--what I have done, and what I am doing now. That's 
landscape architecture for me and it's very different from what 
somebody else is doing. I think that's fair enough for Tommy. 
Landscape architecture for him was what he did. And it was his whole 
life, which was another important thing about him. 

Riess: In the very beginning of your Cities book, in your own preface you 
talk about the long search for the meaning of art in our society. 

Halprin: Well, I'm still searching. Landscape architecture to me has shifted 
so much away from the small scale thinking, not size, but thinking, 
about the environment, into really understanding the environment 
and people's relationship to it, and the interaction with it as the 
most profound form of architecture that you can possibly have. It's 
the art of life. And so you say, is it a fine art? It's sort of 
like an 1820s question. 

Riess: I agree. The Bay Area is very self-conscious about those questions 
always, and they are asked. 

Halprin: Well, there are not terribly many profound workers in this vineyard 

around, I'm afraid, certainly not at the University, and even amongst 
the practitioners. There are some very pragmatic, good people in 
the field, who practice and do housing projects and work for the 
developers and so forth. But there isn't an awful lot of philosophical 
debate on the questions with anybody who really knows what they're 
talking about, or are worth listening to, around here, I'm afraid. 

We're getting off Tommy. Let's get back to it. 

9) The Donnell Garden: Weaving Shapes 

Tommy was very influenced by [Jean] Arp, by the work of the people 
in the thirties who were painting in Europe. Part of his trips 
there influenced him a great deal in that regard. The free forms 
that he got involved in, which were not his original way of working, 
were very influenced by the amorphous shapes that were being used 
a great deal at that time in painting- -Miro, Arp. They were not 
influenced by Burle Marx. 


Halprin: People later ask, 'Veil, were you influenced by Burle Marx?" 
They even ask me. "No." The fact is that I was influenced by the 
same thing that Burle Marx was, at that time when I was working on 
the Donnell garden. Because I hardly even knew about Burle Marx. 
But I was influenced by Miro, and Picasso and Arp, And so was 
Burle Marx. I think Burle carried it to its ultimate conclusion, 
and that is, what he did was to take it and use it as a pallette, 
and just sort of plant it down on the ground. What he was doing 
was painting in the landscape, and it's just brilliant, beautiful 
stuff. In a funny way, from my point of view, although I love it 
dearly, it's not the same way that I work, or Tommy works. Tommy 
was always trying to evolve an aesthetic out of the materisl of the 
craft itself. He never imposed paintings on it although he was 
influenced by the paintings. The issue for Tommy was to evolve 
an aesthetic out of the nature of the site, the users, and the 
materials of the garden art, not to impose painterly concerns on 
it. He was searching for a garden art to enhance people's lives 
and enrich them. 

Riess: In Messenger's thesis she writes, "...the broad, curving forms of 
the [Donnell] garden are somewhat reflective of the work of both 
Aalto and Roberto Burle Marx but there is a restraint here that is 
not apparent in the designs of Burle Marx... The design for the 
garden is a clear reference to cubism with its planes of different 
textures and overlapping panels in space, although this may have 
been an unconscious application of such concepts." 

Halprin: Well, I wouldn't say so. I'm trying to remember when I was drawing 
on it, thinking about it. I was very influenced myself at that time 
by the paintings of Miro and Arp, and I'm sure that I was influenced 
in synthesizing in some way those things with the natural landscape, 
those influences of the real appreciation-- (By the way, when she 
uses the word "cubism," Arp and Miro were not cubists. I wonder 
whether she knows that.) 

Anyway, what I was trying to do was to organize shapes that 
would all weave together, almost like a Persian carpet, and 
integrate with that the natural landscape so that the forms from 
the natural landscape would enter it and the two would come together 
in the new form of art which would be natural landscape and man-made 
landscape integrating together. That was what I was really trying 
to do. That's really all I've tried to do all my life. 

It's interesting in a sense that the first major garden I ever 
did, which was that one, was so successful. That very often happens, 
that the first major thing you do is so successful, and then you 
retrogress sometimes, and take a long time to come back to it. 


Riess: Walking into that [Donnell garden] space would be a different 
experience from anything before. 

Halprin: I think so. 

And there were a lot of things: there were views and the way 
the trees were used in it, and the composition, and the idea of-- 
and Tommy had it too, and he did it but he didn't talk about it a 
great deal—of the choreography of gardens. Have you ever read those 
pieces of mine on the choreography of gardens? The idea was that 
one of the essential qualities of the landscape art is that you only 
experience it when you are in motion, otherwise it becomes static, 
and it's one of the major big differences between the small Japanese 
garden, and the American garden, or the Renaissance garden. You 
can see it. There is no kinesthetic quality about [the Japanese 
garden] . 

And a major effort there [Donnell] was using the site. In 
fact, it was thought of starting from the road, the main road: you 
came in, opened the gate, drove up, and that road up was very 
carefully designed so you came up below the swimming pool area, the 
bath house, and then you came around it to the upper area, and then 
there was a path that comes down, around, and goes down in through 
some rocks, and then you come into the space. And that's a long, 
intricate, choreographed sequence, which was the major effort. Then 
when you're in it, the thing itself starts spiralling around, moving 
and so on. 

Now, you see those kinds of experiences I can articulate to an 
extent. Tommy would never articulate it but he sure did it. But 
it's essentially, I think, one of the reasons for his greatness, 
that is that he did understand this progression in the landscape, 
and this understanding--(the word cubism is a very superficial way 
of understanding these things) --that the garden is not just a visual 
phenomenon, but it's something you move around in, go behind, use 
the natural elements in, and play the natural elements against the 
geometric elements, and so forth. 

How you handle all of that is a very intricate form of art, 
in some ways much more intricate than architecture, it's more 
related to theater. In that I think he had great, greatness in his 
understanding of that. Now, that I don't think has been adequately 
talked of. You see, in this [Donnell garden] this is not just a 
curvilinear line, but this is something that brings you, the 
participant, out here, you sort of whirl around here and come back, 
and then this gives you a different sense of motion. 

Riess: Yes. 


Halprin: And the ones in here in Tommy's Gardens are for People I guess I 

like most are the ones where you're moving. They're not just static 

Riess: Well, he does talk about it to the extent that he talks about the 
"arrival" as an experience. 

Halprin: I think he was terribly good at it. From my point of view, one of 
the essential ingredients of the landscape art is this choreography 
of sequence. 

How are we doing? 
Riess: Oh, I know that you've been looking at your watch... 

10) In the Light of Landscape Architecture History 

Halprin: If you have one or two more searing questions? 

Riess: Searing, no, no, but if you have a sort of overview that you haven't 
given yet which you would like to give — 

Halprin: On Tommy, you mean? 
Riess: Yes. 

Halprin: I would say that Tommy has occupied a very major niche in the field 
of landscape architecture, and that he has performed an important 
function in a transition period moving the world from old-fashioned 
landscape architecture and the relevance of how the landscape fits 
into everyday life which has led to housing and small-scale suburban 
landscapes, and people's use of the landscape. He is a very 
important practitioner whose influence will be felt for a long time, 
and is very, very profound. I think it's parallel to what Bill 
Wurster did in architecture, and it's interesting that they worked 

In a sense both of them are very interesting because they were 
great professionals. Wurster never rose to the aesthetic artistry 
of Maybeck, or Frank Lloyd Wright, or Aalto, on an aesthetic level. 
But in a social sense, and on influence sense for good, I think he 
exceeded them in many ways. I would say the same thing about Tommy. 


Halprin: As an influence on young people in the profession, I think 
Tommy's influence is enormous. He had some major figures in his 
office who carried forward and developed from their apprenticeship 
with him. 

You can perceive Tommy and Bill Wurster as parallel influences 
in the development of a style of living in the Bay Area, through 
architecture and landscape, both independently and knitted together, 
that really improved people's lives, personally. That new approach 
to designing architecture and gardens as a total environment for 
people to use, and to enhance the simple pleasures of living, has 
not only influenced people here but also has spread out throughout 
the country, maybe throughout the world. On that level I think 
their influence cannot be exceeded. 

Riess: Nationally now we're talking about? 

Halprin: Even internationally. And historically I think that will be the 
important contribution that Bill Wurster and Tommy Church have 
made. They worked together and they both had exactly the same point 
of view on that level. 

Riess: When you say somebody occupies a niche, I think there are many 

meanings of that, but it sounds basically like a really small space. 

Halprin: The niche? 
Riess: Yes. 

Halprin: Well, then, strike that word. What I'm trying to differentiate in 

my own head as I'm saying this, is that Tommy left out a lot of things, 
which have been carried on by the next generation who were much 
influenced by him. The public work, the public landscape, the urban 
landscape which neither of them dealt with anyway, the inner city 
problems, the socially relevant problems of housing, the streetscape, 
the idea of cities as an important investment of energy and creativity, 
all of those were outside Tommy's purview. As I said he remains an 
absolute paradigm in the best sense of what Sunset magazine is 
talking to and about. And I think that's enough for any one man's 

Riess: I think that's very interesting if you feel very strongly it's not 
just a Bay Area phenomenon. 

Halprin: I think that it isn't. As you go through subdivisions of houses 

throughout the country, even throughout the world, you will see in 
the house and its garden the influence of Tommy Church. 


Halprin: There is his great contribution. He has impressed on the world 

the notion that people's lives are enhanced by gardens and houses 
which are linked together as a unity—as a kind of inevitable living 
and aesthetic synergy. Having shown this and demonstrated how 
valuable it is in people's lives it has become a univeral requirement, 
a way of living for us all. 

Final Typist: Keiko Sugnimoto 



a) Evening discussion: Thomas D. Church and the Northern California 
Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, Feb. 9, 

1971. [Transcript courtesy of Michael Laurie] 757 

b) Thomas D. Church, His Role in American Landscape Architecture, by 
Pam-Anela Messenger, Landscape Architecture, March 1977. 768 

c) An Introduction to Landscape Architecture, by Michael Laurie. 775 

d) Three Designs by Thomas D. Church: Donnell, Wagner, Erdman 778 

e) Descriptive notes on two gardens by Thomas D. Church: Whelan, 

Mein 781 

f) An Interview with Thomas D. Church conducted in 1974 by Charlotte 
McDonald and Carolyn Caddes. from Peninsula Living 786 

g) Vita, Thomas D. Church 787 


Thomas D. Church 

Evenina Discussion with the Northern California Chapter 

of the American Society of Landscape Architects 
February 9, 1971 

Transcript courtesy of Michael M. Laurie 

I come out reluctantly...! can talk about myself end 

Now what I think, I don't really know whether to tell 
you or not. 

I started my practice in 1930. Well, the practice of 
landscape architecture was quite different then than it is 
today. You were a plant sman. If an architect or a client 
called you in on a Job, it was to know what kind of a tree 
to plant in a certain position. If you were to arrive on the 
job and say, 'I think the driveway is in the wrong place, 1 
you could get fired, right then. 

Well, now today, or 20 years ago,the profession has gotten 
to a position where architects welcome landscape architects 
on the job. And the client was very apt to call the landscape 
architect at the same time as he called the architect, or 
even before. So that was a big advance in the standing of the 
profession. Architects like Wurster and Gardner Dailey 
would say to clients, 'Have you talked to your landscape 
architect?' or 'HaV® you talked to Tommy Church yet?' That 
was very flattering except it saved him hours and hours going 
through the whole thing. That sort of thing started 20 years ago, 



Now, in the profession in the offices that are operating 
(we're in the backwater as you can see by just the decor), they 
are really called in as a professional, as a more important 
contribution to the project than the engineer or architect. 
Because people have said to me 'We're all -frustrated archi 
tects,' and the first thing I do on the job is I desian the 
house. I mean, to hell with the landscape. You know, the 
rooms ought to be oriented this way and the drive ought to 
come in here.*' 

Today I am sympathetic but a little bewildered about 
what the position of young people out of school is going to 
be in the field. What their objectives are going to be and what 
their future is going to be. Because there seem to be some 
more important things coming up than what happens in someone's 
San Francisco backyard. 

So, the field has broadened to the extent that the pro 
fession has got to assume certain responsibilities for all 
these things that are going on now. What happens to 
our ecology? If we don't have any more plants, what happens 
to our oxygen? What happens to our water? I am sure the 
profession is going to get involved .in this. This is a long 
way, quite a different thing from what I have been involved 
with. A client has certain needs or wants and how do you 
satisfy them? This is a very crucial thing but it has nothing 
to do with the welfare or well-being of the community. 

Most of my activity has Deen with a personal client who 

has a private objective. Thi:-> may be contributing nothing to 
the general well-being of the country as a whole, however this 
^gjrfhat-. T've__been asked to do and this is the way I make my 
living and it's also the way that I get my satisfaction . Maybe 
that won't happen again. I don't want to tell young people what 
kind of practice, what kind of office I have because they won't 
have that kind of thing. It may not exist for them. In the 
second place, they won't want it. 

I'm asked once in awhile how I feel about minority groups 
and I say I'm very sympathetic to their problems. The minority 
group that I really feel sorry for is the very rich. And if I 
can just help them get their lives straightened out then I 


will have done something for a minority group. 

I*m talking almost entirely about private practice in 
terms of residential work. I don't think that I am the last 
residential landscape architect, but I don'.t think many others 
do it. Yet the need for .'good residential design is not going 
to disappear in this generation. It may in the next generation 
if we're all living in condominiums. 

How does a young person decide what to dot work for the 
forest service, planning commission, the government or a 
private office? You're not goina to make a lot of money out 
of it. So what gives you the most pleasure? Is it designing 
a great marina, a sub-division or a park or what not, or is it 
doing small gardens? Our gardens are small. They're expensive 
but they're small. And that's the question: How are you going 

" » 

to get the most pleasure out of your practice and out of what 



you do, what you think and the people you tneet? Some of the 
established professionals drop private gardens as soon as 
possible. When you first start out you take anything. You've 
got the telephone bills coming in. The minute you can drop 
private work the average office does so and goes into supposedly a 
remunerative operation. Now I don't understand this because 
we did this oncej went into commercial work and university work 
and we were losing money. We went back into residential work 

and started making money again. Why is this? Why d6 these 

guys drop it? They do/for -two reasons. One is that it doesn't 

make enough money and second, they don't want to meet ladies... 
'My lawn is sinking...* and so on. I like those ladies. 

- — ' •» 

And I like talking to them on the phone j I like holding their 
hands. \ like everything about it. I charge quite high fees 
for it. If you're going to keep even a small office open to 

do private residential work you need fees which will let you 

An interesting 
stay open. / thing about fees is that you can get better 

fees in California in residential work than you can in 
Connect icutt or any place on the East Coast, because they're 
used to the nursery landscaper doing their plans for nothing. 
The guy makes his money when he does the job. The idea of 
paying somebody $500 or $1,000 Just for a drawing is difficult 
to accept. That's what I found 20 years ago when I started 
going East to do a lot of work. Today it is not so true 
anymore. After all I'm 3,000 miles away. They saw something 
in Hou se Be au t i f u 1 so the fact that my fees are twice as much as 
the local guy doesn't matter. My fees are still at the point — 
we've never done much bookkeeping on that. If we come out at 
the end of the year in the black we don't care. We don't add 



it up. When we started adding it up this year we found we 

were losing a lot of money. Some other job was making it up, 

of course, but we were losing money. So the fees went up. 

I've talked too long and I want to get into a question and answer 

period now. 

Q: So far you've spoken mainly about residential work but 
at the University of California at sAnta Cruz, you've con 
tributed a great deal to that campus and I'd like to 
hear a little bit about your philosophy of campus landscape 

A: I get invited quite often to talk about my philosophy. 
And I wish I knew what it was... You know if you're busy. Some 
people can analyse what they're doing, explain the philosophy of 
their design and so on. This is something that the Lord 
didn't give me. Other people have been able to do it. It's 
not always right, but... What my philosophy of design is. I'll 
'come back to the question in a moment — My 'philosophy* is that 
the client is usually right. I have a lot of arguments over 
that one. I talk to a lot of landscape architects all over the 
country and they say, 'You know, if it weren't for the goddam 
architect and if it weren't for that client, I could do a good 
Job.' So where are you? Building an ivory tower for yourself. 
That's not the point. The point is that the client has certain 
ideas of what it is he wants. Your problem is first to take his 
ideas, if they're any good at all, and make something out of 
them. Maybe it isn't what you would do, but if you've got 
a clean sheet of paper and no client or a problem and a house, 
you're going to do what you want to live with. That's not the 



point, it's what they ' re going to live with. So if you find that 
a client has lousy ideas, you keep a complete dead pan. You 

don't You work very carefully with him and you 


can come out with something good but is still what he wants. 

I do a great many one-day, one-contact conferences. The 
architect, builders, whoever is involved, are all there that 
day. The idea is to pull the job together and decide what's 
going to happen. There's enough talent in that group to 
carry out any ideas that come up during the dayj the Client's 
ideas, anybody else's ideas. I send back a preliminary, fairly 
firm drawing and that's the last of it. 

3£ in the first ten minutes, I am asked about all the 
problems, 'what do you think? 1 I say^'I don't think anything; I 
wish I hadn't come.' I make a bargain with them. 10 o'clock 
we'll walk around for an hour and look at the drawings and they 
talk for the first hour about what they want, what they don't 
like, what what they'd like to have if they could 

afford it. And I tell them what's good about them. I tell 
them anything I have. We sit down and sketch because I always 
make sure that we've got a topo and a card table and we roll 
the thing out and we sketch it. So you have about five 
client/professional conferences all going on in that same dayj 
instead of going back to the office and producing a drawing 
and they say 'I don't like it,' so you go back and do some more. 
By three o'clock we have an accepted preliminary design scheme 
that the architect approves of, that the client approves of 
and all you have to do is go back and draw it up. That's one 
day. That's $500 plus travel. Which isn't very much to make 




on a job, but if that's the end of it... This is what's known 
as a consulting practice. 

I have three draftsmen now and that just about does the kind 
of practice that I'm interested in; each of us can choose 
what we want. 

When. T st-nrt->:»d_J.t wouldn't have occurred to anyone to 
have done anything but private gardens in the thirties as a 
landscape architect. The other kind of practice wasn't avail 
able then even if it had been to Olmsted much earlier. 

Qi How many offices were there in thefeay area when you started? 


A: Four or five. Gilkey. Cojton. Van Pelt. Cdrmak and 
some others. All doing mostly private work. 

Qi Your involvement in University campus work must involve 
a philosophy of living and teaching in a way which is separate 
from your relationship with clients in residential garden work. 

A i I am devoted to the S*nta Cruz campus. We got the 
buildings where we wanted them and we think we'll save the 
Redwoods if they cut the registration to 15,000. But I think 
I have been more successful at U.C. Berkeley and Stanford . 
Maybe it's because there's an existing pattern, you can see 
what you're doing. Remodeling is great because you see the, 
before and the after. When you're starting something fresh 
you only see the after. I have great hopes for Santa Cruz. It's 
like San Francisco. In spite of highrise buildings and 



freeways, you can't ruin San Francisco. The site is so 
dramatic that it takes an earthquake or something terrific 
to change S»n Francisco. But you can ruin San Francisco 
eventually and you can ruin the Santa Cruz campus eventually. 
2,000 acres of record-growth Redwoods. It looks as though 
no matter how many people, buildings and roads are put in, 
you couldn't possibly ruin that campus. It hasn't been ruined 
to date. The library which is 160 foot square, four stories 
high, is only a few hundred feet from the next building, which 
is 400 feet long and four stories high and you can't see one 
from the other. There are so many trees. Well, if we disturb 
the drainage patterns enough and we put too many people in 
there it's going to have some effect so many years from now. 
30 years from now, when the campus is finished and supposedly 
27,000 students are there, seven times the present number, 
it's not going to be the same as it is now. 

Q: If you had to do the Santa Cruz campus today aqain what 
would you do differently? 

At I would gJ-art- t-h«a master plan desir"**^ *•*" ™-»* my***- 

instead of the buildings. That is a rough terrain. I worked 

on the master plan team and we had an aerial overlay which was 
accurate enough for our purposes. But we were so fascinated 
bv the buildina aroups and their relation to each other we 
fiaured the roads could be worked out. But when the first 
buildings started we found the topoorraphic condition so rouah, 
the road had to be done and then the buildings had to be shifted 



We could have saved a lot of trouble and reoraanization. 
Althoucrh the overall concept was not basically chanored. 

Q: What is planned ^or the open meadow areas at Santa Cruz? 

At I can only think of Black Anous. The central meadow 
still at the moment remains untouched. 

^Discussion of Santa Cruz followed; also Stanford and university 
campuses in oeneral. Not transcribed.) 

Qt I am sure that you have experimented In the early days with 
new ideas from architecture and art. Are you still experi 
menting? Once you have complied with all the constraints and 
the clients' wishes, there is still an element which is yourself. 
I have seen a change in your design direction in recent years 
and I don't think it is to do with the clients. It^is to do 
with your own fee linos about desian and form. What do you 

*- __ __ __ _ ----- - __ 

think these influences are and are you still experimenting? 

A i I dp kid myself that I produce for a client what they think 
they want. There's another face to that which we call in the 
office the "shock treatment." That is to suggest somethino 
so different from anythincr that is in the client's backoround, 
thinking, etc, that there is a, 'Gee, that's great; never would 
have thought of it,' reaction. They are still basically 
oettina the things which they think they want. And maybe 
that's what you detect. I don't know. 

(Example of 10-foot wide swintmina pool 'round edge of small 
Georgetown garden to save trees in center.) 



Q: A aood many of your forms are formal and strict. Through 
the years you see the same quality. This form gives your 
work quality. Have you ever done much whirlygiq stuff? 

A: I'll tell you. After Garrett worked /in the office for 

a few weeks, I experimented with it. 

Discussion of formal/informal desiant plant growth hides 

asymetric plan. 

What people are after is a feeling of relaxation. This is 
informal but the ^asymetric plan may be relaxing. 

Q: What is the difference between gardens designed by you in 
1940 and those you are designina in 1965 or '70? 

A: In the early forties I'd studied all the great gardens, 
with terraces and architectural masonry. Like Capability 
Brown we did away with that but now by the sixties I'm back 
to the formal layout, a complete circle. I think I'm treating 
them more delicately not concentrating on the line itself but 
just the basic lines, the bones. No matter how much you hide 
it it's still there. The basic outlined with the third 

dimension results in something easy to look at with more severity. 
You start out with a formal layout, then do an informal overlay 
on it in three dimensions, then it really goes wild. If you've 
dot a natural formation like woods or swamps that's another thing, 
but i^ you're starting with a flat acre in a sub- division, sur 
rounded by other houses, fenced, you can't paint nature inside 
of that and aet it to come in and say anything. 



I'd like to hear your ideas on the role of the conceptual 

as oppcsed to many of the things which are analytical 
in basis. There is a sense, for example, if you analyze a prob 
lem in sufficient depth that the design falls out of the analysis 
One of the outstanding charcteri sties that has come out of your 
practice is conceptual design. Where does form come from in 
the design process? Given a site, client, prooram, someone 
has to give them form. Your forms are very disciplined. 

As I like what you say and it is a great compliment, 
I can ^gay^ is that it must be 

A- It is his ability to make decisionsjas an extension of the 
analytical process. 

A i I^dp^have the tendency to makethe decision, and analyze it^ 


Qt You have established your name as a landscape architect on 
an international basis. Have you developed a formula of activity 
which led to this? A process or a program? 

At (D. Baylis) The moment that you have gardens made and some good 
photographs, it follows. He photoaraphed his own gardens. H« 
works and turns out gardens. Who else does that? 

At The only kind of practice that I'm interested in is a design 
process which I do myself. That's why I stay small. In the 
fifties we had enough of a reputation, Jobs coming in from all 
over the country, I could have had 50 or 60 draftsmen > but that 
didn't interest me then and still doesn't. 


Landscape Architecture, March 1977 

Thomas D. 

His Role in 

by Pam-Anela Messenger 

The Wall Street crash of 1929 drast 
ically altered the scope and nature 
of the work of American landscape 
architects and architects. The num 
ber and size of large private firms 
that subsisted on the "great places" 
was significantly reduced, and 
smaller practices with a different 
clientele emerged. By 1933, when 
the economic revolution was under 
way, there were a vast number of 
moderate upper-middle-income sub 
urban and rural residential properties 
which necessarily brought about an 
entirely new approach to design. 
This epochal change was guided in 
large part in California by the work 
of one man, Thomas Dolliver 

Church, the "Grand Old Man" of 
landscape architecture,! began his 
career in San Francisco at the bottom 

of the depression. The route to a 
burgeoning practice was quite natur 
ally a circuitous one. 

He was born in Boston on April 
27, 1902, to Albert and Wilda Wil 
son Church. His father was an in 
ventor who developed the first wide 
ly produced washing machine, and 
his mother, an elocutionist, appeared 
on some of KGO radio station's 
earliest programs in San Francisco. 
She also coached drama at 
the University of California, Berke 
ley. 2 His career as a garden designer 
may well have begun long before 
any formal training: His mother 
swears that he showed an unusual 
interest in flowers at age three; at 
12 he redesigned the family garden. "3 

The landscape "prodigy" entered 
law school, however, at the Uni 
versity of California, Berkeley, in 



1918, thus following in his grand 
father's footsteps. A course in the 
history of landscaping spurred his 
decision to change his major and he 
completed his degree in landscape 
architecture in 1922. From Berkeley, 
he went to Harvard for a master's 
degree. He won the Sheldon Travel 
ing Fellowship and his studies of 
gardens in Italy, France and Spain 
provided material for his thesis, "A 
Study of Mediterranean Gardens and 
Their Adaptability to California 
Conditions (1926-1927)." 

