In the 1920s, wealthy businessman Arthur B. Cook, who had interests in lumber and brick companies, purchased a tract of former timberland on 4.5 miles along the shore of Lake Hamilton. Following Cook’s death in 1934, his youngest daughter Verna (later Verna Garvan) took on his responsibilities, administering the family’s holdings and assets. In the 1950s she began developing the Lake Hamilton land, initially with the intention of building a house there. Garvan, a self-taught gardener, spent the next forty years creating the 210-acre botanical garden, planting hundreds of varieties of native and exotic trees, bushes, and flowers. Shortly before her death in 1993, she commissioned E. Fay Jones and Maurice Jennings to design an open-air pavilion as a centerpiece for the garden. The circular Garvan Pavilion of native redwood and stone has a steel and glass roof that rises above a central oculus in the form of an unfolding flower. In many ways the gardens emulate the naturalistic eighteenth-century tradition of English garden landscapes where the land and plantings interact with small architectural structures of different shapes. Additional small structures include the Anthony Chapel (completed 2006) by Maurice Jennings and David McKee. Constructed of wood and glass, it is modeled on E. Fay Jones’s Thorncrown Chapel (CR17). They also were responsible for the 57-foot carillon. In 1996 the landscape architecture firm of Behnke and Associates of Cleveland was hired to create a twenty-five-year master plan, which was implemented beginning in 2000. The Welcome Center (2002) is by the Hot Spring firm of French Architects. Garvan Gardens includes five miles of walking trails through the woods, where one encounters bridges, waterfalls, pools, a bird sanctuary, a wildflower meadow, and an amphitheater. In 1985 Garvan had donated forty acres of the garden to the landscape architecture department of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and at her death in 1993 she bequeathed her garden to the university.
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Garvan Woodland Gardens
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