Alice Recknagel Ireys Papers
Scope and Contents of the Collection
The Alice Recknagel Ireys Papers consist of 69.25 linear feet of biographical material, correspondence, financial records, notes, plant lists, sketches, renderings, plans, photographs, drafts and typescripts of writings, and handouts prepared for teaching. The materials are primarily related to her professional life. They date from 1885 to 2001 with the bulk dating from the 1950s until Ireys' death in 2000.
The main subject of Ireys' papers is the approximately 800 gardens she designed over her sixty-five year career. The largest series, Series II. CLIENT FILES, contains the bulk of the material about individual gardens. The many sketches in the files reveal how designs evolved over time as her communication with the clients deepened and their desires became better defined and understood. Ireys maintained relationships with clients for many years, sometimes over decades and through several moves to new properties. The files clearly illustrate her dedication to finding a design solution "that is practical and beautiful and fulfills [the clients'] dreams."
The files also show her impressive knowledge of plants and careful selection for the site and situation. They also illustrate Ireys' intense desire that after all that careful selection and placement the plants should be well-tended. Many files include detailed instructions for general care and pruning, as well as disease and insect control.
Materials about individual gardens can also be found in Series V. PHOTOGRAPHS, which is primarily made up of professional photographs of built gardens designed by Ireys. Series III. FINANCIAL FILES contains account books with billing information for individual clients. And because Ireys used her own built works to illustrate principles in her writings, Series IX. WRITINGS can be consulted for Ireys' own descriptions of her aims on those projects.
The arc of Ireys' career follows general twentieth century trends away from large estate gardens and public projects to smaller-scale, simpler projects. Ireys' dedication to beautiful, functional, and reasonable-to-maintain "home grounds" evident in her design work, teaching, and writing, jibe well with the post-World War II emphasis on the home.
Materials in Series VII. SPEECHES, Series VIII. TEACHING, and Series IX. WRITINGS provide ample evidence of Ireys' dedication to clear and accessible instruction on the principles of landscape design and the "joys of creating and caring for a garden." In addition, these materials demonstrate the interrelationships between landscape architects and garden club members who were likely to be involved in hiring landscape architects, for their own properties or public work for the towns where they lived and institutions they supported.
Series IX. WRITINGS also provides a glimpse of the world of garden book publishing in the latter twentieth century with files of correspondence and notes assessing the garden book market.
There is little personal material, mostly in Series I. BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS. Because Ireys' clients were sometimes her close friends, researchers can get a sense of her personality in correspondence with them in Series II. The Weekly Notes in Series IV. MISCELLANEOUS PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES, provide a sort of brief outline of the activities of Ireys' day and reveal the interrelated nature of the personal and professional. Correspondence related to travel for design work at a distance from Brooklyn, and for out-of-town speaking and teaching engagements, offers other glimpses into the challenges of combining family obligations with career.
Researchers may contact the Sophia Smith Collection for the folder list for Series II. Client Files and portions of the Photographs series which are not included in the online version of the finding aid.