Historical Landscape Architecture

Federal Compliance

St. Elizabeths Hospital

Washington D.C.

Commonwealth has provided compliance services at St. Elizabeths Hospital, a National Historic Landmark, for over ten years. The hospital is historically significant for its siting, development, and uses as a therapeutic, scenic setting for the treatment of patients. Developed on a plateau along the Anacostia hills surrounding the core of Washington D.C., St. Elizabeths’ campus offers panoramic views and unique vantage points toward Alexandria, the National Cathedral, the Washington Monument, and the U.S. Capitol dome. Of particular note are its clusters of historic brick buildings dating from the 1850s to 1960s. Large historic trees, original brick and concrete walkways, native stone walls, Victorian garden ornaments, and other cultural landscape features enhance the site’s period of significance. St. Elizabeths is being developed to support the multi-year consolidation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security into one large complex, with a portion being adapted for mixed commercial, multi-family, and commercial land uses. Since 2008, Commonwealth has provided services for project compliance with NEPA and Section 106 requirements of NHPA, including developing preservation, design, and development guidelines, as well as memorandums of agreement. In addition, Commonwealth landscape architects have provided design and construction administration services for the rehabilitation of the historic, Gothic Revival-style Center Building, one of the oldest buildings on the campus, as the headquarters for the Secretary of Homeland Security.

Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield

Republic, Missouri

Commonwealth conducted an environmental assessment for proposed actions at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, which preserves 2,011 acres of the battleground. Park visitors drive the five-mile tour road, which features eight tour stops where the major historic points of the battle are interpreted, and also use the park for horseback riding, hiking, biking, and jogging. Commonwealth prepared a cultural landscape report for the National Park Service with treatment recommendations and guidelines supporting a long-term vision for protecting, managing, sustaining, and interpreting the park’s cultural landscape. Implementation required compliance and review through an environmental assessment (EA) to determine the potential impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act. The EA identified and disclosed the potential impacts of alternatives focused on native vegetation and white-tailed deer population. These would help fulfill the mandate of protection and management of cultural landscape features present at the time of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek or evocative of the landscape that those present at the battle would have experienced.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Virginia and North Carolina

Commonwealth surveyed hundreds of cultural landscape resources along the 469-mile-long historic Blue Ridge Parkway, including native stone walls, drainage structures, curbs, cultural vegetation, and site furnishings. The goal of the project was to evaluate the historical integrity of these resources in support of National Park Service compliance with Section 110 and 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The Blue Ridge Parkway was established as a unit of the National Park System by an Act of Congress on June 30, 1936, to create a scenic motor road between Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park and North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park to provide a means for leisurely travel and recreation in a variety of southern Appalachian environments. A collaborative approach, entailing the disciplines of history, engineering, architecture, and landscape architecture, was taken by the team in implementing the project. Commonwealth worked with the prime to integrate information about the properties’ physical and cultural histories to evaluate park resources under the various criteria and to assess integrity to various periods of significance. The National Park Service will use this information to prioritize preservation projects for future repair campaigns.

George Washington Carver National Monument

Diamond, Missouri

Commonwealth conducted led an environmental assessment (EA) for actions planned for George Washington Carver National Monument. The park is nationally significant as the birthplace and home of Dr. George Washington Carver, one of this nation’s most distinguished scientists and humanitarians. Carver was born into slavery and orphaned as a baby; his early years under the care of adoptive white parents were spent in an agrarian setting where Carver pursued his boundless curiosity about the world around him. Since then, the site has evolved to include more than 100 acres of restored native grassland prairie; secondary growth woodlands; and a manicured developed core area. Commonwealth developed a combined cultural landscape report and EA, including treatment recommendations for the entire 240-acre cultural landscape. Recommendations were presented and analyzed through the EA process. Of particular importance was determining a vision of the historic character of the landscape during Carver’s time at the farm, including restoration of historic features such as a persimmon grove and apple orchard. The park is taking a proactive, justified approach to landcover management and its connection to interpretation and the visitor experience.

National Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute

Washington, D.C., and Front Royal, VA

Commonwealth landscape architects undertook a cultural landscape assessment to inform Smithsonian Institute’s National Zoological Park Comprehensive Facilities Master Plan in compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Collaborating with project architectural historians and archaeologists, they worked to ensure that all types of cultural resources were properly documented and evaluated. Assessment included historical research, along with field surveys of both campuses, including the National Zoo in Rock Creek Park and the research facility in Front Royal. The team also evaluated the significance and integrity of important cultural resources and made recommendations for their treatment. Individual resource identification sheets were created that provided an image of each inventoried resource and a summary of its historical background and potential significance. The master planning team was able to refer to these sheets and the accompanying narrative when making important programmatic and planning decisions.