Church returned to the United 
States in 1927 and taught at Ohio 
State for two years. He came back 
west in 1929 to teach at the Univer 
sity of California, Berkeley, and 
began to work for Floyd Mick, the 
Oakland landscape architect. 

Church's first major job in 1929 
was the design of Pasatiempo Estates, 
near Santa Cruz, for golfer Marion 
Hollins. In this first large assignment. 
Church demonstrated his great sen 
sitivity to site conditions. Each house 
was thoughtfully situated so as not 
to disrupt the area's character and at 
the same time have its own special 
aspects. The houses and the gar 
dens reflected the vogue for Medi 
terranean design especially favored 
in larger country estates in southern 
California. 5 These smaller versions 
of the Spanish-Mexican courtyard 
house reflected not only the concept 
of outdoor living but also fulfilled 
the client's demand for low main 
tenance gardens. Church's character 
istic restraint in design and his use of 
native plants cut costs in time and 
money without sacrificing beauty 
and usefulness. 

Pasatiempo Estates occupied a 
major portion of Church's time for 
about three years, but in 1932 he 
opened his office in a small ware 
house in San Francisco at 402 Jack 
son Street. Today the neighborhood 
has become Jackson Square, a land 
mark district of San Francisco, and 
the old warehouses have been trans 
formed into fashionable shops and 
designers' offices. 

"We started our practice in the 
bottom of the depression when sim 
plicity and ease of maintenance were 
basic requirements. We soon realized 
that good design was not only com 
patible with this idea but that the 
two were madly in love. "6 Church's 
clients 44 years ago were not neces 

sarily wealthy. Gardens, therefore, 
had to be functional, withstand high 
use with minimal maintenance and 
cost. Church sought to recapture the 
sympathetic relationship between 
house and garden, and the feeling 
for scale that had been intrinsic in 
the gardens of Le Notre, as well as 
in Renaissance Italy and 19th century 
England. 7 and to combine that rela 
tionship with a simplicity of solu 
tion. 8 

As a member of the editorial staff 
of California Arts and Architecture 
in the early '30s, he defined Ameri 
can gardening heritage and discussed 
design principles. He stated that, 
"Our garden heritage has come 
mainly from this English landscape 
gardening precedent; also from the 
vulgar German adaptation of the 
French parterre garden,"^ and 'This 
is a new era in garden making, be 
cause while many things have en 
tered our life to make the problem 
complex, our ideas and requirements 
tend toward simplicity of solu 
tion. "10 

The bulk of Church's work in the 
early '30s was for small gardens 
on San Francisco townhouse lots. 
He strongly advocated the garden as 
an outdoor living-room, described 
by Fletcher Steele as early as 1924. H 
Church was not the first nor the 
only designer of the time to subscribe 
to this theory, but he was probably 
the one designer most responsible for 
the wide application of it in northern 
California. He urged an end to the 
usual front lawn with foundation 
planting around the house, typical 
of the American front yard. 12 
Porches, verandas and terraces be 
came generous areas for activities, in 
keeping with Steele's suggestions,!^ 
and were integral parts of the house 
and the entire garden. The new ap 
proach was still somewhat formal 
when executed and drew rather 
heavily from the past. Typical was 
Church's own San Francisco garden 
of 1934,14 an interesting geometric 
design of clipped hedges and topiary, 
reminiscent of 17th century French 
Baroque gardens, 15 yet seeming to 
have been designed without any con 
sideration for function or active use. 

During this era. Church wrote a 
series of articles for California Arts 
and Architecture on the small gar 
den, illustrated with photographs 
and plans of his garden designs. Un 

fortunately, this garden type was 
seen by some as a style and was 
even given the rather inappropriate 
title of Formist.16 The style was 
mimicked elsewhere indiscriminately 
and without consideration of its ori 
ginal concept for outdoor living.17 

In 1937 Church went to Finland 
and met Alvar Aalto.18 It has been 
suggested that Aalto's work has had 
a significant influence upon Church's 
subsequent designs.19 In later years, 
Thomas Church and his wife, Eliza 
beth, delved into the interior design 
and furniture business. They had a 
small showroom and the San Fran 
cisco franchise for Aalto's glassware 
and furniture.20 The curvilinear 
forms and asymmetry of Aalto's 
building, furniture and glassware de 
signs are easily applied to garden 
forms, i.e., in the Donnell garden. 
There the composition of space and 
the treatment of edges in particular 
are approached in a different manner 
from that previously seen in garden 

In an exhibition of landscape 
architecture sponsored by the San 
Francisco Museum of Art in 1937, 
where several avant garde European 
designers as well as noted Americans 
exhibited their work, Thomas Church 
was awarded first prize for a city 
house and garden design. The public 
ballot agreed with the exhibition 
judges and further voted a special 
mention for another Church entry.21 

Thomas Church had already ad 
vanced a great deal in freeing Cali 
fornia gardens from the hackneyed 
Spanish ox-cart tradition^ and from 
that English gardening precedent 
that would glorify a specimen mon 
key-puzzle tree on an expanse of 
park -like grounds. Church never 
rejected the past in toto because he 
recognized, from an artist's view 
point, the value of lessons learned 
from his predecessors. From 1930 
almost to the next decade. Church 
stuck to the principles of a carefully 
calculated, although eclectic, system 
of design, even though he was con 
tinually experimenting with new 
forms and materials. 

In dealing with the typical town- 
house garden of San Francisco, 
Church began experimenting with 
angles and forms which would visu 
ally alter the apparent size of the 
garden spaces. In 1937, he designed 
for Mr. and Mrs. Jerd Sullivan one 

such garden which was featured in 
many magazines and which seems to 
have had a great impact upon other 
designers, as well as on the public. 
The final design was chosen from 
four different schemes. 24 Through 
the use of diagonally planted hedges 
and paving strips, the garden was 
made to have a less linear appear 
ance. Not only is the garden visually 
interesting, but it also achieves the 
goal of low maintenance by using 
concrete mowing strips and slow- 
growing hedges requiring clipping 
only two or three times a year. 

At the time, a great fervor was 
sweeping the design world. The 
theories of people like Walter 
Gropius, Alvar Aalto, Moholy- 
Nagy, Piet Mondrian and others 
were zealously discussed by students 
and contemporary designers as ex 
periments in new ways of perceiving 

Occasional exhibits in conjunction 
with other artists and architects were 
the opportunities that Church took 
to delve into abstract theory and 
forms. 25 

As the World War II effort in 
creased, designing private residences 
and gardens became less and less 
possible. Labor and materials were 
virtually unobtainable. Architects 
and landscape architects turned 
toward housing projects for their 
livelihood. Valencia Gardens, in the 
Mission District of San Francisco, 
was one of the more significant pro 
jects at that time for Church's of 
fice. 26 it was part of the Housing 
Administration's slum clearance pro 
gram. Church and architects William 
W. Wurster and Harry A. Thomsen, 
Jr., sited the buildings according to 
climatic conditions so that the large 
public courtyards would receive sun 
light without winds. Low brick walls 
lineJ the broad, curving raised beds 
in a somewhat formal design, appro 
priate to a city development of this 
kind. Apparently it was the correct 
approach since the project may be 
seen today in much the same form 
as when it was completed in 1943. 

A breakthrough in Church's office 
was the Metropolitan Life Insurance 
Company's San Francisco project 
known as Parkmerced.27 Metro 
politan Life purchased a 200-acre 
golf course site; the planning began 
in 1941, but not until 1950 were the 
eleven 13-story buildings and the 113 


two-story buildings completed. 
Architects Thomsen and Wilson with 
Church designed those garden apart 
ments so that every living room 
faced a landscaped patio. On this 
impressively large scale, the auto 
mobile was separated from the 
dwellings via pie-shaped blocks and 
internal courts.28 Parkmerced was 
very popular and like Valencia Gar 
dens exists today in its original basic 
form and layout. 

