Mary Rutherfurd Jay Exhibit 2015
MARY RUTHERFURD JAY (1872 - 1953) the great, great granddaughter of American Founding Father John Jay, was one of America's earliest landscape architects and an advocate of horticultural education and careers for women. She grew up in Rye, New York from the age of 3 years old surrounded by the gardens of her ancestral homestead in Westchester County overlooking Long Island Sound. Her education was fostered by travel abroad with her mother and domestically through classes in design and horticulture taken at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Bussey Institute in Forest Hills, Massachusetts.

GARDENS (1907 - 1929) Jay's first commission was a "plaisance" or pleasure garden in 1907 for the home of her sister Laura Jay Wells in the Round Hill neighborhood of Greenwich, Connecticut. "From this modest but well-measured beginning, her portfolio grew to more than 50 articulated projects for private residences all along the East Coast. Her projects varied widely in composition and plant material and demonstrated a comprehensive knowledge of English, French, Dutch, Indian, Italian, Turkish and Japanese design. With great facility, she learned the horticultural and architectural vocabulary of the grand estates of Europe and Asia - pleached allees of trees, plaisances, pergolas, moongates, parterres, rock gardens, pools and teahouses - and adapted these distinctive landscape elements to American gardens and soil conditions.” An avid student of the French planner of Versailles, Andre Le Notre, Mary Rutherfurd Jay called herself a "garden architect." She shared her knowledge freely with others as a lecturer in people's homes and as a contributor to magazines with large circulations like "House Beautiful" and "Home & Garden" as well as smaller niche journals like "The Touchstone."

Her plans were created for friends and clients as notable as New York architect, historian and social reformer, I.N. Phelps Stokes, author of the monumental “The Iconography of Manhattan;” financiers William A. and William G. Rockefeller of Greenwich, Connecticut; Remington Arms President Samuel Pryor; and yachtsmen C. Oliver Iselin and Henry R. Mallory. By 1926, with one of the very few offices leased by women in the Architect's Building at 101 Park Avenue in Manhattan (the others being Marian Cruger Coffin and Ruth Dean) her private practice had transformed properties as far south as Palm Beach, Florida and as far north as Manchester-by-the-Sea in Massachusetts. Her colleagues included notable architects like Addison Mizner, J. Alden Twachtman and Francis Keally; she collaborated with peers like Martha Brooks Hutcheson.

PHILANTHROPY AND VOLUNTEERISM IN WWI - WNFGA (1914) and The American Committee for Devastated France (1918 - 1919) The Garden Club of America was formed in 1913 and many of its members immediately sought out Jay's expertise as a judge, speaker and designer. As an advocate for women's education, Jay was an early member of the Woman's National Agricultural and Horticultural Association (today's WNFGA) formed in 1914. She also served on the board of the nascent Pennsylvania Horticulture School for Women in Ambler, volunteering as Field Secretary to interest more people in the school and raise much needed funds. [11] As World War I came to a close, Mary Rutherfurd Jay shared and applied all that she had learned about the restorative power of gardens by working with the American Red Cross and the American Committee for Devastated France, a battalion of female volunteers organized by Mary’s friend Anne Morgan (1873 - 1952), daughter of banker and philanthropist John Pierpont Morgan. There Jay supervised an agricultural unit that helped residents of villages like Soissons in Aisne recover from the destruction of the Great War.

AUTHOR, LECTURER AND GENEALOGIST - The Garden Handbook (1931) and The Jay Family (1935) The majority of Jay's landscape projects were completed between 1907 and the late 1920s. “The deaths of her brother John and mother Julia Post in 1928 and 1929 respectively seemed pivotal in changing the focus of her career to more writing." “In 1931 she completed “The Garden Handbook,” a small volume intended for use outside in the smallest to grandest of green spaces; it included descriptions and photos of historic gardens for reference as well as lists of blooming times for various species of flowers, shrubs and trees. Jay was a frequent and very popular speaker to many chapters of the Garden Club of America as well as horticultural societies around the country. She used over 100 luminous lantern slides per program to illustrate the beauty of gardens she had seen in the course of her journeys around the globe. With an evident passion for culture and history, her talks highlighted what had been lost in foreign countries during wartime but also emphasized the resilience of landscapes and the potential for what could be restored through design.”

"During this same period, she recorded the genealogical history of The Jay Family (1935) noting the family's origins in La Rochelle, France and visually illustrating the breadth of their connections to other early New York families through marriage."

Mary Rutherfurd Jay died in New York in 1953. Her collection of slides was donated posthumously to fellow landscape architect Beatrix Jones Farrand and the Reef Point Library in Maine. The Jay collection was subsequently moved to the Archives of University of California Berkeley where they are available for study. The family gardens that inspired her to become a landscape architect are now being restored for public use. The site is the centerpiece of the Boston Post Road Historic District and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1993. The Jay Estate, including its gardens, is a member of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area. It was added to New York State's Path Through History in 2013. (Excerpt of "Mary Rutherfurd Jay - Garden Architect" Exhibit Catalog, (2015) by Jay Heritage Center)

Jay Heritage Center
210 Boston Post Road
Rye, NY 10580
(914) 698-9275

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