web analytics

The Gardener’s Cottage in Riverside Illinois – Living in a Small Masterpiece

Effective Living > Housing

Summary. The Gardener’s Cottage is a thoughtfully written book by Cathy Jean Maloney about the combined creative passions of Frank Lloyd Wright, Jens Jensen, and Frederick Law Olmsted, who together in Riverside, Illinois. The book is published by the Center for American Places at Columbia College and the University of Chicago Press.

About the Author. The author, Cathy Jean Maloney, is a senior editor at Chicagoland Gardening. She the author of Chicago Gardens: The Early History, also published by the Center for American Places at Columbia College and the University of Chicago Press.

Review by Gregory Johnson. Below is a review of the book by Gregory Johnson.

This past week, I received a review copy of The Gardener’s Cottage that had been sent to me from the University of Chicago Press. I’m thankful to have this opportunity to be introduced to the book.

The book reminds me of the expression, ‘If these walls could talk.’ Although it is partly the narrative story of Cathy Jean Maloney sharing experiences of living in the historic home, she really adds to the book’s richness and depth by adding details that describe the history of the home and the artistic genius that went into the home and surrounding gardens.

There are quite a few original black and white photos from the early 1900s as well as various original sketches done by the planners. These combined with present day high-quality color photos enrich the breadth and depth of the book. The book also contains over five pages of endnotes.

So, more than just one person’s experience with a home, this book tells the history of the home almost as if the home had been interviewed and the author was just assisting with an autobiography written by the house itself.

Anyone interested in early 1900s Americana history would likely find this book intriguing. There are some interesting facts about the early history of Riverside, Illinois, including stories about the Prairie Schools in Riverside. ~ Gregory Johnson

Publisher’s Description. Below is the publisher’s description of the book.

Riverside, Illinois, was designed in 1869 by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and his architect partner Calvert Vaux. Their unique design, which followed the contours of the landscape and emphasized open spaces, inspired the greatest architects of the time to undertake projects in Riverside. Among those projects was the Avery Coonley Estate, a rare joint effort by Frank Lloyd Wright and landscape architect Jens Jensen. At the center of the estate, itself a National Historic Landmark, sits the Gardener’s Cottage, a small but unassuming masterpiece built for the estate’s gardener and his wife. The cottage matches the architectural aesthetic of the estate, and its naturalistic, stunning gardens reflect the overall emphasis on landscape and nature in Riverside.

But what is it truly like to live within a historic work of architectural art? Current owner and gardening writer Cathy Jean Maloney here records her discoveries and personal reflections on living in the Gardener’s Cottage with her family. In The Gardener’s Cottage in Riverside, Illinois, Maloney describes the cottage’s beginnings, providing biographical background and design insight into the house itself and Riverside’s key creators. She also highlights the often overlooked beauty of the cottage and illustrates how it is emblematic of Wright and Jensen’s holistic Prairie Style approach to building and landscape architecture. The size of the Gardener’s Cottage allows us to witness Wright’s aesthetic concerns in small detail and to understand his ideas on a more accessible and livable scale.

The Gardener’s Cottage is a welcome and original addition to the work on these world-renowned architects and planners. It not only celebrates their designs, but the simple daily beauty of living within them.

By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a freelance writer and tech consultant in Iowa City. He is also the founder and Director of the ResourcesForLife.com website. Learn more at AboutGregJohnson.com