Spotlight Collection

Fletcher Steele Collection

The July spotlight feature for New York Heritage Digital Collections is the The Fletcher Steele Collection from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Born in Rochester, New York, Fletcher Steele (1885-1971) enrolled in the new program in Landscape Architecture at Harvard University in 1907. While only mildly successful in the academic realm, his talents were recognized by Warren Manning, one of America's foremost landscape designers at the time. In 1908, Manning persuaded Steele to leave Harvard and come work for him at his Boston office. Never looking back, Steele embarked on a career that would make him one of the most prolific and successful designers of the 20th Century.

What Fletcher Steele represents to the profession of landscape architecture is a bridge between two different design periods. He was trained in the ideas of Beaux Arts classicism, yet he had a yearning to abandon its formulaic methods in favor of art. His clients had particular demands, and Steele was forced to compromise between the classical and the modern. His designs mingle in both camps. While many classical elements served as inspiration for his ideas, he customized them to fit the unique situations of his client's designs. This process tended to result in very idiosyncratic gardens. The clients' ultimate pleasure of the garden came from the fact that it was exactly what they wanted, and more.

The Fletcher Steele Collection in New York Heritage Digital Collections consists of some of the best study prints (photographs) and selected plans and drawings used by Steele in his work.  Many of the photographs are featured in Fletcher Steele, landscape architect: an account of the gardenmaker's life, 1885-1971 by Robin Carson.  

Additional materials held in the College Archives and Special Collections amount to slides, scrapbooks, order books, blueprints, drawings, postcards and books from his personal library with the landscaper's own notes found throughout. The collection was donated to the college in 1974 by the Upstate NY Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.


About the Library and Special Collections

The  Archives and Special Collections at SUNY ESF's Moon Library is dedicated to acquiring unique items related to the field of forestry and environmental science. Items in the Special Collections are acquired by donation, purchase or from the general library collection, such as non-circulating library books of historic value. The collection contains paintings, sculpture and art related to the College, produced by members of the college community. The mission of the Special Collections is to collect, preserve and make accessible unique items of value that reflect the culture and values of SUNY ESF. Records for some materials in the Moon Library Special Collections and Archives can be found using the library's catalog or SUNY D-Space or the New York State Archives.

The Moon Library is a member of the Central New York Library Resources Council, a member of the NY 3Rs Association, Inc..