A Narrative History of the
Holy Cross Campus Garden Initiative
For almost six years, I have been actively engaged in working with interested members of the campus community (faculty, administration, staff, students) to formulate a proposal for building a Japanese garden and tea house on the Holy Cross campus. Based upon my experiences visiting many gardens in Japan and taking part in the tea ceremony, having taught at Carleton College and witnessed the value of its modest campus garden, and informed by my career teaching Asian religions, I have seen since joining the faculty here that building such a facility would be an extraordinary blessing for Holy Cross.
I have composed this historical overview to make it plain how this project began and has unfolded to date. It is also very important to me that the central principles I have followed from the beginning be understood: that the process has been open and transparent; and that for this initiative to succeed, it must grow around a “learning community” of administrators, faculty, students, and staff who will move forward its planning; and that the garden initiative should also reach beyond campus to interested experts and communities in central Massachusetts.
In late 1999, after I broached the idea to him, Stephen Ainlay asked that I draft a preliminary proposal to the administration. President, Provost, and Dean felt it worth pursuing further. I found it easy to form a steering committee that took on the task of identifying a site, pursuing a design, and refining the exact nature of our own Japanese garden initiative. (George Hoffmann, Mark Lincicome, Chick Weiss, and Jim Hogan were pivotal in moving the proposal ahead in the first year.) A grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities funded a lecture series for students, faculty and area teachers in spring 2004, a semester-long weekly event that explored “The Cultural and Religious Foundations of the Japanese Garden .” Experts on Shinto, Confucianism, the history of Japanese gardens came to Holy Cross for lectures; practitioners of tea ceremony, brush painting, and Zen meditation conducted workshops; and field trips to the Worcester Art Museum and regional gardens also gave this group further experiences that deepened our sense of how the cultural traditions associated with a campus garden would benefit our community.
In 2004, the college administration employed landscape architect Marc Keene to submit a design for a traditional Japanese building, an attached six-mat tea house, with both a dry viewing garden and stroll garden integrated into the design. In the process, a final site was chosen: the hillside below Linden Lane between Stein and Carlin dorms, with the design including a remaking of the entire courtyard area adjoining it. This web site now contains detailed images, design site plans, a history of the Initiative, steering committee membership and minutes of its meetings, and background information on every cultural aspect of the Campus Garden Initiative.
Keene ’s design was well-received and the campus garden design proposal found support in 2005 among faculty in the Asian Studies and Environmental Studies Concentrations. It was also brought to the attention of the Finance and Planning Council, the Student Advisory Committee, the Office of Campus Ministry, and the 2005 campus space consultants. All have endorsed it as an exciting and worthy project. After such reviews and discussions, Keene and the Steering Committee met in late 2005 with the college architect and director of the campus physical plant to reach a cost estimate for his design: $4.2 million. This was presented to the administration in 2005 and has been endorsed by President McFarland. The Campus Japanese Garden plan was approved by the Board of Trustees in the fall of 2005, but only with funds raised from an outside donor(s). It is important to add that once funding is secured, the final design will be open to review by the entire Holy Cross community.
The Japanese Campus Garden Initiative has moved ahead steadily, building a community of interested and informed students, faculty, and staff. While the last step of finding a donor might take several years, there is every reason to feel optimistic that one (or several) will step forward. All are invited to join the initiative and prepare for the garden’s presence in the life of Holy Cross.
Todd Lewis, Professor of Religious Studies