This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The September number of the Gardeners' Monthly contained a short article upon the merits of Adolph Strauch's claim to be regarded as the originator of the landscape lawn system for cemeteries in America. The writer calls it a "great error and injustice," to the memory of John C. Loudon, of London, who had written an article upon the subject, accompanied by a lithographic plate for a design, ten years before Strauch became superintendent. If that design was ever carried out with its "Landscape Architecture for Cemeteries," dotted with adornments, head stones, and tombs of the style of the day, as delineated, it was certainly something unlike the system created by Strauch in the cemetery of Spring Grove, Cincinnati. Mr. Loudon's services to the literature of gardening, must always be regarded as the most valuable of the century, and that monument of labor, his Arboretum et Fruticetum, will remain for a long time to come, invaluable to the profession. If the friend of an author of a magazine article claim him to be the originator of a new system illustrated by a lithographic design made forty years ago in England, one would expect American travellers to compare that landscape lawn system with ours.
If occasionally they visit Kensal-Green, Highgate, and other graveyards, nothing is said by comparison, nor is Loudon's name heard of as their originator. To say that Loudon, so estimable as a man and distinguished as an author, could have originated the system, and executed the designs made by Strauch, which cost the unceasing labors of a lifetime, would be to call Watt the originator of the seven-day ocean steamer.
It is five years ago since Robinson, editor of the London Garden, discovered an American to have been the originator of this system for cemeteries, to which the writer then replied as follows:
"Of this park-like cemetery, Spring Grove at Cincinnati, Mr. Robinson presents two engravings from photographs, and says that 'it is the best ordered cemetery in America;' and ' that the gentleman who first originated these noble American garden cemeteries, Mr. J. Jay Smith, is yet alive, and only a year or two ago (1876) visited London, with the view of founding a similar kind of cemetery here, with all recent improvements ! ! !' It may be said that it is a matter of little importance who originated the landscape-lawn cemetery. If, however, the plan admitted by Mr. Robinson to be the best in existence, as it has been by three-fourths of the cemeteries in this country, then it may be said that its creation is not more the result of accident than the ' Faust' of Goethe. The author of the landscape-lawn system had, long before 1855, studied on the spot Pere La Chaise, Kensal Green, Mount Auburn, Laurel Hill, as well as other notable cemeteries. He was also acquainted with the parks and gardens created by the genius of Lenotre, Lenoir, Uvedale Price, Repton, Loudon, Paxton; had studied their writings, and, above all, those of Prince Puckler Muskau, of immortal memory.
It was not without carefully matured plans and serious deliberations, that he ventured in his annual report to the Directors in 1856, the design of a landscape lawn cemetery, which they approved unanimously, and published, precisely as it now exists. Can it be of no importance to one who has given his early manhood to a cherished plan, who has struggled until mature age, steadily progressing with its execution against opposition, against the customs of past generations, to be told now that another man, who himself never executed anything, was the author of a plan, which, belonging to him, is the result of his own unremitting labor of a lifetime? Had Mr. Robinson read the annual reports of United States Cemeteries, this blundering misstatement might have been avoided. It will be interesting here to mention some of the changes made since 1855; how the useless, tortuous roads, lanes and paths were abandoned, replaced by broad undulations, blending the elegance of a park with the pensive beauty of a burial place, stone walls succeeded by grassy slopes, geometrical absurdities wiped away for simple nature.
Lot-owners were shown the barbarism of surrounding their beautiful lawns with inclosures of stone, brick, wood, iron bars, posts, chains, gates, locks, tassels, and all the hideous iron-mong-ery of the shops, blotting the fair face of nature. Huge granite curbings, requiring expensive foundations, with equally extravagant marble copings, absurd mouldings around individual lots, were shown to be useless, contrary to our civilization, reflecting upon the people as respecters of law, and too suggestive of insecurity and social exclusive-ness. Fortunately they are mostly gone, voluntarily thrown away by their owners ! So far from protection being required, it has been demonstrated here, long years ago, that abandoning all restrictions and giving entire freedom of the grounds, was the best security for the highest respect. Neither has the enterprise of a flower garden cemetery obtained favor here. Long ranges of greenhouses, employing scores of jobbing gardeners for protection of countless plants in winter, and laying out ribbon borders, with other geometrical twirlings of nonsensical beds in summer, whose chief boast is that they enviously display greater numbers than a rival cemetery of smaller wealth, and can better afford an army of men to pinch and sprinkle them.
