Charles Gillette, Master Plan 1923
Charles Gillette is nationally recognized as one of the premier landscape architects associated with the restoration and re-creation of historic gardens in the upper South and especially Virginia. Gillette established a regional style—known as the “Virginia Garden”—characterized by its understated classicism and attention to detail. He linked architecture and landscape in a manner seldom found today, not only emphasizing the traditional features of landscape design but also carefully shaping each of his creative outdoor environments to complement the most distinctive elements of his clients’ homes and broader surroundings. Although Gillette most often developed domestic landscape designs for individual clients, much of his work also included large-scale corporate, educational, and government projects including the Presbyterian Orphans Home in 1923 (known today as the historic Presbyterian Homes Campus and HumanKind).
Gillette served as an apprentice in the office of Warren Manning, a leading landscape architect at the turn of the century that was engaged to design the symmetrical campus in 1909-10. Under Manning, Gillette became familiar with the scope of the project and the land. In 1923, Gillette was hired to create a Master Plan of the entire campus around the few main buildings built from 1911-1913. This plan included land and facilities for recreation, play, outdoor learning, agriculture along with six additional dormitory buildings.
After completing the Presbyterian Homes Campus, Gillette went on to redesign the gardens of Virginia’s Executive Mansion at the request of Governor Thomas B. Stanley as well as designed the grounds for the Richmond headquarters of the Reynolds Metals Company and the Ethyl Corporation. His commissions also included hundreds of residential projects throughout Virginia and North Carolina, including the landscape of the Villa Maria nestled in the historic Rivermont Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Presbyterian Homes Campus:
- Architect/Builder Architects: John Minor Botts Lewis (Lewis & Burnham), Pendleton S. Clark (Clark & Crowe)
- Landscape Architects: Warren H. Manning, Charles F. Gillette
Presbyterian Homes Campus – Detailed History
Presbyterian Homes & Family Services first opened its doors in 1903 with five children in a farmhouse. Its history is one of perseverance and adherence to a constant vision, one that was much larger than circumstances might have presumed. Construction on the campus began in 1911, and today more than a dozen contributing structures remains in active use.
By deed dated April 30, 1903, Edwin and Eleanor Prescott Ivey sold their 317 acre farm and circa 1890 farmhouse to the Presbyterian Orphans Home for $25,500. This farm was located about four miles northwest of the City of Lynchburg along the Lexington Turnpike (now known as Boonsboro Road).
The Presbyterian Orphans Home operated from 1903 to 1910 utilizing the Ivey Farmhouse and the two newly constructed buildings, Shelton Cottage and Paxton (credited to local architects Frye & Chesterman) (Chambers, 395) On October 26, 1909, a fire in Shelton Memorial Cottage claimed the lives of five young girls and severely damaged the building (Shannon, 3).
Landscape Architect Warren H. Manning (1860-1938) of Boston proposed a bell-shaped layout with “an Administration Building and a group of buildings including a dining hall at one end, a gymnasium at the opposite end next to a proposed playground and athletic field, with cottage dormitories on either side of the court between this dining hall and gymnasium.”
Less than six months later, by deed dated July 12, 1910, the Presbyterian Orphans’ Home sold 105 acres to the Peakland Corporation for $65,000. This purchase left the fledgling Presbyterian Orphans’ Home without any buildings but with substantial funds to build their ideal Orphanage, located more centrally within the remaining tract of land.
The Presbyterian Orphans Home operated from 1903 to 1910 utilizing the Ivey Farmhouse and the two newly constructed buildings, Shelton Cottage and Paxton. The original farmhouse still exists today as a part of the Peakland neighborhood located on Briarwood Street.
The first buildings erected in 1911 were the Executive Building, the Superintendent’s Residence (Terry Cottage), and two dormitories: Scruggs Cottage (for boys) and Shelton Cottage (for girls). John Minor Botts Lewis of Lewis & Burnham was the architect for these Georgian Revival Buildings. Lewis (1869-1950) received his education in architecture from the University of Virginia. Between 1909 and 1912, he was associated with William R. Burnham as Lewis & Burnham.
In 1913, two additional dormitories were constructed using the original “Dormitory No. 1” plans. A heating plant and laundry was constructed behind the Executive Building. Two farmhouses were constructed in 1914, housing families to help lead the farm operations.
1923 – Second Master Plan
In 1923, Charles F. Gillette, Manning’s apprentice, was engaged at the behest of Board member, Mr. J. Scott Parrish of Richmond, to create a master plan for substantial new growth, including barns and stables, recreation and athletic fields, and at least six new buildings for dining, school and living quarters. This plan guided development between 1928 and 1959, but was never fully realized due to restricted financial circumstances related to the economy and World War II.
Historic image of Gillette’s Master Plan Above – courtesy of Library of Virginia, 2007.
As a response to continued growth, and to a bequest by C. Tate Scott, Noble Cottage was built as an additional dormitory in 1928.
Clark & Crowe designed Megginson Gymnasium in 1939. An outdoor pool was installed in 1947. The last building constructed on the arc was DeWitt Cottage in 1959. The Dairy barn, baseball field, tennis courts and outdoor basketball courts were also constructed during this time period.
The Ranch house was constructed originally created to be the Lynchburg Group Home until they outgrew the space, today is home to Treatment Foster Care. The Tractor Shed was also constructed during this time.
Genesis House built first as the Lynchburg Emergency Shelter, today is the Lynchburg Group Home for adults with Developmental Disabilities.
Webster Student Center completed as an addition to the Megginson Gymnasium. Today is home to Little Wings Early Learning Center.
Davis Instructional Garden created as a working Community Garden by the Hill City Master Gardeners located near the historic barn and stable.