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Root, Ralph Rodney (1884-1964) | Lake Forest College Archives and Special Collections

Name: Root, Ralph Rodney (1884-1964)

Historical Note:

Ralph R. Root was a landscape architect noted for his formalism in style and approach while based in the midwest, a contarian to the established conservative informal prevailing style, derived frm 18th C. England's Landscape School, and practiced in this country through to today.  Root's classic revival style, though, suited many local estates of the Lake Forest and Chicago susburban region, from collaborations with architect David Adler  on the North Shore to Cantigny in Wheaton, the Col. Robert R. McCormick estate. 

Root was educated at Cornell (1910) and Harvard (1912), and from 1913 to 1918 was the landscape architecture instuructor at the University of Illinois.  His book, Design in Landscape Gardening (Century, 1914), was perhaps the first textbook on landscape deisgn.  He taught an influential  summer school in Lake Forest, 1916, on the Lake Forest College faculty, and proposed for the College a landscape program in 1918, presumably after he did not receive tenure at the U. of Illinois in 1918.  Inquiries by the College turned up one letter form the Olmsted (informal) firm, not finding him reliable--perhaps on stylistic grounds.  The school never materialized for many reasons.  He practiced with Noble P. Hollister, a horticulturalist, after 1918. 

In Lake Forest and Lake Bluff his designs in collaboration with David Adler and Robert Work (Adler's partner 1917-28) incuded the Pike Estate, 950 Lake Rd.(1917), LF; Elawas Farm (1916--plan in file); Crab Tree Farm, LB (early 1920s); and the Campbell estate, 2000 Knollwood Rd., 1930--plan).  His most striking Chicago area commission, open to the public, is at Cantigny, Wheaton: the historic terraces and pool (east), entry court (north), and allee (south) of the McCormick mansion.

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