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Northwest’s First Women-Owned and Operated Landscape Architecture Firm

October 28, 2019

By: Bobbie Dolp, Lord and Schryver Conservancy

Elizabeth Lord and Edith Schryver

Amidst the events of 1929 was the opening of the first Northwest all women landscape architecture firm Elizabeth Lord-Edith Schryver in Salem, Oregon.  In their forty years of practice, Lord & Schryver developed plans for over 200 sites, including residential, civic and institutional settings, and ranging from Seattle to Klamath Falls and the Oregon Coast to Walla Walla WA.  Their legacy is very broad; in addition to the landscape architecture component, they were educators, writers, world travelers, civic activists, leaders within their profession, women operating in a man’s world and successful entrepreneurs having started their enterprise in the year of the Crash.

Elizabeth Lord (1887-1976) was a native Salemite whose father served as governor and Supreme Court judge. Her mother, Juliet, was an ardent gardener.  In 1926 Elizabeth enrolled at the Lowthorpe School in Groton MA, a rigorous 3-year curriculum in landscape architecture for women only.

Edith Schryver (1901-1984) grew up in Kingston NY.  She studied at Lowthorpe from 1920-1923 after which she became a prized intern in Ellen Shipman’s New York office.  In 1927 they met on a 3-month tour of European gardens sponsored by Lowthorpe. It was this journey that led Edith to move west in December 1928.  As Edith said, “We were free-swinging career girls, and nobody questioned us.”

While residential design work led to the most numerous commissions, it was their civic and public work (streetscapes and city parks) that remains today as a significant influence on the environment in Salem and the Northwest.  As writers and educators, they traveled the state giving lectures, doing radio shows (early days of KOAC), and teaching at what is now Oregon State University.  They were leaders among their peers; setting high standards,  establishing professional organizations and mentoring young women. 

Gaiety Hollow, the site of their former home, personal garden and studio in Salem is now owned by the Lord &Schryver Conservancy, a non-profit whose mission is to “preserve, interpret and steward the legacy …. for public enrichment.”  Gaiety Hollow is listed in the National Register of Historic Places for it’s significance related to women’s history. Restoration of the gardens, development of educational programs and workshops, and opening the gardens to the public are on-going activities.  Please check our website; to learn more. 

The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the Women’s Vote. Do you know of other important Oregon places associated with women’s history? These may be residences, business places, social gathering spaces, sites for suffrage and women’s rights efforts, burial sites, campuses, etc… Please provide all information and documentation you can to inform our Historic Sites Database.

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