Son of French sculptor Henri Greber, Jacques Greber graduated from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1908. He first came to the United States in 1910 to work for Clarence H. Mackay on "Harbor Hill," Mackay's estate at Roslyn, Long Island. His collaborations with Philadelphia architects Horace Trumbauer and Paul P. Cret have been well-documented, but he was also an internationally known urban planner. In Philadelphia his effect can be found in the master plan for the Benjamin Franklin Parkway (ca. 1917), but he also implemented his designs in Ottawa, Canada, and as master architect for the 1937 International Paris Exposition.
According to James T. Maher in his Twilight of Splendor (p. 65), Greber was brought to Philadelphia by Joseph E. Widener in 1913 so that he could create his trademark French classical garden for Widener's Lynnewood Hall. (Greber would dedicate his 1920 L'Architecture aux Etat-Unis to Widener.) Noting his success at Lynnewood Hall, Trumbauer proceeded to collaborate with him on several garden plans, including that for Edward T. Stotesbury, "Whitemarsh Hall." Again, according to Maher:
Greber's formal gardens at Whitemarsh Hall, lucid as geometry and eloquent of the ancient theatrical visions of architectural fantasy, may have been the finest example of French classical landscape art in America . . . Greber subtly modified the French classical design concept, which depends for its logic upon the availability of large areas of level ground, and adapted it through the use of certain conventions of English formal garden design, to the undulating terrain of the three-hundred-acre estate.
It is his lucidity which gained Greber several major urban planning commissions, including those for Philadelphia and Ottawa. Basing his designs on the boulevard system implemented by Haussmann in Paris, Greber created wide cuts in the urban landscape leading to major buildings (in Philadelphia, connecting the Museum of Art and City Hall). Later he and Paul Cret would add the Rodin Museum to the collection of learned society buildings which clustered around the Parkway.
Sandra L. Tatman.
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