Armistead W. Browning, Jr. papers

Biographical and Historical Notes

Born in 1938, Armistead Willis Browning, Jr., was a landscape architect, environmentalist and teacher who dedicated his life to environmental preservation and education. Browning was the founder of Turtle Creek Designs, a landscape design consulting firm in Pocopson, Pennsylvania. The firm did residential work and large-scale environmental studies. Browning worked extensively with the Brandywine Conservancy in Chadds Ford and Pocopson Township, producing landmark studies of the scenic, historical and natural features of the Brandywine Valley Region. From 1977 until his death in 1987, Browning taught courses in landscape design and native plant horticulture at the University of Delaware. His weekly column, "Notes from Turtle Creek," appeared in The Kennett Paper . He was also an accomplished and prolific photographer of the landscape and the natural world.

Armistead W. Browning, Jr. was the son of A. Willis Browning and Mary Harvey Browning, and the nephew of Edmund H. "Ted" Harvey, the founder of Delaware Wild Lands, Inc. Ted Harvey served as "an early inspiration for Mr. Browning's commitment to the preservation of ecosystems," (News Journal). He was raised in Chester County, Pennsylvania and spent a large part of his life exploring the woodlands, wetlands and meadows of the Brandywine River Valley. Browning earned a B.A. in English literature from Williams College in 1962, an M.A. in History of Architecture in 1967, and an M.A. in Architecture (with a focus in landscape architecture), from Columbia University in 1971. He also studied at Yale University School of Forestry, where he was a special student in ecology in 1975.

From 1967 to 1968, Browning worked for Columbia University's Office of Architectural Planning as a NY draftsman. From 1971 to 1975 he worked as a landscape designer at A.E. Bye and Associates. He was also an associate in environmental planning at Community Design Associates from 1972 to 1975, an associate at Breck Associates from 1977 to 1981, and served as president of Locust Grove, Ltd, from 1981 until his death. Ongoing professional experience included working as a consultant for National Wildlife Magazine in Washington, DC; as a lecturer at the University of Delaware and a faculty member of Longwood Gardens. Browning guest lectured or lectured part-time at Delaware Community College in Media, PA, at the University Of Pennsylvania Graduate School Of Landscape Architecture, at the Maryland Federation of Garden Clubs, at the Delaware Federation of Garden Clubs, and at Harvard University Graduate School of Landscape Architecture. In addition, Browning ran his own landscape design consulting firm, Turtle Creek Design, which focused on residential work and large-scale environmental studies; and Turtle Creek Environmental Center, a private practice focusing on residential landscape design, environmental management consultation, woodlot and forestry management, and alternative homestead methods.

Browning was extremely involved in environmental conservation and study, living in a log cabin on a portion of his family's old farm and working with the Brandywine Conservancy, "producing landmark studies of the scenic, historic, and natural features of the Brandywine Valley region," (Newsletter). He was responsible for helping to organize the division of the 6,400 acre Buck and Doe Run Farm property (known as the King Ranch), and at the time of his death, was planning with his wife to convert part of Turtle Creek Farm into an environmental center. According to an unidentified obituary, Browning was "a birthright Quaker and an admirer of American Indian views of man-nature relationships." Browning was married to Jessie Cocks-Browning. On December 24, 1987, Browning was found dead at Turtle Creek Farm, the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.


Newsletter of the University of Delaware Library Associates. No. 20, April 1991.

News Journal. Obituary: "Armistead Browning, Jr.: architect, conservationist," December 26, 1987.

Scope and Content Note

The Armistead Browning, Jr. papers contain the professional, teaching, and business records of a notable landscape architect and environmentalist, dating from 1923 to 1990 with the bulk falling between 1971 and 1987. The papers chronicle Browning's experience at three architectural firms, two main centers of education, and with numerous independent projects, symposia and workshops. The collection provides a unique look into the activities of a prolific architect, providing insight into planning processes, design and documentation. In addition, it reveals subjects of personal interest that greatly impacted Browning's professional life. The collection is divided into ten series; "Selected papers, 1956-1990," "Family and personal material, 1923-1987," "Writings, 1974-1987," "Teaching materials, 1977-1987," "Brandywine Valley Association, 1977-1988," "Business records, 1976-1987," "Architectural designs, 1971-1988," "Subject files, 1971-1989," "Slides, 1971-1987," and "Artifacts." Several of these series are further divided into subseries.

Series I, "Selected papers, 1956-1990" consists of four boxes of material that were arranged, described and microfilmed by Ms. Frances Hundt, an associate of Armistead Browning in June 1989. This material appears to have been selected from the larger contents of the collection and Ms. Hundt's notes regarding removal are, usually, contained within folders. Materials in this series include articles regarding Armistead W. Browning, Jr.; lectures addressing topics such as landscape design, Japanese gardens, native plants, meadows, ecology and the practice of landscape architecture; courses taught by Browning at the University of Delaware, Longwood Gardens, Harvard University, and the University of Pennsylvania; information regarding Turtle Creek Farm, Turtle Creek Conservation Center, the Brandywine Valley Association (BVA), and Myrick Conservation Center; published writings by Browning; projects; issues; some of Browning's student work; field notes, field books, and formal and informal notebooks; and engagement calendars. The materials in this series date from 1971 to 1987. Researchers should be aware that this series is a sampling of the remainder of the collection and it will be necessary to examine more than one series in order to find all of the material on a specific topic. Because this series has been microfilmed, Ms. Hundt's order was maintained during archival processing and no attempt was made to incorporate materials of the same topic.

