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The Olmsted Legacy:

Arthur A. Shurcliff and his Plan for Mount Holyoke College


General plan of the Mount Holyoke College for the proposed renovations in 1929 by Arthur Shurtleff. Courtesy of MHC Archives (13)




Arthur Shurcliff (1865-1957) was a noted American landscape architect. Originally Shurtleff, Arthur changed his name in 1930 to conform to an older English spelling. He attended Harvard University and after graduation in 1896 joined the Olmsted firm. With the help of Olmsted he established the world's first four-year landscape architecture course at Harvard.

In the 1920's, Shurcliff drew a general plan (pictured above) for Mount Holyoke College. The plan suggested that the campus should have a more quadrangular organization. In an article about the planning and execution of the 1904 Gardens Project, Shurcliff suggested that Mount Holyoke College used to have a more quadrangular feel but that the quadrangles were blurred due to the placement of buildings. He suggested that the careful placement of a few new buildings could achieve a revival of the quadrangle. (link)

In February of 1945 the Building and Grounds Comittee met:

"It was voted to recommend to the Board of Trustees that the long range plan, prepared under the direction of Mr. Shurcliff and a revision of the original 1928 campus development, be approved." (14)

The plan, however, was never executed because of budget cuts surrounding the Great Depression. Later, Arthur's son Sidney Shurcliff traveled to Mount Holyoke and began work on the college. Sidney had researched his father's involvement of the Olmsted firm and perhaps that is why the later work on the campus still adheres to the Olmsted design princples.

"It was during a visit to Jamaica that Sidney Shurcliff found a book in a library written by Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., "Travel Through the Slave States", written when he was a reporter for the New York Times. It was a reminder of the scope and breadth of Olmsted's interests and influence that provoked Mr. Shrucliff to pursue the matter of acknowledging Olmsted's proper place in history." (12)

Sidney was most instrumental in the building of Gettell Amphitheater and the 1904 Garden which both illustrate Mount Holyoke College's adherence to the design principles laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted.


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Atlas Home Page The Olmsted Legacy Frederick Law Olmsted Olmsted's Design Principles Olmsted's Design for MHC
Shurcliff's Design for MHC 1904 Garden Gettell Amphitheater References



This page was created byShay Campbell 07 in History 283, Spring Semester 2006 -