Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project

 

 
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Institution Name: Marian College (IN)
Original/Historic Place Name: Riverdale: the James A. Allison estate
Location on Campus: 3200 Cold Spring Rd./far north side of campus, adjacent to Allison Mansion
Date(s) of Construction:
1911-1913original construction Jensen, Jens
Designer: Jens Jensen
Type of Place: Landscape site
Style: (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture, landscape
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Function:
1911-present (2006)outdoor space
ca. 2004-present (2006)classrooms (outdoor)
 

Narrative:
This Jens Jensen landscape is mostly intact, and the majority of the designed features are included within the boundaries of the Marian College campus. A small parcel adjacent to campus is owned by the Indianapolis Public Schools. The landscape features are deteriorated but discernible. Recently, invasive species have been removed from the landscape and many features uncovered. Also, trails have been installed that approximate the system Jensen designed.

The Jensen landscape is significant because it is one of the few mostly intact examples of this master landscape architect's work for private landowners. Many signature features of a Jensen landscape are present at this site, including a picturesque stone colonnade that was the focal point of the formal gardens, a large meadow or "prairie," a formal garden centering on a lengthy pergola, a rectilinear vegetable garden, and a pond or "prairie river." According to the original plan, which still exists, there was an abundance of plant species incorporated with various greenhouses and outbuildings. Five lakes added to the beauty of the landscaped grounds that, during Mr. Allison's residence, were maintained by Mr. Ottis J. Clemans and twenty-two assistants. More than four miles of driveways connected the various parts of the estate. There were also footpaths and several miles of bridle paths. Closely associated with Prairie School architects, Jensen stressed the horizontal nature of the prairie and its ability to direct views toward the distant sky. (He worked with Frank Lloyd Wright on several projects.)

Finally, with its magnificent mansion (see separate description of the Allison Mansion) and the Jensen landscape, the James A. Allison estate, also known as Riverdale, provides an excellent example of an American Country Place Era estate and represents an important period in late 19th and early 20th century American social history.
 

References:

"Cultural Landscape Report [draft]." Indiana Department of Natural Resources/State Historic Preservation Office., [n.d.].

 

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Last update: November 2006