Series II, "Family and personal material, 1923-1987," includes documentary material concerning Browning's nonprofessional activities and personal business, social activities and interactions with his family. Materials in this series include personal letters and correspondence, photographs, awards and honors, professional licenses and certificates, newspaper clippings regarding Browning, and notes taken by Browning during his time as a student of Landscape Architecture at Columbia University. Also included are a number of files marked by Armistead Browning, Jr. as "Treasures," including advertisements, writings, correspondence and photographs. This series also contains documentation concerning a building referred to in design documents as the "Browning Solution," a cabin or small residence that Browning designed for himself and his wife as well as several genealogies of the DuPont family, to which Browning was related by marriage. Several oversized design plans and blueprints can be found in this series and are primarily related to Browning's log cabin at Turtle Creek Farm, the "Browning Solution", and surveys of Pocopson Township. This series is arranged alphabetically by subject.

Series III, "Writings, 1974-1987," includes manuscripts and articles written by Browning for both business and personal reasons. Materials in this series include notebooks that document University of Delaware class field trips, the article "Design Makes the Garden," co-authored with architect A.E. Bye, and drafts of several articles in the "Notes from Turtle Creek" newspaper column series. Also included are notes relating to the publicity of Turtle Creek Design and Turtle Creek Environmental Center, which were both businesses owned and operated by Browning. There is a collection of adapted Bible stories written by Browning and entitled "Bawdy Backroom Bible Ballads." This series is arranged alphabetically by subject.

Series IV, "Teaching materials, 1977-1987," includes documentation relating to classes taught by Browning at Longwood Gardens and the University of Delaware, where the bulk of Browning's teaching activity took place. In addition, this series includes material related to lectures and speeches given at various events, universities, conferences and seminars throughout his career. This series is divided into three subseries; "Longwood Gardens, 1977-1987," "University of Delaware, 1978-1986," and "Other lectures, addresses and symposia, 1977-1987." Subseries A, "Longwood Gardens, 1977-1987," includes documentation relating to classes taught at Longwood Gardens, a one thousand-acre horticultural facility that includes horticultural education programs among its many activities. Included in the series are records relating to the Professional Gardener Training Program, in which Browning was heavily involved. These particular records include: handouts covering horticultural topics like patios and decks, planting patterns and ornamental trees and shrubs; course evaluations, class schedules, assignment details, syllabi, and letters of recommendation. It appears that Browning used many of the same teaching tools regardless of the institution hosting the course or type of students attending the course. As a result, many of the handouts and exercises will be found in many files throughout this series. A number of oversized designs and plans can also be found in this subseries, which includes material created by students of the Professional Garden Training Program. Plans documenting "The Weekend Gardener," an exhibition garden designed by Browning for Longwood Gardens, can be found in series VI. This subseries is arranged alphabetically by subject. Subseries B, "University of Delaware, 1978-1986," includes records relating to courses taught by Browning at the University of Delaware's College of Agricultural Science, Department of Plant Sciences. Courses represented in this series are Basic Landscape Design (PLS332), Japanese Gardens of Landscape Design, (PLS 367) Landscape Construction I (PLS 331) and others. Materials concerning these classes include course syllabi, class rosters, handouts, assignment descriptions and studio exercise guidelines. Also included is a large selection of student work, limited primarily to oversized architectural designs and plans, but also including several term papers and theses. Designs and plans created by students in response to course problems or exercises can also be found here. This subseries is arranged alphabetically by subject.

Subseries C, "Other lectures, addresses and symposia, 1977-1987," includes material relating to any courses, lectures, or other instructional activities conducted at sites outside of the University of Delaware or Longwood Gardens. The materials in this series consist primarily of lecture transcripts and notes, and cover activities at the Canterbury Garden Club, Conservation and Ecology Symposium, Delaware Federation of Garden Clubs, the New York Botanical Garden, as well as numerous other clubs, symposia, centers and gardens. There are also records relating to single classes taught by Browning at other universities, such as Design and the Natural Landscape at Harvard University, and Design of the Environment at the University of Pennsylvania. This subseries is arranged alphabetically by subject.

