In Grandfather’s Garden


Though Larz Anderson never knew his great-grandfather, the Cincinnati wine merchant Nicholas Longworth (1783-1863), he was very familiar with his imposing mansion in downtown Cincinnati. Longworth’s Greek Revival mansion and famous formal garden distinguished it from all other properties in the city. Larz visited the property often. His grandparents, Larz and Catherine Longworth Anderson, lived next door to it.  Great-Grandfather Longworth’s former home is now the Taft Museum of Art.

In his childhood and youth, our Larz Anderson learned through his great-grandfather’s example that powerful, successful men built elegant homes and impressive gardens to celebrate their stature and status. In 1899, when Larz and Isabel purchased a country estate in Brookline, Mass., their first order of business was to have a formal Italian garden designed and built for them.

Like Great-Grandfather Longworth’s garden, the Anderson’s Italian garden in Brookline was dominated by a broad central avenue anchored at one end by a fountain. In the Longworth garden, that avenue was gravel. In the Anderson garden, the avenue was what landscape architects call a tapis vert (green carpet). Both gardens had pergolas, potted topiaries, decorative sculptural elements, and shaded seating areas. Traditional formal gardens in Italy are planted only with greenery, but in the Longworth and Anderson gardens, a blend of evergreen and flowering plantings assured a colorful array of blooms during three seasons.

Larz and Isabel Anderson: Wealth and Celebrity in the Gilded Age, due in late 2015, will include much more analysis and discussion of Larz Anderson’s aesthetics, especially his love of European landscape and garden design.

Large.Fountain.Italian.Garden.FBJ.Weld copy 2The Italian garden at the former Anderson estate in Brookline, Mass., now the Larz Anderson Park.

Postcard ca. 1895: “The Garden of Nicholas Longworth, Cincinnati, Ohio”
Skip Moskey Collection of Gilded Age Prints and Photographs
This scan Copyright (c) by Skip Moskey
(Digimarc® Guardian for Images)

Frances Benjamin Johnston, Anderson Estate, Brookline, Mass.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Catalog Number LC-J717-X108-52 [P&P]