I realize I never posted this story I wrote for the paper a few weeks ago; it was published the week I was in Miami.
I have since gotten a letter from Barbara Thompson, vp of the Hastings Historical Society, explaining that the Longue Vue house and garden in New Orleans was named after a Long Vue inn/restaurant in a beautiful mansion in Hastings-on-Hudson.
The Andrus Retirement Home now occupies the site.
Apparently, the Sterns, the owners of the New Orleans Long Vue, were engaged in the Hastings Long Vue before their marriage in 1921. They later maintained a home in Scarsdale before moving to New Orleans. Always a local connection, it seems.
And thanks to Bill Noble, director of preservation for the Garden Conservancy, for supplying the photos of how the garden looked just after Katrina and how it looks today. Anyway, here’s my article:
“Thanks to the preservation efforts of the Cold Spring-based Garden Conservancy and a very forgiving, garden-friendly climate, the historic gardens at Longue Vue in New Orleans have come through remarkably well since they were nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Two feet of brackish water sat on most of the 8-acre estate for nearly two weeks after the storm, destroying about 60 percent of the plant life at Longue Vue, a public garden adjacent to the 17th Street Canal.
High winds brought down more than 200 trees, including three magnificent magnolias and a huge 100-year-old red oak.
“The remaining pine trees look like broccoli stalks,” says Amy Graham, director of horticulture.
Some 1,500 boxwood shrubs were lost, along with 200 camellias and 30,000 square feet of lawn. Luckily, most of the signature live oaks that line the walkway to the 46-room main house survived the storm.
The house, which was built in 1941-42 by philanthropists Edgar and Edith Stern, came through fine, too, except for the 15 feet of water in the basement that destroyed all the mechanical systems.
Like Boscobel and Lyndhurst in our area, the historic home and gardens at Longue Vue are open to the public for tours. (Visit www.longuevue.com for more information.)
Despite all the hurricane damage, much of the garden now looks remarkably lush and green most of the year. All of the boxwoods and most of the camellias have been replaced and hundreds of new perennials have been added every year.
Even in winter, the lawns and container and annual plantings look great. In a city famous for its stately old homes and lush gardens, Longue Vue has been prized as one of the grandest spots in all New Orleans since it opened to the public in the 1970s.
“Parts of that garden are in as fine a shape as they’ve ever been,” says Bill Noble, director of preservation for the Garden Conservancy, which works to save important gardens across the country and also runs the popular Open Days Program. “I think time and the replanting of trees will finish it off.”
“One of the lessons here is how quickly vegetation grows in New Orleans,” Noble says with a laugh. “Another lesson is that there were parts of the garden that could be put back together rather easily.”
Other parts, such as the Spanish Court, will take years, if not decades, to fill in and look the way they did before Katrina.
On the up side, Noble and Graham agree that the storm gave them the opportunity to undo a lot of mistakes well-intentioned gardeners had made over the years and restore Ellen Biddle Shipman’s original vision for the property.
Soon after the storm, the Garden Conservancy added Longue Vue to its 16-garden list of ongoing national preservation projects. Other preservation gardens include Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, Pearl Fryar’s topiary garden in Bishopville, S.C., and Rocky Hills, Henriette Suhr’s 16-acre property in Chappaqua.
A few months after the storm, the conservancy sent a team of garden pros from the New York area to pull out dead shrubs and perennials and begin the process of getting salt out of the soil and replanting. More than 500 volunteers from around the country have helped out at Longue Vue since Katrina, Graham says.
In October 2006, the conservancy, in collaboration with the New York Botanical Garden, raised $100,000 for Longue Vue and the New Orleans Botanical Garden, which lost about 90 percent of its plant collections. Last year, the conservancy created a fellowship job for Paul Cady and sent him to New Orleans to work full time at Longue Vue for 10 months.
“The knowledge and expertise and connections they’ve made available to us have been huge,” says Graham says. “Bill Noble has a very calming effect whenever he comes down. He wasn’t as traumatized as we were.”
Noble hired Patricia O’Donnell and her company, Heritage Landscapes, to come up with a landscape renewal plan for a long-term vision of the property and to guide Graham and the other gardeners in their daily replanting and restoration efforts. He also encouraged Cady to dig up drawings and other original plans from Shipman.
“Paul has been able to do all this research, studying the archives, while I’m out here making sure the grass gets cut,” Graham says.
Noble, meanwhile, wants to get the word out that the garden is “back, it’s in great shape and it’s a garden worth visiting. It’s a story of renewal, of how a smartly designed and smartly maintained garden can withstand the worst that nature can throw at it.”
More on Ellen Biddle Shipman:
The gardens at Longue Vue in New Orleans are known within the gardening world as one of the few remaining examples of the work of Ellen Biddle Shipman, one of the country’s leading landscape architects in the 1930s and ’40s. House & Garden magazine called her the “dean of women landscape architects” in 1933.
Shipman designed more than 600 gardens, including about 50 in the Westchester area, says Judith Tankard, a garden historian and the author of “The Gardens of Ellen Biddle Shipman” (Harry N. Abrams, 1997).
She designed gardens in Rye, Mamaroneck, Irvington, Peekskill, Katonah and Bedford Hills as well as Brewster and Garrison, where her daughter lived, Tankard says. She also designed a garden at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, which her father attended. Most of Shipman’s gardens disappeared after World War II.
She began the design of Longue Vue in the late 1930s and worked on the project while also designing the Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham, N.C.
Unlike her other projects, she was able to work with the architects, William and Geoffrey Platt, on the design of the house and how it would work with the gardens. She also designed all of the interiors.
“She’s really responsible for the Renaissance ideal of a unified vision inside and out and a life of taste — and it’s intact,” Noble says. “The garden is certainly significant on a national level, but especially as a Southern garden.”
Shipman’s clients included Fords, Astors, duPonts and Edisons. Shipman decided to become a landscape architect at the age of 41 after her husband left her. When she opened her firm at 51 on Beekman Place in Manhattan, she hired only women. As a designer, Shipman was known for her use of billowing waves of perennials and the way she designed garden rooms that created intimacy and privacy for their owners.
Shipman had the complete confidence of Edgar and Edith Stern, the philanthropic owners of Longue Vue. They called her “Lady Ellen” to tease her about her blue-blood roots in New York.
She worked with the Sterns on the house and gardens from the mid-1930s right up until her death in 1950, Noble says.