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Non-Profit Organizations

Oct. 3 - Three Concepts Proposed for Rehabilitation of Threatened Clermont Lee-designed Garden at Birthplace of Girl Scouts USA founder Juliette Gordon Low

Category: Non-Profit Organizations

Savannah Business Journal Staff Report

October 3, 2018 - The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) released three concepts for rehabilitating the threatened Clermont Lee-designed garden at the Birthplace of Girls Scouts USA founder Juliette Gordon Low in Savannah.

Clermont Lee, one of the first women to be licensed as a landscape architect in the City of Savannah and the State of Georgia, designed the garden in the 1950s and remained involved with its care and maintenance for more than 40 years. Plans to demolish the Lee-designed garden in order to renovate the site were first put forward in 2016, at which point TCLF designated the Lee garden a Landslide® nationally significant, threatened landscape. More recent plans were revealed on June 23, 2018, at which point TCLF renewed its efforts to prevent the demolition.

The rehabilitation plans, commissioned by TCLF with support from descendants of Juliette Gordon Low and developed by the Atlanta-based landscape architecture firm Tunnell and Tunnell, are schematic and offer ways to maintain the integrity of the garden’s historic design while addressing programmatic and safety concerns raised by Girl Scouts USA and Birthplace leadership (hi-res versions of the schematics and descriptions are available upon request). Potential costs associated with implementing these plans could not be estimated without more detailed site planning and analysis.

JGL Birthplace-Clermont Lee Garden Rehabilitation Design Concepts-0927.jpg
JGL Birthplace-Clermont Lee Garden Rehabilitation Design Concepts

Specifically, the concepts suggest the following options:

  • Remove some of the existing planting beds and replace them with paving that [1] suggests the outline of or [2] “ghosts” the beds;
  • Replant the original planting beds with plant materials compatible with Clermont Lee’s design;
  • Replace gravel walks along the perimeter with ADA-accessible paths using exposed aggregate or tabby concrete; retain gravel in interior paths;
  • Introduce limited bench seating;
  • Convert the ground floor of the former stable into an event space;
  • Convert the ground level area under the porch into a covered garden space;
  • Introduce an entrance to the garden from Oglethorpe Avenue.

“Our intent in commissioning these rehabilitation concepts is to offer solutions to Girl Scouts USA that maintain the integrity of this important Clermont Lee design and meet the stated needs of the Girl Scouts,” said Charles A. Birnbaum, TCLF’s President and CEO.  

Margaret Seiler, a descendant of Juliette Gordon Low, said, “My family and I are excited to see proposed designs that meet the immediate needs of Girl Scouts and other visitors to the Birthplace while also supporting our long-range goal of the preservation of history.”

“There are over 1,000 property owners in the Savannah National Historic Landmark District, all of whom have the privilege and responsibility of preserving the historic integrity of their buildings and landscapes,” said Mark C. McDonald, President & CEO of The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. “I cannot see any reason why the Girl Scouts USA should be permitted to abandon this responsibility. In fact, I believe they should dedicate their organization to a higher standard of care as the steward of the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace.”

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