Series V, "Brandywine Valley Association, 1977-1988," houses records documenting Browning's interactions with the Association, a small organization devoted to environmental education and the preservation of the Brandywine Valley watershed which flows through Chester County Pennsylvania to Wilmington, Delaware. Materials in this series include meeting minutes and notes, reports and event descriptions relating to the Association's Myrick Center, and documentation of Association initiatives such as the closing of scenic roads, the Land Stewardship Program, and local conservation plans. Also found in this series is a large quantity of records concerning the Association's acquisition of a large acreage owned by the Battin family; this includes legal surveys, topographical maps, purchase agreements, payment schedules and various notes and reports. Designs and plans related to land acquisition, land survey and new construction for the Brandywine Valley Association (BVA) can also be found here. This series is arranged alphabetically by subject.

Series VI, "Business records, 1976-1987," includes documentation related to various non-design elements of Browning's three major businesses. Records concerning landscaping projects, design plans, and construction have been excluded and can be found in Series VII. Series VI is divided into three subseries, each containing records pertinent to a single business; "Locust Grove, 1981-1984," "Turtle Creek Designs, 1978-1987" and "Turtle Creek Environmental Center, 1977-1983." Subseries A, "Locust Grove, 1981-1984," contains material specifically related to Browning's landscape architecture firm, Locust Grove Design. The name of this company was initially "Strangegarden," and any material referring to that name has been placed in this subseries as well. Materials include letterhead and logo designs, stock options, name change records, and a small quantity of financial and business transaction records. This subseries is arranged alphabetically by subject. Subseries B, "Turtle Creek Design, 1978-1987" contains material relating to Browning's landscape architecture firm, Turtle Creek Design, which was founded in partnership with a promising graduate of Browning's classes at the University of Delaware. Material in this subseries includes banking and insurance records, vendor lists, plant and equipment catalogs, letterhead designs, employee resumes and a small amount of correspondence relating to design projects. This subseries is arranged alphabetically by subject. Subseries C, "Turtle Creek Environmental Center, 1977-1983," contains material relating to Browning's one-man private practice, which engaged primarily in landscape design for private residences and consultation in environmental management projects. Material in this subseries focuses primarily on the Center's founding and conceptualization, and includes concept statements, a foundation announcement, experiments in new farm design, and drafts of services offered. This subseries is arranged alphabetically by subject.

Series VII, "Architectural designs, 1971-1988," consists of material relating directly to landscape architecture projects, or the planning of projects, that were undertaken by Browning, his companies or his students. This series is divided into two subseries; A. "Project files, 1969-1988," and B. "Drawings, 1969-1987." Subseries A, "Project files, 1969-1987," contains documentary material relating to the preparation and execution of landscape architecture design projects. These materials consist primarily of correspondence with clients, design schedules, cost estimates, materials lists, purchase orders and general design notes. Some large design plans and blueprints can also be found accompanying project material. This subseries is arranged alphabetically by client name or subject, in the case of unidentified clients. Subseries B, "Drawings, 1969-1987," contains a large quantity of oversized design plans, blueprints, and topographical maps that were produced during the project activities of Browning's firms and private business, or that were marked as reference materials in those projects. Reference material has been arranged alphabetically by subject or project name. Researchers should consult both the project files and the drawings. Please consult Special Collections staff before requesting the oversized drawings.

Series VIII, "Subject files, 1971-1989," contains materials collected by and of interest to Armistead W. Browning, Jr. Subjects in this series range widely in scope, but are limited primarily to architectural and ecological issues, as well as environmental conservation. Subjects include, but are not limited to: acid rain, animal rights, black walnuts, cicadas, endangered species, food safety, global warming, gypsy moths, meadows, Native Americans, nuclear power, recycling and wildflowers. Also included are materials relating to Cabbages and Kings, an informal organization of landscaping professionals, and the Pocopson Township Planning Commission, both of which claimed Browning as a member. Materials included in this series consist primarily of newspaper and article clippings, meeting minutes, brochures and pamphlets, and handwritten notes. It should be noted that in many cases the original titles assigned by Browning to these files have been maintained. As a result, a number of titles of importance to the creator remain unchanged, such as; "the sky," "weird things to save," "life and love," and "fire and brimstone." This series also contains a large quantity of oversized material, including maps and aerial photographs, posters, large sized prints, and designs and plans which could not be identified. This series is arranged alphabetically by subject.

Series IX, "Slides, 1971-1987," contains Browning's personal and professional slide collection. Subjects range from personal slide photographs of Browning's cats, to slide photographs documenting his many landscape projects. Many of the slides in this series include nature photography, taken by Browning over the course of his life and used in his teaching. There are a large number of "miscellaneous" or "multiple topic" slides - the result of multiple attempts at arrangement from various sources. For the most part, however, the slides retain Browning's own titles. They have been arranged alphabetically.

Series X, "Artifacts," consists of three boxes of physical objects collected by Browning during the course of business or class field trips. These boxes were, at the time of donation, identified as "Teddy's treasures." Many of the items are natural or biological, and include pinecones, turtle shells, horseshoe crab shells, samples of owl scat and pellets and creek water, animal skulls, reptile eggs, snakeskins, and very large quantities of varying types of rock. Most of the material has been identified and labeled by Browning, including the date and location where each item was initially found.