Jobs began to come in from all 
over the country and Church's repu 
tation spread. Still, large jobs and 
commercial projects remained part 
of the range of work. The nation's 
first central-mall shopping center 
was designed in Framingham, Mass 
achusetts, and Thomas Church and 
Associates were the landscape arch- 

The Donnell garden (1948, in col 
laboration with Lawrence Halprin 
and George Rockrise) was designed 
on a hilltop encircled by native oaks 
and overlooked the Sonoma Valley. 
No buildings existed on the site when 
the pool and terrace were built. The 
broad, curving forms of the garden 
are in some ways reflective of the 
work of both Aalto and Roberto 
Burle-Marx, but there is a restraint 
here that is not apparent in the de 
signs of Burle-Marx, and the absence 
of any attempt to reproduce a two- 
dimensional composition on a three- 
dimensional space. The design for 
the garden is a clear reference to 
Cubism with its planes of different 
textures and overlapping panels in 
space, although this may have been 
an unconscious application of such 
concepts. It differs from the stand 
ard abstract art forms applying the 
principles of Cubism — the con 
tinuous changing positions of objects 
in space; simultaneity, etc. — in 
three dimensions rather than two. 
The entire scheme not only coheres 
internally, but extends to the coun 
tryside. The shape of the pool and 
the edges of the paving are actually 
repetitions of the forms of the rolling 
hills and winding salt marshes of the 
valley. The sculpture by Adaline 
Kent was designed expressly for the 
pool and its form derived from the 
same sources. "We knew it was 
something special," recalls George 
Rockrise.30 The Donnell garden 
owes a great deal of its beauty and 
success to the combined efforts of a 

group of artists and not to a single 
designer alone. 

In the same year, 1948, other 
gardens, like the Martin residence at 
Aptos Beach, were publicized and 
became gardens for which Church is 
most widely known. This is par 
ticularly interesting because such 
gardens represent only a small por 
tion of Church's work and are not 
characteristic of his entire career, but 
only of a period. 

The Donnell and Martin gardens, 
like nearly all of the work that has 
come out of Church's office, are 
today, nearly 30 years after their 
construction, intact and possess a 
timeless quality. This fact is what 
has enabled Church to maintain his 
excellent reputation. 

It is well known that a landscape 
architect's design or an architect's 
design can only be as good as its 
execution. A negligent contractor 
can easily destroy the design con 
cept. Church, throughout his career, 
has maintained a close surveillance 
over the construction of his gardens. 
For many years he ran his own con 
struction business so that his gar 
dens were designed and built by him 
and his staff. For almost 40 years, 
going back to their first associa 
tion at Pasatiempo, Floyd Gerow 
worked closely with Church. To 
gether they made a team which 
seemed destined to succeed. Their 
close relationship and rapport made 
possible the design and construction 
of many gardens without the neces 
sity of detailed working drawings. 

By the early 1950s, Church's 
reputation had spread over the 
world. His employees, his colleagues, 
his clients and the general public 
were enchanted by Thomas Church 
the landscape genius as well as by 
Tommy Church the personality. 

In those busy years of the '50s, 
when Casey Kawamoto and Jack 
Stafford were part of his staff. 
Church took on such large-scale pro 
jects as the award-winning General 
Motors Technical Center in Warren, 
Michigan, where he worked with 
Eero Saarinen.31 He became the 
landscape architect for U.S. embas 
sies in Havana, Cuba, and Rabat, 
Morocco. In 1951, he was awarded 
the Fine Arts Medal of the American 
Institute of Architects, the highest 
honor conferred by the A. I. A. in 
fields other than architecture. 


In 1955, Church published his first 
book. Gardens are for People,^ in 
which he expounded his design 
theory and illustrated his gardens 
with his own photographs. 

Even though large-scale commer 
cial and institutional projects brought 
renown to Church's office, he dis 
covered that they were not profit 
able. 33 Many of his colleagues have 
said that Church's forte has always 
been the design of the private gar 
den and that he preferred to main 
tain a small office in order to have 
more control over the quality of 
work that bore his name. 

The only kind of practice 
that I'm interested in is a design 
process which I do myself. 
That's why I stay small. In the 
'50s we had enough of a repu 
tation — jobs coming in from 
all over the country — 7 could 
have had 50 or 60 draftsmen, 
but that didn't interest me then 
and still doesn't. 

The need for good residential 
design is not going to disappear 
in this generation. 34 
A closer look at several of his out 
standing works has many rewards: 

1936: The Clark House 
Woodside, California 

In this early garden from the mid- 
'30s, Thomas Church combined a 
variety of theories from the historical 
past and blended them with forward- 
looking design concepts of the day. 

The site, in the rolling Woodside 
Hills, was surrounded by scattered 
native oaks and some shrubs. The 
ground was a hard, clayish sand 
stone and there was virtually no 
vegetation on the property itself at 
the time of construction. 

The owners collaborated with 
Church to obtain a design that would 
fill all their requirements and satisfy 
their aesthetic leanings. Architect 
Hervey Parke Clark and Church 
sited the house together, the final 
position being chosen because it had 
the least severe site constraints and 
allowed for the desired entrance and 
garden orientations. One of Church's 
criteria for the siting of a house had 
to do with orienting different rooms 
in the house to desired exposures, 
e.g., the kitchen and breakfast area 
to the east, etc. When the position 
was selected, the driveway and 
courtyard had to be cut down to 


about three feet to achieve a flat 

Twenty-three Lombardy poplars 
were planted in ivy groundcover to 
line the entry drive. This rather 
formal approach is reflective of the 
Beaux Arts concept of symmetry and 
order which was the basis of 
Church's early training and educa 

In the courtyard miners blasted 
holes through the sandstone so that 
the hard surfaces of the yard and 
walls could be relieved by plantings 
of aralias and pleached sycamores. 
A California live oak planted at the 
front door completed the picture for 
the approach to the house. 

The problem of entry solved, the 
task of designing the larger garden 
to the south presented a major chal 
lenge for Church. Some important 
views from the house were involved 
so the chief concern was how to 
make the fairly narrow piece of land 
appear larger and deeper than it was, 
and still retain the views. His solu 
tion was to lay out two 16-foot 
parallel promenades shaded with 
olive trees, bordering a grass panel 
centered on the living room of the 
house. Borrowing from Italian 
Renaissance artists who used trompe 
I'oeil to give their paintings greater 
depth. Church planted the trees in 
pairs which were placed at closer 
spacings as their distances from the 
house increased. The farthest trees 
on both paths are three feet closer 
together than the ones nearest the 
house. Such an adaptation of paint 
erly illusion shows how Church as 
an artist supplies theory to the 

The choice of olive trees for the 
promenades was in keeping with the 
clients' request for low maintenance; 
also, olive trees would remain small 
enough to permit the close planting 
without destroying the scale of the 
garden or obstructing the views. 

The paths and edges of the garden 
design reflected the somewhat formal 
and simple line of Clark's house. 
This is in accordance with Church's 
conviction that, 'The design [of the 
garden] is influenced by the house. 
The house dominates the area and 
must be allowed to dictate the gen 
eral lines of the garden. "35 

Over the past 40 years, alterations 
and additions have, of course, been 
made, but the original layout is 

basically the same. The house was 
all white at first and complemented 
by the simple, rather formal garden 
with gray trees and russet surfaces. 
Then, freer, curving lines of planting 
and paving replaced rectilinear edges. 
It was in this phase that the garden 
and house were featured in Sunset. 36 
Within a few years, the notion of 
freer forms appealed tc the owners 
and they carried it further by re 
moving almost all of the k>w wall 
that separated lawn and p«£io. The 
lawn edge was altered from 
the straight line to a curving one, 
not unlike the forms of Alvar Aalto's 
architecture (e.g., the Library at 
Viipuri, Finland) and glassware. 
Church, who by then had been to 
Europe with Wurster and met Aalto, 
was consulted. He suggested that a 
"lightning flash" of lawn be brought 
around the olive tree at the edge of 
the lawn as a finishing touch to tie 
the composition together. While the 
new lines may be seen as emulations 
of Aalto, they are more easily related 
to Andrew Jackson Downing's de 
scription of the picturesque land 
scape with the flowing, graceful, 
curvilinear forms and lines of 
nature. 37 

1951: San Francisco, California 

In the days before it was crowded 
with apartment buildings. Telegraph 
Hill was a green oasis sparsely dotted 
by the homes of San Francisco's 
oarly Italians. Olive and fruit trees 
a, long vegetable and flower gardens 
covered the northwesterly slopes 
cvei looking San Francisco Bay. 

By 1951, when Thomas Church 
was hired to transform an abandoned 
neighborhood vegetable garden, a 
three unit apartment building oc 
cupied the north end of this lot, sur 
rounded on all sides by other apart 
ments and narrow, confined 

The backward was a typical one 
for San Fran-Jsco: steep, long, nar 
row and hem. tied in on all sides. 
In addition to 'he run-off problems 
inherent in sue), hillside lots, there 
were undergrour d springs which 
caused year-rouni' ponding. Drain 
age had to be a m..u>r consideration 
in the design concep 1 . 

In the beginning, tl.e clients sug 
gested that there might be three 
spaces delineated in the garden to 
correspond to the three aj.-artments. 




Church took their suggestion into 
account when he worked out the 
grading problems. Terracing the lot 
helped alleviate the site's major 
problems and at the same time 
brought about the realization of the 
idea for the separate areas. Excess 
run-off was channeled by the subtle 
grading into a drainage system de 
signed to carry off water from the 
underground springs as well. 

In dealing with the problem of 
decreasing the narrow, linear appear 
ance of the garden space. Church 
reverted to the concept he had used 
in the 1937 garden for the 
Jerd Sullivans. In the Sullivan garden 
he used a right angle to cut across 
the ground plane with the effect 
being that the viewer's eye follows 
diagonal lines, made by intersections 
of different materials, across the 
garden. The result is, of course, a 
visual illusion of greater space and 

In this garden of the '50s, how 
ever, the situation was further com 
plicated by the great differences in 
elevation which had to be figured 
into the concept for' breaking up the 
linearity. Here, then. Church used a 
series of diagonals set at angles to 
the property edges. At each change 
in level a right angle turn is intro 
duced so that there is no direct line 
through the garden, but rather a 
series of traverses. The directional 
changes and the changes in grade 
form four distinct areas or rooms in 
the garden. The rooms can have 
completely different characters with 
out detracting from the whole garden 
design because the materials of the 
structural elements — the hedges, 
paths, steps, etc. — are uniform 
throughout, like the walls, floors, 
mouldings of a house. The garden 
becomes, much as the gardens of 
ancient Egypt, Greece or Rome, an 
extension of the house, where living 
continues virtually uninterrupted by 
the change from indoors to outdoors. 

Although the geometrical forms 
and asymmetrical composition of 
this garden indicate Cubism as the 
likely conceptual source, it must be 
stated that Church probably did not 
consciously select these forms because 
they were Cubistic, but rather be 
cause they suited the situation. 

It is a masterfully executed design 
that is at once a showplace for plants 
and sculpture, and a work of art in 

itself, with multiple viewpoints pos 
sible from the different levels within 
the garden as well as from points 
outside. The geometric forms make 
it a rather highly organized environ 
ment, conducive to the high degree 
of maintenance required of a garden 
showplace. The 40 x 100 ft. open 
air garden has accommodated as 
many as 150 people without being 

The garden and apartments share 
an entrance from the street. Enter 
ing along the east side of the build 
ing, one must come up a series of 
steps into the garden. A glimpse of 
topiary and the corner of another 
set of steps draws the visitor into 
the garden. A complete view is pos 
sible only from the higher terraces 
and from the stairwell to the other 

After a time, it became undesirable 
to the owner to keep up with the 
whims of changing tenants, so the 
garden became her private domain 
as they moved away and new ten 
ants, without expectations, came in. 
She was then able \o care for and 
cultivate favorite plants and provide 
a showcase for the other apartments 
to look upon. Today she uses the 
garden for entertaining as well as 
for teaching horticulture classes. 
Each terrace, or room, is a different 
type of garden, but carefully in 
tegrated with the whole design. 

1959-1962: HUlsborough, California 

Many designers feel that the re 
modeling of a house and/or garden 
is in some respects a greater chal 
lenge than beginning with a bare 
site. There are existing structures 
and plantings which have to be care 
fully considered and, therefore, mis 
takes may be more obvious than in 
the case of a vacant lot which can 
not be compared to a previously 
existing situation. Often a building is 
not sited in the best manner and it 
is necessary to compensate for prob 
lems surrounding it. In the case of 
the house on the grounds of Straw 
berry Hill, some distinct structural 
features, like the stone bridge, walls 
and road on the north side of the 
property were set, and everything 
new had to be coordinated to har 
monize with these features. The key 
questions then involved knowing 
what to retain, what to modify and 
what to repeat in the rest of the 

garden. The more distinct structural 
elements here were built upon by 
Church as he restored the garden. 
The curving stone wall around the 
redwoods echoes the arch of the old 
bridge. The same stones are used 
around the pool and to retain the 
lawn terraces. The repetition of such 
details is one of the key factors in 
tying the whole composition to 

1962: Atherton, California 

The site for this home and garden 
in Atherton was a ranch where race 
horses were kept. It was purchased 
around 1961 by a steel magnate and 
his wife who wanted to leave their 
San Francisco home in Pacific 
Heights to retire. They decided to 
build a different house here to fit 
their needs and desires, rather than 
remodeling the existing Spanish style 
house on the property. As he was a 
polo enthusiast, they retained the 
stables and field for the horses. 

According to one of the owners, 
the style of architecture they wanted 
for their house stemmed from places 
they had admired while vacationing 
in the outskirts of Paris. From an 
array of collected clippings of build 
ings and architectural details, com 
bined with an extensive list of re 
quests, the architect designed an 
eclectic house. 

The mansard roof, moulded cor 
nice, wide fascia of the architrave 
and hospitality pineapples topping 
the corners of the entrance are 
drawn from French architecture of 
the 17th century. 38 Yet the house, 
a single-story stucco building, re 
flects a decidedly western rather 
than French style. The notion of 
French Baroque Classicism is aided 
and enhanced tremendously by the 
efforts of Thomas Church to articu 
late the details and play down the 
low linearity with carefully planned 
structural elements and planting. 


In his early garden designs, such 
as the Clark House (1936, Wood- 
side, California), Thomas Church 
can be said to have adhered to the 
traditional Beaux Arts rules. How^ 
ever, even as early as 1936, he had 
begun to bend those rules so that 
symmetry did not overpower the in 
herent qualities of the landscape. 
His designs early on were eclectic, 



as he combined motifs from the Ital 
ian Renaissance, concepts from Cub 
ism and Alvar Aalto and classic 

By the 1950s, he was even more 
of an experimenter. The traditional 
rectangular lawn with bordering 
shrubs became a useful place in 
which to live, play and work, as well 
as a dynamic garden space to be 
viewed. It was in a very real sense 
an extension of the house. 

Church never really discarded his 
training in classical forms even 
though he experimented with other 
spatial concepts. He has been called 
the supreme eclectic and it is not a 
label that is unwarranted, but neither 
is it one which necessarily connotes 
a negative aspect. 

One cannot over-emphasize that 
he has always striven to give his 
clients what they want, unlike so 
many other architects and landscape 
architects who all too often see every 
design as an opportunity for self- 
expression and self-aggrandizement. 
As he has so often stated, the land 
scape architect's job is not to build 
a monument to himself, but to ful 
fill the client's needs. 

In terms of construction and mat 
erials. Church has set a precedent in 

the profession which has influenced 
other landscape architects, architects, 
contractors and today's students. 
Working with his own construction 
crew and with contractors like Floyd 
Gerow for 40 years, he had a first 
hand role in executing his designs. 
His "apprentices" — Robert Royston, 
Lawrence Halprin, George Rockrise, 
Jack Stafford, Casey Kawamoto — 
gained invaluable experience from 
training with Church in the field 
and admit an indebtedness to him. 

Church's garden plans invariably 
include other important aspects of 
planning: the transition from house 
to garden and from garden to sur 
roundings; circulation; uses; main 
tenance; integration of native and 
exotic plants; visually pleasing forms, 

Obelisks from Florence, lamps 
from Copenhagen, and teak benches 
from the Orient have found places 
in his gardens. Sculpture and garden 
furnishings have added needed ac 
cents in Church's designs all over the 
West Coast. His own garden is a 
showplace of collected treasures. 

His interest in furnishings, which 
initiated the showroom the Churches 
operated in the '50s, led him also 
into designing. When he could not 

Path adjacent to north property 
boundary shows Church's meticulous 
hard-edging of changes in grade. 
Trees in left background are but 
tressed by stone circular retaining 

find what he wanted among his 
souvenirs or in catalogs or ware 
houses, he created it. 

The gardens described and illus 
trated in this article, reveal that 
Thomas Church knows what to bor 
row from the past. He possesses a 
special feeling for the land and 
works in it and with it masterfully. 


1. Doug Stapleton, 'Thomas Dolliver 
Church, The Man Who Put People into 
the Landscape," Landscape Design and 
Construction. 9 (March 1964), p. 13. 

2. Pam-Anela Messenger, Interview 
with Jack Stafford (March 6, 1976). 

3. Bob de Roos, "Now Hear This: 
Biography for Breakfast," San Francisco 
Chronicle (June 27, 1950). p. 17. 

4. "Residence of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas 
D. Church, Pasatiempo," California Arts 
and Architecture. 42 (July- August 1932). 
p. 23. 

