Restoring a Lost Landscape

Historic photos, an inspired homeowner, a detail-oriented landscaping designer, a hardworking crew, and the Minnesota Historical Society guided the restoration of this Summit Avenue home’s original reflecting pool, brickwork, and gardens. This project received the 2009 MNLA Landscape Design Award and was featured in SPACES Magazine.

Before: Idyllic St. Paul landscape frequented by literary hero F. Scott Fitzgerald.

After: Restored in the spirit of the original 1900s design.

A Little History

F. Scott Fitzgerald was known to have visited this home frequently. In fact, F. Scott and his parents lived on Summit Ave for a time in the early 1900s. Our clients’ home originally belonged to Samuel Dittenhofer and his wife, Madeline.

The home was designed by architect Clarence H. Johnston, Sr. who also designed the Fitzgerald’s home, St. Paul Central High School, and the Glensheen mansion in Duluth, among others – all examples of Jacobean architecture.

Restored St. Paul MN garden design

Madeline Dittenhofer and other St. Paul socialites of the day followed Fitzgerald to Europe in the 1930s. When it looked as if World War II was inevitable, Samuel tried to bring his wife back home. But they were swept up in the war before they could leave Paris. They were Jewish. The Dittenhofers were never in a concentration camp. American Jews were held in a Paris hotel and tended to by the Christian Brothers.

Samuel never made it back to his Summit Ave home. He became ill and died shortly after the war ended. His wife, Madeline, did return for a short time – just long enough to board up the Summit Ave home and return to Paris. Madeline eventually sold the home to the Christian Brothers who sold it to our clients in 1999. The house had been boarded up for more than 30 years. It was in need of some tender-loving care – both inside and out.

Herringbone brick paver walkway

Landscape Design Elements

The landscape features a unique and dramatic reflecting pool, which was designed and built in the same style and location as the original. Long brick walkways invite visitors to stroll through the landscape, rest on a curved seat wall, and enjoy the color and fragrance of the homeowner’s exquisite garden.

The “spouting frog” and “garden maiden” statuary add a touch of whimsy and an element of romance. The clay brick was carefully selected to accurately recreate the original palette.

Reflecting pool with water garden and frog fountain

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