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“Whose garden was this? It must have been lovely…”

From Chicago to Connecticut to Canberra…An appreciation of

Walter Burley Griffin, landscape architect for Stephen T. Mather


Looking to contact a member of the Mather family, in August 1972, James Weirick, aresearcher in Australia reached out to the Darien Historical Society.


His query concerned how the designer of Australia’s capital city of Canberra would have designed the gardens for a home in Darien, Connecticut…indeed, yes, for the Mather Homestead.


The designer was Walter Burley Griffin who was both an architect and a landscape architect. It was in the latter role he worked closely with Frank Lloyd Wright. A PBS documentary, “Walter Burley Griffin: In His Own Rightchronicles the life and work of one of America's greatest architects. Together with Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, Griffin would complete the triumvirate of architects who developed America's first original architectural style. It became known as the Prairie School.


Walter Burley Griffin was born in Maywood, Illinois on November 24, 1876. In partnership with his wife, Marion Mahony Griffin, he designed over 350 buildings as well as landscape and urban-design projects.


images below:

1. Walter Burley Griffin 1912

2. Walter and Marion 1930




Griffin was a member of the Prairie Club of Chicago. Among the Club’s goals was “to raise public awareness of special areas and to create an interest in their conservation.” Not surprisingly, Stephen Tyng Mather was also a member. As a monograph of Griffin relates…”their association

had professional implication: Mather commissioned Griffin in 1909 for the design of a garden for his family’s 1778 Connecticut homestead.”


In 1911 an interational competition was held for the design of a capital for Australia. Walter and Marion entered. “Their submission was of a city that accentuated the native landscape, with an architecture that was an expression of the surrounding environment, where natural features were preserved and served specific societal functions, and where land was held in common. Their design for Canberra, beautifully presented on Marion Mahony Griffin’s larger than life earth-toned panels, was announced the winner in the spring of 1912.”


The Griffins emigrated to Australia in 1914. Today one of the most prestigious architect prizes in Australia is named in Walter Burley Griffin’s honor.


The following photographs of the garden were taken by Herbert W. Gleason. (See blog The Getty…The Whitney…and the Mather Attic…)







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