In 1905, Cleveland iron-ore magnate William Gwinn Mather consulted two nationally renowned landscape architects, Warren H. Manning (1860–1938) and Charles A. Platt (1861–1933), about plans for a new estate. Manning was a legendary plantsman and a park- and city-planning specialist who had worked for Mather on several northern Michigan mine projects while employed by Frederick Law Olmsted; Platt was a young artist-turned-architect widely praised for adapting Italian principles to American soil. Each encouraged Mather to purchase a five-acre parcel east of the city directly on Lake Erie, anticipating that the ever-changing lake panorama would give the garden landscape great distinction.
Platt accepted Mather’s commission with the provision that he design both the new house and landscape; Manning, disappointedly, agreed to serve as “planting adviser” on the project. The diverse partners began their work in 1906. Platt, a champion of formality, recommended symmetry and classical ornament, while Manning, a proponent of an emerging “American style,” favored irregular groupings of mostly indigenous plants. Their unintended collaboration at Gwinn led to an exceptionally strong and varied design.
Platt’s layout features a 505-foot, curving seawall that embraces the roiling waters of the lake and, on the quiescent south side, an axial arrangement of walled and hedged outdoor rooms fitting together into an elegant whole. Luxuriant masses of trees, shrubs, and groundcovers soften the architecture throughout. In 1912 Manning’s work spilled across the boulevard in the form of a twenty-acre wild garden that offered an Emersonian contrast to the classicism of the home grounds. The two poles of American landscape design—nature and art—so clearly articulated in this influential early work, charge Gwinn with remarkable vibrancy.
Design by Charles Platt, Warren Manning, and Ellen Shipman, 1906–12.
Read the whole story in The Muses of Gwinn.
Gwinn (estate of William Gwinn Mather)
Private. Not open to the public.