Sunday, December 28, 2008

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] , see also , see also “Born of Trees: A Timberman’s Estate is Revived To Reflect Its Colonial Bones,” Seattle Times, November 3, 2002.
[12] , see also “Georgian Colonial: This Classic Design Fits A Contemporary Family, Seattle Times, July 18, 1992.
[13] ,!239209!0#focus , see also “A Seattle Garden on the Estate of Mrs. Robert P. Greer,” House and Garden, December 1936.
[18] Oschner, Jeffrey Karl, ed., Shaping Seattle Architecture, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.
[19] “Bone of Tree”, Seattle Times, Nov. 3, 2002.
[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.
[25] “Otto Holmdahl, Landscaper,” Seattle Times, March 5, 1967.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Johannes Reimers, landscape gardener and artist (1856-1953)
By Kurt Culbertson 2008

Johannes Reimers was born in Norway on Dec. 31, 1856.[1] Reimers immigrated in 1885.He appears to have settled in California when quite young. He was an established painter and pastelist[2] at the time of his wedding in Oakland in 1883. Born in Bergen, Norway on Feb. 2, 1859, and after arriving in California in 1880, Marie Arentz wed Reimers in Oakland three years later.

Also a writer he published a novel set in Norway entitled Unto the Heights of Simplicity.[3] While a resident of San Francisco in 1907-19, he studied at the Institute of Art. His art work was exhibited in the Golden Gate Park Museum, 1915 and San Francisco Academy of Art, 1916-. His works are in the collection of the Oakland Art Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago. Displaying a wide range of interest, Reimers was an active participant in the Ruskin Club of the University of California[4] and maintaining a friendship with the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.

As well as an artist, he was also landscape architect for the San Joaquin Division of the Santa Fe Railway. While it is not known what stations were within Reimers responsibility, the line ran from Los Angeles through Bakersfield to Stockton and on to the San Francisco bay area at Richmond. Living in Stockton at the time, he delivered a paper on railway gardening at the Pacific States Floral Congress in 1901.[5] He laid out the planting of Fresno’s Roeding Park, after the property was donated to the city in 1903.[6] The park was seventy-five acres at the time.[7] Apparently Reimers split time between Stockton and Berkeley. In 1905, he purchased lots 2, 3, and 4, Block 5, from The Berkeley Development Company in Hopkins Terrace.[8] In 1906, Reimers also designed Hobart Park in Fresno on Q Street between Divisadero and Merced Streets. [9] The commissioners of Mooney Park, a 100 acre tract of valley oaks, in Tulares retained Reimers in December 1910.[10] By 1910, Marie and Johannes had three children, Emma, Alita, and Henry E.[11]Reimers also designed the garden for the headquarters of Roeding’s California Nursery Company in the Old Adobe Building in Niles, California.[12]

Reimers was a good friend of writer, Jack London,[13] who often stayed with him when visiting Stockton.[14] On May 4, 1095, London spoke to the Critic Club at Reimers’ home in Stockton.[15] In the summer of 1906, Reimers supervised the planting of trees, vines, and shrubs, and a pyracantha hedge at the Wolf House[16] at what is now the Jack London Ranch State Historic Park.[17] Reimers also wrote one of the earliest reviews of London’s Call of the Wild.

Divorced from Marie, he was living in San Leandro by 1930.[18] Marie was living in Berkeley.[19] A self-taught artist, she began painting at age 69 while a resident of Berkeley. She exhibited locally with the Berkeley League of Fine Arts in 1929 and in 1930 sent 14 of her watercolors to Paris for exhibition. She was a resident of Berkeley until her death on Jan. 17, 1946.

Reimers died of pneumonia in San Leandro on Aug. 22, 1953. His son, Frederick Holberg Reimers was an architect and pastelist in Berkeley, California, designing many of the picturesque homes of Berkeley and the Piedmont hills. The William and Helen Reynolds house in Thousand Oaks was one of his significant works.

Major Projects:

Hobart Park, East Divisidero Street, Fresno, CA. c. 1906

Roeding Park, 890 W. Belmont Avenue, Fresno, CA. 93728, c. 1903. see

Mooney Grove Park, 27000 S. Mooney Boulevard, Visalia, CA. 93277, c. 1910.

Old Adobe Building Garden (home of California Nursery Company), Fresno, CA. c. 1923.

[1] California Death Index, 1940-1977.
[2] “Plans Program,” Oakland Tribune, September 12, 1917, and “Frolich to Tell of Clay Modelling,” October 14, 1917, p. 39.
[3] Reimers, Johannes, Unto the Heights of Simplicity, Boston: L. C. Page and Company, 1900.
[4] “Ruskin Club” Oakland Tribune, January 31, 1908, p. 7, and February 8, 1908, p. 2.
[5] Reimers, Johannes, “Railway Gardening in California,” Proceedings Pacific States Floral Congress, San Francisco, 1901, p. 75.
[6] Rehart, Catherine Morison, The Valley’s Legends and Legacies III, Fresno: Quill Driver Books, 1999, p. 25.
[7] “Roeding Park” Fresno Bee, April 2, 1953, p. 2.
[8] “Official Records,” Oakland Tribune, November 9, 1095, p. 15.
[9] Powell, John Edward, “Hobart Park, Historic Resources Inventory Nomination,” City of Fresno, August 31, 1994, and Rehart, Catherine Morison, The Valley’s Legends and Legacies III, Fresno: Quill Driver Books, 1999, p. 299.
[10] Small, Kathleen Edwards, History of Tulares County, Chicago: S. J. Clark and Company, 1926, p. 281.
[11] 1910 United States Census of Stockton, California, e.d. 136, p. 1B.
[12] “Another View of the Old Adobe in Niles”, The Daily Review, Hayward, CA, August 4, 1974, p. 12.
[13] “California Artists Honor Jack London,” Oakland Tribune, March 26, 1920, p. 18.
[14] London, Charmain, The Book of Jack London, New York: The Century Company, 1921, ch. XXV, p. 16.
[15]“London’s Anarchic Talk,” Oakland Tribune, March 4, 1905, p. 12.
[16] Cultural Resources of the Jack London State Historic Park, 1987 , p. 63.
[17] Utah State University Archives, The Jack London Papers, Box 16, Pottawattamie County Historical Society, Reimers to Charmain London, Nov. 4, 1927, and Feb. 6, 1947.
[18] 1930 United States Census of San Leandro, e.d 1-240, p. 3B.
[19] 1930 United States Census of Berkeley California, e.d. I-320, p. 13A.