Russell Page is widely regarded as one of the 20th century’s greatest garden designers. So much so, that there’s new exhibition dedicated to him at the London Garden Museum – The Education of a Gardener: The Life and Work of Russell Page. But just across The Pond, why is the only surviving Russell Page garden in NYC going to be destroyed by its owner, the Frick Collection?
Russell Page designed the garden which sits alongside the Frick Collection museum on 70th Street on Manhattan’s East Side in 1977. It’s not publicly accessible, but provides a beautiful outlook from several rooms within the Frick and through the ornate gate and fence railings on 70th Street.
A central rectangular pond is flanked by lawn, shrubs and large trees, their rich green a perfect foil for the pale grey stone of the building as the pond creates an illusion of depth. One landscape architect has likened it to:
‘viewing a masterwork of landscape painting’.
Page himself described the tiny garden, created during his last working years before his death in 1985:
“If, as a garden designer, I were asked what I was aiming for in this small garden, I would answer ‘tranquility,’ because that is what I feel inside the Frick Collection, and that is the quality shown by the greatest gardens I have known.”
The Frick collection has dismissed the importance of the garden as being too small to warrant preservation. All reference to Russell Page as its designer has been removed from the Frick website and the garden is simply described in an article about the Masterplan as ‘the garden on East 70th Street‘ and its historical context as: ‘To fill the unused lots adjacent to the pavilion, a small garden was created, which has never been accessible to the public‘.
The Frick’s new Masterplan shows a large building will occupy the site, housing a new reception hall, auditorium, bigger cafe and gift shop plus administration offices. This will free up space in the original early 20th century building, enabling the currently off-limits 2nd floor, with its historic living quarters, to be open to the public for the first time.
But architects, landscape architects, garden designers, historians, and gardeners all over the world are rallying to try and save this small garden at the Frick as a unique, tiny, but valuable gem in our understanding of Page’s work.
Unite to Save the Frick – plus a petition you can sign
and an interesting perspective at the Huffington Post