Olompali State Historic Park, Mary Burdell Garden, U.S. Highway 101, Novato, Marin County, CA
Significance: The Mary Burdell Victorian Garden is a notable example of formal Victorian garden design. It represents the distinctive characteristics and aesthetics advocated by garden designers and horticulturists of the period 1850-1890 such as Andrew Jackson Downing and was one of the earlier gardens of this type to be designed in the Bay Area. The garden was developed under the direction of Mary Black Burdell, the owner of Rancho Olompali in Marin County, California. In the nineteenth century the garden and its adjacent residential complex lay at the heart of an 8,800 acre agricultural property which is now an expansive State Historic Park. Olompali was representative of the Bay Area estates developed by many wealthy Californians in the late nineteenth century which generally exhibited a residential "core" with a main house, auxiliary buildings, a wide entry path, and formal landscaping. These estates were surrounded by working agricultural land that often included orchards, pasturage and vineyards. The garden was constructed in 1886-74. In 1911, Mary Burdell's son, James, extensively remodeled the existing house into a twenty-four room mansion that bore little resemblance to the Victorian wood frame house of his parents. The James Burdell house continued to incorporate portions of the original Camilo Ynitia adobe. James made additions and alterations to the original garden. While a number of formal Victorian gardens were developed in the Bay Area in the late nineteenth century, very few remain, with the Burdell garden representing a rare surviving example. Factors ranging from cost and labor intensiveness to dramatic changes in taste resulted in many of these designed landscapes either being removed or so substantially altered that their Victorian design aesthetic has been completely lost. Although the Burdell garden has become naturalized over a number of years, the design and planting patterns of the garden continue to be identifiable and it retains many of its major architectural features and a number of elements of its historic plant palate.
Survey number: HALS CA-4
Building/structure dates: after 1866 Initial Construction