In a city rich with beautiful gardens, Longue Vue is an unrivaled jewel. Begun in 1935 by Ellen Biddle Shipman, known as “the dean of American women landscape architects,” Longue Vue’s gardens have an important place in the history of horticulture design in the United States.
At the time of Longue Vue’s creation, a bold new garden movement was taking place, setting the stage for the creation of breathtaking garden estates across America. During this period called the Country Place Era, traveling Americans looked to Europe for inspiration for their own retreats that seamlessly integrated indoor and outdoor spaces.
Ellen Biddle Shipman was much sought after as a designer of gardens of the Country Place style. She possessed a keen ability to create garden rooms with an ease and expressive romanticism that made her stand out among her more formal contemporaries.
Shipman had a philosophy regarding gardening that was very much in keeping with the democratic leanings of the Sterns, who believed in using their resources to enable the self-empowerment of all individuals. Shipman said, “Gardening opens a wider door than any of the all mankind can walk through…. It has no distinctions, all are welcome.”
Architects William and Geoffrey Platt completed the current Longue Vue structure in 1942, which is a variant in the Classical Revival style, replacing an original house that Shipman felt no longer related to the gardens she had designed.
By the 1960s, Edith Stern had conceived of the idea of opening Longue Vue to the public and many of the garden improvements during this time reflect both this foresight and Edith Stern’s generous desire to share her legacy with generations to come.
Longue Vue opened its gardens to the public in 1968 and was in continuous operation until Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent levee failures which flooded the property for two weeks. The flood waters killed 60% of the total plant collection, including 200 trees and shrubs, all annuals and 90% of the perennials. By July 2006, the entire garden was re-opened to the public.
Longue Vue’s recovery was greatly aided by The Garden Conservancy, which in 2006 designated Longue Vue as a Preservation Project. In fulfilling its mission to preserve American gardens for the public’s education and enjoyment, the Garden Conservancy provides the leadership, guidance, and tools to assist garden owners, public agencies, and private organizations in assessing the feasibility of preserving a garden, opening its gates to the public, and sustaining the garden as a valued cultural resource in the community, region, and nation.
With assistance of the Garden Conservancy and other generous consultants including the Vermont-based landscape architecture firm Heritage Landscapes, Longue Vue embarked on a Landscape Renewal Plan using the site’s 44 original Shipman garden plans. All post-Katrina plantings were chosen according to the LRP, with special consideration to horticultural diversity and resiliently, the needs of regional wildlife, and educational opportunities for visitors.