[In Transition] Gaiety Hollow Home & Gardens: Salem, Oregon
Our In Transition series digs back in and brings you up to speed on the current status of historic places previously featured in Preservation magazine or the PreservationNation blog.
In 2010, we featured a guest post about Elizabeth Lord and Edith Schryver, pioneering female landscape architects and lifelong partners who designed more than 250 private and public gardens in the Pacific Northwest from the 1930s into the 1970s.
The post’s author, Bobbie Dolp, is president of the board of the Lord & Schryver Conservancy in Salem, Oregon. She shared how the small nonprofit was working diligently to preserve not only the legacy of this dynamic duo, but also their personal home and gardens, known as Gaiety Hollow, which was still owned by the same family that had acquired it after Schryver’s death in 1984.
This summer, the Conservancy marked a major milestone: After 10 years of planning, waiting, and fundraising, the organization purchased Gaiety Hollow, finally achieving the goal for which it had been created.
“The vision is for Gaiety Hollow to be a cultural education center,” says Dolp. Programs will honor the life and work of the two women, who were more than just landscape architects.
“They were writers, educators, world travelers, and business owners,” Dolp explains. “They are an example of what history can tell us about the present and how to live our lives today.”
The Conservancy will establish workshops, lectures, classes, tours, and other events to engage the community, preservationists, and garden lovers.
According to Dolp, the path to owning the home, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013, has been long and challenging. In 2012, when the previous owners were ready to put it on the market, Dolp and her team of volunteers were concerned; They had agreed to a right of first refusal, but they weren’t in any position to purchase.
Fortunately, it wasn’t long before the Conservancy stumbled upon an opportunity that would give them time to raise the funds, and for Gaiety Hollow to continue to be preserved by people who valued its cultural and historical significance.
On a spring tour of Lord and Schryver's gardens in Salem, Portland Garden Club member Marilyn Kingery heard about the Conservancy’s conundrum. Her husband and his family had grown up in a Lord and Schryver garden, so Marilyn was familiar with the partners’ legacy and work.
When Dolp explained there was a chance the home would go to other buyers, the Kingerys got together and decided to help the Conservancy out. They purchased Gaiety Hollow, leasing the property to the nonprofit until they could buy it outright.
“They just didn’t want to see this garden go,” Dolp said.
The Conservancy had a five-year timeline per their agreement. They set their own deadline for three years and raised the money in two. A capital campaign brought in support from the community, individuals, and foundations, and additional funds after purchasing the home are going toward ongoing maintenance, a long-term treatment plan, and salaries for some part- and full-time staff.
Throughout the entire process, the Conservancy and its group of dedicated volunteers have been restoring the gardens to their period of significance, conducting research, and publishing books and materials to elevate the status of the site and the legacy of Lord and Schryver. Historic photo slides and interviews with family and friends of the duo have helped the organization establish priorities and follow guidelines and principles on landscape treatments from the U.S. Department of the Interior and from Lord and Schryver themselves. Dolp says they were fortunate that the previous owners had so lovingly tended to the site for 27 years.
Dolp, a retired high school science teacher, was introduced to Lord and Schryver through gardening friends. She says she knew nothing substantive about historic preservation before taking on this project: “It’s good to do something you’ve never done before. The people I’ve met, the friends I’ve made -- it’s very inspiring. It’s very rewarding,” she says.
And how does she feel about what’s next? “I still kind of get goose pimples thinking of it" she says, "so here we are.”