Advanced landscape architecture students from North Carolina A & T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina have spent the fall semester developing a sustainable vision for the physical and cultural resources of Eatonville, Florida. The students, Christian Anderson, John Dufort and Keana Graham, have worked as a team to prepare a broad set of sustainable proposals tailored to the attributes and heritage of the town.
The A & T team studied the entire six hundred and forty acre town proper in order to develop goals for a green infrastructure and economic sustainability. A video overview will soon be available. The student visions are scheduled to
I served as independent studio advisor and participated in periodic reviews over the semester. I met with the students and their professor, Perry Howard, FASLA, at North Carolina A & T State University last week for a review of their final presentation. The day before the studio review I presented an overview of my Black Settlements In America (TM) applied research to the general. Local coverage was provided by the A & T Aggie Dispatch and Greensboro News & Record newspaper.
Mr. Lester Cunningham’s yard and garden will be included in the coming Professional Continuing Education Course to be held in Eatonville, Florida on January 28, 2014. Mr. Cunningham produces a rotating crop every four months using sustainable techniques. This and other landscapes will be used as case studies that demonstrate successful outcomes and techniques.
Course content will include the following:
Historic resources in community development, planning, landscape architecture, architecture
It is difficult to visit Eatonville without encountering some expression of its material culture. That is, some food, clothing, furniture or artifact that represents traditions or customs that could only be authentic “Eatonville”. During my most recent trip Mrs. Ella Dinkins put me on notice that I look at her latest quilting project before I left. She belongs to the local quilting guild. Mrs. Ella and her fellow members have displayed many quilts in area exhibits over the years, including 2007 and 2013. As soon as Mrs. Dinkins began to unfold the quilt I knew it was special. She explained that she was “piecing” it completely from scraps of fabric that she had collected over the years. While she was sorting bags and
bags of her scraps into color groups she realized that she had enough in the same color range, and came up with the idea for this particular quilt. Once the quilt was open she was able to tell me some small anecdote about many of the pieces since none of them had originally been the same size or shape. I could not have received a better lesson in color theory in an advanced art or design class. She also explained that she uses embroidery thread to sew all of the stitches by hand. According to Mrs. Ella the embroidery thread is stronger and adds to the aesthetics. She also explained why a machine stitched quilt does not have the same character as one that is hand stitched.
Advanced landscape architecture students from North Carolina A & T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina will spend the fall semester developing a sustainable vision for the physical resources of Eatonville, Florida. The students, Christian Anderson, John Dufort and Keana Graham, will work as a team to prepare a broad set of proposals tailored to authentic attributes and heritage of the town. Eatonville is widely recognized as America’s oldest African American municipality, the childhood home of Zora Neale Hurston, and the annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and the Humanities. The project will provide unique field experiences in an underserved community.
I met the students and their professor, Perry Howard, FASLA, in Eatonville over the past Labor Day weekend for an intensive introduction and overview of the historic, cultural, and environmental background of the community. We met with residents, civic leaders, and toured the town on foot and by car. I provided interpretive materials gathered over the past twenty five years on Eatonville through my Black Settlements In America (TM) applied research. I will also serve as a resource person for the team as it works through the planning process. The student visions are scheduled to be presented in early December, 2013.
Professor Perry Howard, FASLA, is Coordinator of the A & T Landscape Architecture Program.
Perry received the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) President’s Medal in 2012 in recognition of unselfish and devoted service to the ASLA at the national level over a period of not less than five years. He also served as ASLA President in 2008. He was the first, and only, African American to be elected to the ASLA presidency in its one hundred and fourteen year history. In 1995 I had the honor of being elected as an ASLA Fellow (FASLA) with Perry in recognition of significant contributions made to the profession and the public through works, leadership and management, knowledge and service.
Approval is pending from the Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System (LACES) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for 6.0 HSW Professional Learning Units for the Eatonville Yards and Gardens Tour scheduled for January 28, 2014 in Eatonville, Florida. Attendance will be monitored, and attendance certificates will be available after the program for most individuals who complete the entire event.
Actual yards and gardens in Eatonville will be used as case studies that demonstrate successful outcomes and techniques. Participants will meet the resident owners of the yards and gardens to discuss theories and practices in sustainable landscaping and gardening. Course content will include the following:
Historic resources in community development, planning, landscape architecture, architecture
In 2011 Mrs. N.Y. Nathiri, Director of Multidisciplinary Programs (Preserve the Eatonville Community/P.E.C.), asked me to create a program that would illuminate at least one broad legacy of Eatonville, Florida, the oldest incorporated African American town in America. The program was to be presented at the 2012 Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities (ZORA! Festival). I had visited Eatonville many, many times over the course of more than twenty years. Bit by bit I began to understand that the town’s garden legacy can be authentically traced directly to Dr. Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, and a small rare group of local African American horticulturists. Documentation of the simple physical existence of an historic African American community is exceptionally difficult, at best. Documentation of the origins of the gardening philosophies, practices and techniques of an historic African American community is nothing short of miraculous. But this fact serves to expand interpretation of African American gardens beyond the simple stereotype of “folk garden” or “folk landscape.”
Instruction of gardening philosophies and techniques were formally taught in classes (vocational) led by Mr. Russell C. Calhoun, the first principal of Eatonville’s Robert Hungerford Industrial School, and in practical home demonstrations with residents in the community. These lessons have been passed from one generation to the next since the turn of the century. For example, sugar cane has been grown on the town proper for more than 110 years. Truck gardening and horticulture stabilized the town’s economy. Citrus fruit and pineapple was grown for commercial sale around Orange County from the early 1900’s through World War II. Gardening transformed the town’s physical and cultural landscape, and set national standards for environmental sustainability. The annual Negro Farmer’s Conference was held in Eatonville at the Hungerford School in 1911.
Based on these findings, and my landscape architectural experience, I proposed and presented the “Eatonville Yards & Gardens Tour” at the 2012 ZORA Festival. I organized the tour around nine of Eatonville’s more accomplished gardeners. Most of the gardens are integrated into residential yards. Sometimes the distinction is so subtle that yard and garden blend without notice. Though most are considered “vernacular” in style, each has a theme or characteristics that forms a prosaic composition. In other words, these are not traditionally styled gardens that mimic the French parterre, English picturesque landscape or American modern minimalist compositions. They are authentic American landscapes that express creativity, culture and environmental awareness.
Mrs. Nathiri has asked me to lead the “Yards & Gardens Tour” at the 25th Festival in January of 2014. I will be joined by a remarkable cultural historian, Dr. Lydia C. Charles, Ph.D. Dr. Lydia will expand on the national relationships between gardening, education, civil rights and socio-cultural issues. The preliminary agenda calls for one tour group, but since this will be the Festival’s “silver anniversary” I think it might be appropriate to organize space for an additional group. If anyone is interested in participating in an expanded tour group I ask that you e-mail Mrs. Nathiri, mention my name, and request that she add this to the schedule: