Estate of Lord Chance, Surrey
(Thomas W. Sears, Photographer, c. 1909)
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Prominent landscape architect Thomas W. Sears was born in Brookline, MA, outside of Boston, the son of Alexander Pomeroy and Elizabeth Prescott (Jones) Sears. He received his A.B. in 1903 from Harvard, and received his B.S. in Landscape Architecture in 1906, both from the Lawrence Scientific School, Harvard University. After establishing an office in Providence, RI, Sears moved to Philadelphia and by 1917 had launched the practice for which he is so well known.
Sears associated on country and public landscape with several of the more prominent architects in Philadelphia, including Charles Barton Keen (on the R. J. Reynolds estate in Winston-Salem, NC, 1917) and Zantzinger, Borie & Medary.
In a Class of 1903, Harvard College, report originally written in 1928, Sear mused upon his career: "Practically my whole life has been wrapped up in my profession, -- landscape architecture. This brings back to me a remark made by Professor Warren, head of the architectural department, to the students of architecture and landscape architecture in one of his opening lectures. He was warning the students not to adopt either of those professions unless they were sure they were going to love it, as it would be with them all the time. I have found this to be literally true, -- that clients enjoy calling me up at any hour in much the same way that sick people call up a doctor, and that Saturdays, Sundays, and meal times are especially favored for conferences. However, I have not minded this, as landscape architecture as a profession has proven even more interesting and lovable than I had dared to image. I have held no public positions and my practice, with the exception of the period during War, has been the usual one of a landscape architect covering private work, work for institutions, land subdivision, and civic work. . . . I am asked whether I would go into the same profession if I had my life to lead over and in reply I answer that I certainly would, and that I would get my training for this work at Harvard. While the competition for students graduating in 1928 may be somewhat keener than for us, I believe they have an equally good chance in the world."
Of course, Sears could not predict in 1928 that the stock market crash of 1929 would throw his profession into an especially vulnerable job market. He had worked in the heyday of landscape when the demand for large private gardens as well as the use of landscape professionals as planners was especially popular. Nonetheless, he lived to see the ups and downs of his profession, and he weathered those changes. In the late 1930s he was involved in the planning of Washington Crossing Park, and in the 1950s he again witnessed a boom in the need for trained landscape designers and planners. He worked on the re-design of Washington Square in Philadelphia in 1957; 1958 found him at work on the Merion Cricket Club in Haverford, PA.
Sandra L. Tatman.
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