Cultural Landscape Reports
Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial
Commonwealth developed treatment plans for the historic landscape of Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial. The memorial was completed in 1915 to honor those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812, and to celebrate lasting peace between Britain, Canada, and the United States. Located on South Bass Island, the memorial’s Doric-style, pink granite column rises 352 feet over Lake Erie. The monument and its grounds were designed by architect Joseph Freedlander in the Beaux Arts style. Commonwealth was commissioned by the National Park Service to update the park’s condition assessment, re-evaluate its historical significance and integrity, and develop a cultural landscape treatment plan. The treatment plan, developed in collaboration with the team’s architect, provided conceptual alternatives for wheelchair accessibility to the memorial column’s and terraced base. Commonwealth also proposed a reconfigured site circulation plan and a design for the park’s new Peace Garden. Subsequently, Commonwealth was asked to develop an accessibility management plan for the park. Collaborating with the National Center on Accessibility, Commonwealth assessed the level of universal accessibility within the park and made recommendations for improvements.
Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
Little Rock, Arkansas
Commonwealth developed a cultural landscape report and urban design guidelines for Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. The historic site protects the setting of the site of the first important test of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, making segregation in public education an unconstitutional violation of the “equal protection” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The incidents at Central High during the fall of 1957 drew international attention, particularly when on September 4, mobs threatened nine black students attempting to enroll. In response, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered federal marshals to ensure the right of these and other African- American children to attend the previously all-white school, setting a national precedent. Today, Central High School is an active educational facility and a magnet school in the area of International Studies. The National Park Service asked Commonwealth to focus research efforts, analysis, and treatment recommendations on the setting for the historic events, including the grounds of the school building and its residential neighborhood. Taking into consideration the scale and spatial arrangement of the streetscape, including circulation, buildings, walls, fences, and street trees, Commonwealth also provided design guidelines for development in the neighborhood surrounding the site to preserve its historic character, while allowing for change related to rehabilitation and adaptive re-use.
Andersonville National Historic Site
Commonwealth developed a cultural landscape report for the 475-acre Andersonville National Historic Site and its associated national cemetery. The historic site preserves the site of Camp Sumter, the largest Confederate military prison built during the Civil War. Completed in 1864, Camp Sumter held over 45,000 Union soldiers during its fourteen months of operation. Over 12,000 of those soldiers died at the camp and are buried at Andersonville National Cemetery, within the site boundaries. The remains of Camp Sumter include remnant earthworks fortifications and prisoner escape tunnels. These are overlain with late-nineteenth-century commemorative monuments and features installed in the 1930s by the CCC, including roads, bridges, markers, and ornamental vegetation, and by modern facilities that support contemporary visitation needs. Commonwealth collaborated on an inventory of site and cemetery historic landscape features, which is now part of a national database of evaluated cultural landscapes and provides a scientific and scholarly basis for resource management decisions. The team then developed a combined cultural landscape report with treatment recommendations that take a rehabilitative approach to accommodate visitors and expand available space at the park and cemetery while preserving important historic features.
Park Road 4
Commonwealth developed a cultural landscape report for Park Road 4, a scenic roadway that connects two Texas state parks: Longhorn Cavern, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and Inks Lake, constructed by the Texas Highway Department. Historic resources include 62 handcrafted stone bridges and culverts; several historic stone park buildings and structures; the original roadway alignment; historic views and vistas; and over 150 trees that were preserved by the CCC during construction in the 1930s. Commonwealth conducted historic research, identified and mapped existing historic landscape resources using GPS and GIS, evaluated the integrity and historical significance of the cultural landscape, and developed recommendations for treatment and management. The cultural landscape report serves as a basis for future land planning decisions by Texas Parks and Wildlife to protect the historic resources of the roadway. It also supported Commonwealth’s development of a National Register of Historic Places nomination for Park Road 4, which was listed in 2010. This action has raised recognition of this historic corridor to a national level and expanded the landmark’s boundaries to include the entirety of the roadway. This project received an Honor Award from the Texas branch of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 2010.
Brunswick County, North Carolina
Commonwealth led the development of a cultural landscape report and National Register of Historic Places nomination for Orton Plantation. Located twenty miles south of Wilmington on the Cape Fear River, Orton’s extensive acreage preserves the original, 1732 plantation house and its gardens, as well as 320 acres of historic rice fields that have been recently restored. The historic core of the plantation is surrounded by more than 7,000 acres of restored long-leaf pine woodlands, which contain historic road traces and archaeological evidence of slave dwellings. Historic features of the plantation surviving today also include two cemeteries and a private family chapel. Commonwealth completed a cultural landscape report for the plantation’s entire 8,411 acres and a NRHP boundary expansion for the 826-acre Orton Plantation Historic District, in collaboration with the consulting historian. The CLR provides narrative and graphic documentation of historic and existing conditions, an analysis and evaluation of the landscape, and treatment recommendations. The boundary expansion, approved in 2013, built on a very limited previous nomination that listed a 12-acre tract in 1972.
Mission San Juan Capistrano, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
San Antonio, Texas
Commonwealth developed a cultural landscape report for Mission San Juan Capistrano, founded in 1731 by Spanish Franciscans on the banks of the San Antonio River in present-day Bexar County. With its rich farm and pasturelands, the mission became a regional supplier of agricultural produce; the extensive orchards and gardens outside its walls provided peaches, melons, pumpkins, grapes, and peppers. Corn, beans, sweet potatoes, squash, and sugar cane were grown in irrigated fields supplied by an acequia system that drew water from the San Antonio River. The mission’s herds comprised 3,500 sheep and nearly as many cattle. After the mission was secularized, its fields, or “labores,” were distributed between descendants of the original Native American workers, and American immigrants. Today, Mission San Juan is part of the larger San Antonio Missions National Park, recently inscribed on the World Heritage List. The mission church has served as a parish church since 1909, and the people of San Antonio, the NPS, and the Catholic Archdiocese use the mission’s buildings and landscapes for recreational, educational, and religious purposes. Commonwealth’s recommendations focused on the demonstration farm managed by the NPS, future use of the irrigable landscape for historic leasing, and an updated interpretive site plan.
George Washington Carver National Monument
Commonwealth developed a cultural landscape report for this park, which celebrates the early life of Dr. George Washington Carver, one of the nation’s most distinguished scientists and humanitarians. Carver, born into slavery and orphaned as a baby, spent his early years in this agrarian setting, where he was raised by adoptive white parents. Commonwealth documented and evaluated the cultural landscape to determine how its character during Carver’s time at the farm should be used to tell the story of his life within the park, which contains 100 acres of restored native grassland prairie, secondary growth woodlands, and a developed core area. The park was interested in taking a proactive, justified approach to landcover management and its connection to interpretation and the visitor experience. For example, the farm’s former persimmon grove and apple orchard will be reconstructed and historic roads adaptively reused as park trails. The treatment recommendations were presented and analyzed through the environmental assessment process and focused on rehabilitation, balancing historic landscape protection with natural resource efforts and enhanced interpretation.