It has been thought wiser to omit all these immense masses of bedding-out rubbish, with their attempts at harmony of color, to private individuals who will pay for it.
"With a genuine enthusiasm for the beautiful, the superintendent converted the springs and countless quagmires of the lower ground, which existed twenty years ago, into beautiful lakes, developing into sylvan glades all the ground which now makes such an exquisite foreground to the landscape. Never should this determination be relinquished, that every acre of this beautiful approach must be reserved, not a foot sold for any purpose whatever, nor its beauties despoiled by huddled masses of grave-stones and monuments, staring upon one at the very entrance, as is the case in too many other cemeteries. How simply beautiful is the present approach! Keep it so forevermore!
"Mr. Robinson has published a book which he naturally desires should be well received in this country. He had heard of the park-like cemetery here, and was informed that the superintendent was the originator of the plan, by Mr. Olmsted in New York, who expressly states the fact, and sent him the annual reports and general photograph views of the grounds. From these he published an article in 1876 in the Garden appropriating bodily from the reports a large portion of the article, accompanied by two large illustrations engraved from the photographs. In publishing this volume in 1878, knowing perfectly well who created this system, he repeats the substance of his article and the illustrations, stating that Mr. J. Jay Smith, of Philadelphia, is the originator of the paik plan! and this in a carefully prepared book, supposed to contain accurate knowledge of the facts. Will it be less than justice then to repeat that all the new cemeteries of the country, in their published reports, admit the originality of Spring Grove, and that in the United States it has never been questioned, until the appearance of Mr. Robinson's book, which so carefully conceals even the name of the superintendent? Is it more than justice, then, to pay homage to this practical genius, whose life-long, undaunted energy and perseverance, combined with great industry and economy, have overcome all obstacles?
"It happens occasionally that professional writers, for various causes, neglect or overlook men who may be, in many respects, very much their superiors. In the present instance, the neglect is of little importance. The talents of the superintendent are surpassed by his personal modesty. A man so well known in this country, so distinguished in his profession, whose reputation is the result of distinguished success, may be indifferent to a paltry misstatement. He has at length attained a position amongst his fellows which enables him to regard apparent neglect with the serene charity that thinketh no evil. It is safe to say that he has achieved a noble distinction, and the labors of Adolph Strauch's useful life will remain for the benefit of his countrymen when the literary work of the author of ' Parks and Gardens ' is forgotten".
Men of genius may suggest systems and principles, without possessing the ability to develop them. Mr. Strauch wrote little about theories of his own or his practice in landscape gardening as he developed it in the cemetery. In his valuable library, which also contains engravings of landscapes from the works of the great masters, he studied carefully everything relating to his profession. Living amidst so much that is beautiful in nature, his studies seemed to lie in the creation of miniature landscapes, so far as they would consist with the unity that would produce an harmonious whole. Whatever he touched was embellished by a genius so practical, that he enlisted lot owners to unite their grounds, that they might blend into, and become portions of, the creations he designed, so that here and there he obtained long vistas and breadth of sward, thus effecting the repose and dignity required.
And this brings us to ask whether it be possible to continue even in Spring Grove the model thus created? Probably not. The desire may exist, and large tracts of virgin earth remain waiting for the master hand and mind who can unite them to these beginnings. The difficulties to be overcome are legion. To solve the problem of further development of the beautiful in landscape, with the increasing desire for ground which should not be sold in minute portions, is daily recurring, threatening a serious disfigurement of beautiful situations. It is proper to add a word more: Mr. Strauch was a prudent and successful man, leaving a comfortable sum for his family. He found the cemetery poor. He left it rich, in lands, buildings and money; but richer far by the system he developed, and the reputation it deserves among the cemeteries of the country.