Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Drawings + Documents Archive plants landscape architecture collection online

Schuyler N. Nolan (1894-1981) grew to love working with plants and designing gardens at a very young age by helping his father work on residential landscaping projects in Vincennes, Indiana, where he grew up, and later Plymouth, Indiana, after his family moved there. His only formal design training came from a three-month mechanical drafting course he took at the Chicago Technical School. He supplemented his brief formal education with, as he wrote, “a great amount of time spent in libraries” studying any materials related to landscaping.

His extensive use of the local library paid off when he began his own landscaping company while still in Illinois. He steadily built his reputation in residential landscape design and did very well until the Depression affected his clientele. He then went to work at the Indianapolis Parks Department, where he designed gardens for the 1934, 1937, and 1937 Home Shows, and then later at the Indiana State Highway Commission, where he designed roadside plantings throughout the state until 1937.

After 1937, he practiced as a landscape architect and experienced much success designing a wide range of commissions. From his work during World War II designing aircraft building plants and Naval officers’ quarters, to tony residential work for many of Indianapolis’ elite, such as J. K. Lilly and Harrison Eiteljorg, Nolan built functional yet artistic spaces for his clients.

After his retirement, an unfortunate basement flood destroyed most of his drawings and business records. He donated the drawings that managed to survive the flood to the Drawings and Documents Archive in 1979. These represent fifty-six commissions, and you can explore examples of his creative and technical design skills through his drawings for fountains, terrace gardens, and baseball fields, now available online through the Ball State University’s Digital Media Repository (

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