5. David Streatfield, 'The California 
Garden. 1940-1950," Lecture at the Uni 
versity of California, Berkeley (February 

^Continued on page 170) 


• — « -• . - 


(Continued from page 133) 

11, 1976). Transcribed by Pam-Anela 

6. Carroll Calkins, "Thomas D. 
Church: The Influence of his 2,000 Gar 
dens," House Beautiful. 109 (March 1967), 
p. 142. 

7. Thomas D. Church, 'The Small 
California Garden. Chapter I: A New Deal 
for the Small Lot," California Arts and 
Architecture, 43 (May 1933), p. 17. 

8. Thomas C. Church, "Utility and 
Beauty in Garden Design," The Country 
woman 4 (August 1937), p. 9. 

9. Church, A New Deal, p. 17. 

10. Church, Utility, p. 9. 

11. Fletcher Steele, Design in the Little 
Garden (Boston, 1924), pp. 19-24. 

12. J. B. Jackson, "Ghosts at the Door," 
Landscape, 1 (Autumn, 1951), pp. 3-9. 

13. Steele, Design in the Little Garden, 
pp. 19-24. 

14. See: Sunset. 78 (February 1937), 
p. 15. 

15. Streatfield, California Garden. 

16. Ibid. 

17. Ibid. 

18. Laurie, Thomas Church and the 
Evolution, p. 10. 

19. Ibid., p. 10. 

20. Pam-Anela Messenger, Interview 
with Lawrence Halprin (March 23, 1976). 

21. Landscape Exhibit Awards," Ameri 
can Nurseryman, 65 (March 15, 1937), 
p. 16. 

22. James Rose, "Garden Details," Calif 
ornia Arts and Architecture, 58 (July 1941), 
p. 29. 

23. Church, A New Deal, p. 17. 

24. See: "Modem Gardens," House and 
Garden, 79 (April 1941), p. 44. 

25. Streatfield, California Garden; and 
Interview with Robert Royston. 

26. See: "Valencia Gardens," Pencil 
Points, 25 (January 1944), pp. 26-36. 

27. See: Parkmerced Housing Project," 
Arts and Architecture, 67 (April 1950), 
pp. 39-41. 

28. Interview with Robert Royston. 

29. Pam-Anela Messenger, Conversation 
with Lawrence Halprin (March 27, 1975). 

30. Pam-Anela Messenger, Interview 
with George Rockrise (March 3, 1976). 

31. See: "General Motors Technical Cen 
ter," Architectural Forum, 101 (November 
1954), pp. 100-119. 

32. Thomas D. Church, Gardens are 
for People (New York, 1955). 

33. Thomas D. Church, Evening Dis 
cussion with the Northern California Chap 
ter of the American Society of Landscape 
Architects, San Francisco (February 9, 
1971). Transcript courtesy of Michael M. 
Laurie, Department of Landscape Archi 
tecture, University of California, Berkeley. 

34. Ibid. 

35. Church, Utility, p. 9. 

36. "Exterior Decoration," Sunset, 86 
(June 1941), pp. 24-25. 

37. Andrew Jackson Downing, A Fac 
simile Edition of A Treatise on the Theory 
and Practice of Landscape Gardening 
(New York, 1967), p. 53. 

38. Henry A. Millon, Baroaue and 


Rococo Architecture (New York, 1965), 
Chapter 3. 


"Another Award-Winning Residential 
Landscape," Landscaping, 5 (January 
1960), pp. 10-11. 

Banham, Reyrter. Theory and Design in 
the First Machine Age. London: The 
Architectural Press, 1960. 

Burle-Marx, Roberto. "A Garden Style in 
Brazil to Meet Contemporary Needs," 
Landscape Architecture, 44 (July 1954), 
pp. 200-208. 

Byne, Mildred Stapley and Arthur Byne. 
Spanish Gardens and Patios. New 
York: The Architectural Record, 1924. 

Calkins, Carroll. "Thomas D. Church: The 
Influence of his 2,000 Gardens," House 
Beautiful 109 (March 1967), pp. 140- 

Church, Thomas D. "Create a Calm Com 
position," San Francisco Chronicle, 
Bonanza (Sunday, August 29, 1965), 
pp. 34-35. 

"Designing the Small Lot Garden," 

California Arts and Architecture. 44 
(July 1933), pp. 16-18, 31. 

Evening Discussion with the North 
ern California Chapter of the Ameri 
can Society of Landscape Architects 
(February 9, 1971). Transcript courtesy 
or Michael M. Laurie, Department of 
Landscape Architecture, University of 
California, Berkeley. 

Gardens are for People. New York: 

Reinhold, 1955. 

"Peace and Ease," House Beauti 
ful, 94 (October 1952), pp. 208-209, 
336, 338. 

"The Psychology of Entry," House 

Beautiful 101 (March 1959), pp. 104- 

'The Small California Garden. 

Chapter I: A New Deal for the Small 
Lot," California Arts and Architecture, 
43 (March 1933), pp. 16-17 + . 

"Utility and Beauty in Garden 

Design," The Countrywoman, 4:42 
(August 1937), pp. 8-9. 

Your Private World. San Francisco: 

Chronicle Books, 1969. 
"Citizens and Architects," Architectural 

Forum, 110 (January 1959), p. 93. 
dark, H. B. 'The Romantic Garden," 

Architectural Design, 30 (February 

1960), pp. 70-75. 
Crockett, James Underwood. Landscape 

Gardening. New York: Time-Life 

Books, 1971. 
Downing, Andrew Jackson. A Facsimile 

Edition of A Treatise on the Theory 

and Practice of Landscape Gardening. 

New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1967. 
A Treatise on the Theory and Prac 
tice of Landscape Gardening. New 

York: A. O. Moore and Company, 

"Exterior Decoration," Sunset, 86 (June 

1941), pp. 24-25. 
Fein, Albert. "Report on the Profession of 

Landscape Architecture," Landscape 

Architecture, 62 (October 1972), pp. 


"General Motors Technical Center," Archi 
tectural Forum, 101 (November 1954) 
pp. 100-119. 

Gilbert, Stuart, translator. Cubism, by Guy 
Habasque. Cleveland: World Pub 
lishing Company, 1959. 

Hitchcock, Henry-Russell, Albert Fein, 
et al. The Rise of An American Archi 
tecture. New York: Praeger Publishers, 

House and Garden Garden Guide (1974), 
pp. 152-153. 

Interview with June Meehan Campbell for 
the Thomas Church Oral History Pro 
ject (in process) of the Regional Oral 
History Office, The Bancroft Library, 
University of California, Berkeley, 
conducted by Suzanne B. Riess, March 
24, 1976). Transcribed by Pam-Anela 

Interview with Robert Royston for the 
Thomas Church Oral History Pro 
ject. Ibid. 

Jackson, J.B. "Ghosts at the Door," Land 
scape, 1 (Autumn 1951), pp. 3-9. 

Janson, H. W. History of Art. New York: 
Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, 1963. 

"Landscape Exhibit Awards," American 
Nurseryman, 65 (March 15, 1937), 
pp. 16-17. 

Landscaping, 4 (December 1958), pp. 12- 

Laurie, Michael. 'Thomas Church and the 
Evolution of the California Garden," 
Landscape Design, 101 (February 
1973;, pp. 8-10. 

MacDonald, Charlotte. 'Thomas Church: 
The West's Outdoor Living Pioneer," 
Peninsula Living (October 26, 1974), 
cover, pp. 4-6 + . 

MacMasters, Dan. Los Angeles Times, 
Home (Sunday, July 23, 1967). 

McCance, William and H. F. Clark, The 
Influence of Cubism on Garden De 
sign," Architectural Design, 30 (March 
1960), pp. 112-117. 

Messenger, Pam-Anela. Conversation, with 
Lawrence Halprin, March 27, 1975. 

Interview with Floyd Gerow, Feb 
ruary 28, 1976. 

Interview with George Rockrise, 

March 3, 1976. 

Interview with Hervey Parke Clark, 

April 29, 1975. 

Interview with Jack Stafford, March 

6, 1976. 

Interview with Lawrence Halprin, 

March 23, 1976. 
Millon, Henry A. Baroque and Rococo 

Architecture. New York: George 

Braziller, 1965. 
"Modem Gardens," House and Garden, 

79 (April 1941), 44. 
Newton, Norman T. Design on the Land. 

Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard 

University, 1971. 

