Sunday, December 28, 2008

PIONEERS OF AMERICAN LANDSCAPE DESIGN: Otto Holmdahl (1883-1967)
By Kurt Culbertson, © 2008

Otto Emil Holmdahl (1883-1967) was born on June 1, 1883 in Falkenberg, Sweden.[1] He studied both naval architecture and landscape design at Chalmers University in Göteborg. On October 15, 1907, Holmdahl arrived in Vancouver, British Columbia aboard the ship Chippowa, settling in Seattle.[2] In emigration papers from Vancouver listed Holmdahl as a ship builder.[3]

In 1918, he registered to serve in the United States military during World War I.[4] At the time he was gardener to William Howarth at 3330 Grand in Everett, Washington.[5]

On August 7, 1919, he became a naturalized United States citizen.[6] Holmdahl traveled back to Sweden on numerous occasions. August 30, 1923, about the Neuiw Amsterdam from Southhampton after a trip to Sweden.[7] August 15, 1926 from Southhampton aboard the Caronia. [8] September 1, 1929, from Göteborg, aboard the Kungsholm.[9] On September 6, 1930, Holmdahl arrived in New York aboard the Drottningholm from Göteborg, Sweden.[10]


As one of the first landscape architects practicing in the region, Holmdahl was an early advocate of the use of native plant materials and found inspiration in the ecology of the region. Around 1925, he laid out the grounds for James Garfield Eddy home on Lake Washington in Medina. [11] The Eddy estate was entered on the National Register in 1980. A garden for Dr. M.C. Lyle on Puget Sound was developed in 1928.[12] In 1930 Holmdahl completed the design of the Robert P. Greer garden in Seattle.[13] That same year he designed the garden of Lawrence Colman at 9343 Fauntleroy Way in the Fauntleroy neighborhood in Seattle.[14] He also designed the grounds of the William Boeing, Jr. home.
The rockery at the south entry of the Seattle Arboretum at Arboretum Drive and Lake Washington Boulevard was apparently designed by Holmdahl around 1938.[15] In 1954, Holmdahl consulted on the grounds of Prentice Bloedel on Bainbridge Island. Thomas Church, Richard Haag, Noble Hoggson, and Fujitaro Kubota also contributed to the garden, now known as the Bloedel Reserve.[16] For Elizabeth Ayer’s new home at 47 The Highlands in Seattle, Holmdahl designed a garden in 1956. He may have designed the cast concrete rockery of the Davis Residence in Crescent Beach in Normandy Park.[17]Holmdahls’ work became synonymous with the great estates of the “gold coast” of Lake Washington, many of these with Arthur L. Loveless (1873-1971).[18] Holmdahl also apparently designed the courtyard of Loveless’ studio building.[19]

Holmdahl was one of 26 landscape architects who met in January 25, 1946 to form the Washington Society of landscape architects. He was identified at this meeting as the nursery liason representative of the group.[20]

In 1930 Holmdahl and his Andrey were living in Seattle.[21] Holmdahl designed the grounds of the Washington State Library in Olympia (1954-1959) and Aberdeen Community Hospital in Aberdeen in 1959. On December 20, 1957, he was named to the Municipal Arts Commission of Seattle.[22] With architect Paul Thiry, he served as landscape architect for the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962.[23] That year, Holmdahl was a judge of the Seattle Rhododendron Society.[24] During the course of his career, Otto designed parks in Bremerton, Ellensburg, Aberdeen, and other cities in Washington and Oregon. His work is also seen in Washington Park in Seattle. Holmdahl died in Seattle on March 2, 1967.[25]
[1] Border Crossings: From Canada to U.S. 1895-1956.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.
[5] Ibid.
[6] U.S. Naturalization Records, 1795-1972.
[7] New york Passenger Lists, 1820-1957.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&File_Id=1059 , see also http://www.nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com/wa/King/state2.html , see also “Born of Trees: A Timberman’s Estate is Revived To Reflect Its Colonial Bones,” Seattle Times, November 3, 2002.
[12] http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19920719&slug=1502851 , see also “Georgian Colonial: This Classic Design Fits A Contemporary Family, Seattle Times, July 18, 1992.
[13] http://web1.seattle.gov/dpd/historicalsite/QueryResult.aspx?ID=-1705086475 , http://siris-archives.si.edu/ipac20/ipac.jsp?uri=full=3100001~!239209!0#focus , see also “A Seattle Garden on the Estate of Mrs. Robert P. Greer,” House and Garden, December 1936.
[14] http://fauntleroy.net/newsletters/nlwinter08.pdf
[15] http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20030829&slug=pacific-pnwl31
[16] https://digital.lib.washington.edu/php/architect/record.phtml?type=structure&structureid=3318
[17] http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20030829&slug=pacific-pnwl31
[18] Oschner, Jeffrey Karl, ed., Shaping Seattle Architecture, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.
[19] “Bone of Tree”, Seattle Times, Nov. 3, 2002.
[20] http://www.wasla.org/whatisla.htm
[21] 1930 United States Census of Seattle, Washington, E.D. 17-91, p. 25B.
[22] “Art Commission Member Named,” Seattle Times, December 20, 1957.
[23] The Weeders Guide, The Palladium Times, Oswego, New York, July 23, 1962.
[24] http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JARS/v16n4/v16n4-seattleshow.htm
[25] “Otto Holmdahl, Landscaper,” Seattle Times, March 5, 1967.

1 Comments:

Anonymous LBB said...

In the paragraph beginning "August 17, 1919," there is a typo: "about" for (presumably) "aboard"

Thanks for an enlightening and well-researched article!

2:50 PM  

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