"100 Years of Landscape Archi 
tecture," Landscape Architecture, 54 

(July 1964), pp. 260-298. 
"Perkmerced Housing Project," Arts and 

Architecture, 67 (April 1950), pp. 39- 

Repton, Humphry, The Art of Landscape 

Gardening. Cambridge' The Riverside 

Press, 1907. 
"Residence of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas D. 

Church, Pasatiempo," California Arts 



An Introduction to Landscape Architecture by Michael Laurie 
American Elsevier Publishing Company, Inc., 1975. 

A IH-VV breed i. 1 ! . .>; : ^-go-educated landscape an.hi- 
tectr- emerged i:. t:-.o Lite WOs .ind in larger num 
bers allot (hi- war lYrhaps the chief innov atur. or at 
!i.!-: the elder st.i:- -:v..!!i of garden design in Califor- 
ni.i. iv lhomas Crurch. who studied at Berkeley (and 
al-o Harvard! Ho <ct up hi-- practice in 1^30. His 
work was extren-i/. i-ifhiential on the profession of 
landscape archsrv.::iro and also helped, through 
H.'...-i- ii'ii/ Ht'mi- .1- * ?:,>:?c! M.i^iizinc. to shape pub 
lic opinion a bo".;: :~i torni and use of the domestic 
g.irden. small or 'arse, in California and elsewhere. 

Developments :n art and architecture in Europe, 
cubism and abstract expressionism, functional archi 
tecture, and tne modern movement had their impact 
first on the I-.!--' C/a-t but also in California. Mod 
ern architecture needed modern landscape architec 
ture. Church an.i ;ater Eckbo on the West Coast. 
lames Rose or. tr. Fast, and Chr:-tophoi Tunnard 
and others in England became the avant garde of 
modern landscape architecture in the late 1930s. The 
landscape garden and the eclectic neoclassical gar 
den were rejected 

The career of Thomas Church is considered here in for three reasons. First, he was an innovator 
like the other great designers in history whose 
works have already been discussed. He evolved an 
approach to design suited to the environment and 
social context in which he practiced. Second, his 
practice was a'rnot exclusively in private gardens, 
which is the sub;trc: of this chapter. And third, his 
interest lay in the -mall garden. 

The first ten \ cars of Church's professional career 
were spent searching for new garden torms that 
i\ou!d «atisfv the .'hanging needs of society and 
through which he could express the new aesthetic. 
With adventurous Clients and young architects such 
as William Wur-'cr. Gardner Daily, and Ernest Born, 
he found oppor'ur.:t;es to experiment. He adopted a 
theory which rVllc-wed that of the new architecture 
This recogni/t-d three sources of form. The first con 
sisted of human r.eeds and the specific personal re- 
c|uirements and characteristics of the client. The sec 
ond comprised :hi technology of materials construc 
tion and plant- ::v'.-.iding maintenance and a whole 
range of form determinants derived from the site, 
conditions and c-.^a'.ity. The third was a concern for 
the spatial expre>s;on, which would go beyond the 
mere satisfaction of requirements and into the 
realms of fine art. 

At first the garden forms he used were traditional 
with clipped hedces and eclectic motifs (Fig. 2.54). 
He designed *n iV town gardens .ind wrote about 
the challenge -h,\ presented. He said that the small 
garden could no! be "natural" if it was to serve as 

an extension to the house. Their scale and use c.illed 
for hard surface- screens to separate areas, and de 
sign torms llv w. 'aid increase their apparent si/i 1 
(lig 23?). t.hur-h recogni/ed that many people had 
small gardens, especially in urban settings where 
they have vital 'unction as an outdoor room or to 
serve as a giar.iino Tgretto such as his own small 
garden behind a wall in San Francisco. Like it or 
not. he said, the 'unction of the house had spilled 
out into the garden and must be provided for. The 
landscape architect no longer had a choice between 
the functional and the aesthetic approaches. 

The increasing use of garden space was encour 
aged by modern architecture which provided direct 
access between hou-e and garden The use of (he 
garden for outdoor entertaining, games, and chil 
dren's play combined with the need to reduce main 
tenance resulted -n :he widespread introduction of 
paving materials and groundcover plants designed 

as simple shapes. Church recommended that the 
spatially wasteful front lawn should be dispensed 
with and showed the advantages of this in several 
examples in which the street was screened off by 
walls or tencev providing usable private space iFig. 

In 1937 the San Francisco Museum of Art held an 
exhibition called Contemporary Landscape Architec 
ture The work i:U:-T.ited was chiefly garden design 
but also included the important work of the U.S. 
Forest Service anJ the National Parks service. One 
model illustrated a "formistic" garden layout by 

/v— , 

fifc. 2.S4 ( ..' ' • i yMfclen ol the I'MOV In I) 
("him h Hou-< h\ \\rii.ini\\ \\nrvlif 

Thomas Church for a house by William VVurster in 
San Mateo (Fig. 2.54). The description stated that the 
garden was on both sides with direct access to the 
living room. Wurster and Church al>o combined on 
a fantasy pavilion. In this we see the beginnings of 
new curvilinear forms in the garden. 

Church developed a theory based on cubism, that 
a garden should have no beginning and no end .rid 
that it should be pleasing when seen trom any an 
gle, not only from the house. Asymmetric lines were 
used to create greater apparent dimensions. Simpli 
city of form, line, and shape were regarded as more 
restful U> look at and easier to maintain. Form, 
shape, and pattern in the gardens were provided by 
pavings, walls, and espahered or trained plants. 

Two small gardens designed for the 1940 Golden 
Gale Exposition marked the beginning of this new 
phase (Fig. 2.57). They demonstrated the possibili 
ties for the evolution of new visual forms in the par- 
den while satisfying all practical criteria. The central 
axis was abandoned in favor of multiplicity of view 
points, simple planes, and flowing lines. Texture 
and color, space and form were manipulated in a 
manner reminiscent of the cubist painters. A variety 
of curvilinear shapes, textured surfaces, and walls 
were combined with a sure sense of proportion and 
the gardens incorporated some new materials such 
as corrugated asbestos and wooden paving blocks. 
Stylistically they were a very dramatic advance on all 
previous garden designs. 

The genius of the California garden thus lies in 
the combination of numerous concepts and tradi 
tions and a recognition of local conditions. Land 
scape architects in Britain, Scandinavia, Germany, 
and Switzerland produced a European synthesis 
with equally distinctive results. The East Coast 
struggled with its obsession with the landscape tra 

dition and Burle Man. in lira/il developed an ap 
proach to design that is based on modern painting 
and botany. 

San Francisco became the home of many of the 
best-known landscape offices in the country. In ad 
dition to Church and Eckbo (Fig 2.5S), Koyston, 
Williams, Halprin, Osmundson, and others designed 
gardens in the Bay Aiea in the l l '40s and I'-Ws. A 
second exhibition in 1°4S at the 1-iancisco Mu 
seum of Art showed the development in style and 
form and also the wider range of projects being 
handled by landscape architects in California. 

In the domestic work we see an expression of at- 

Fig. 2.57 Exhibition garden by Thomas D Church. 1940 

Fig. 2.55 Small v>arck<n in FM-CKCO. hv Thomas D 
Cluirxri il'UOl. 

Fig. 2.56 Tre.itrnent r>! Tom carcfen In Thom.iv 



-w* A 

K _'.'>•» [V.'Vf> C..:rii-;-. (V, ', .-n,a • 

Tliortu- D 

fluence and a delight with indoor outdoor living. 
Church's beach house at Aplos and the Donnell gar- 
don at Sonoma iF;gs- 2.59 and 8.33) show this and 
.ilso show iu:"her sophistication in hi< approacli ar;d 
in the manipulation of form. They represent in my 
view the peak of his career. The beach garden at Ap 
tos introduces the idea of wood as a paving surface, 
relatively cheap in a tvnber zone and relatively 
maintenance free One of the most be.mtitui modern 
gardens in the world, ranking with Villa L.inte. is 
the Donnell garden at Sonoma. Tho form of the 
swimming pool, quite simple in plan, i> more com 
plex and elegant seen in perspective. The outline is 

derived from the meandering of the Sonoma River 
in the flatlands -een below. The aesthetic connection 
between pool shape and forms in nature is d\ r imic. 
(/outraging with the flouing forms ot the pool is a 
rectangular grid of concrete paving and wood dik 
ing. The decking is used in one place so that some 
existing live oaks could grow through and the 
ground remain undisturbed (Fig 8.331. The garden 
shows concern f.>r the existing and surrounding 

Dewey Donnell 


. C.orydon Wagner 
Tacoma, Washington 




Pardee Erdnan 
Santa Barbara 

« ~.fif