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Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden

By Dan Brenner

Posted on July 10, 2019

Donald L. Nowlan, [Pond], circa 1975, Color print, v1990.2.241; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s (BBG’s) Japanese Hill-and Pond Garden was the first Japanese garden curated within a public botanic garden in America. Designed by Japanese-American landscape architect Takeo Shiota, the garden took two years to complete, opening to the public in 1915. The project cost $13,000 and was funded largely by a gift from Alfred T. White, a benefactor and trustee.

In 1947, Japanese-American Gardener Frank Okamura was hired to care for the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, which had been vandalized during World War II. During his almost thirty-five year tenure at BBG, from 1947 to 1981, Okamura also began teaching bonsai classes and traveling all over the country lecturing on the art of creating bonsai. When Okamura died in 2006 at the age of ninety-four he was one of the leading experts on the art of bonsai in America. This photograph, taken around 1975, shows the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden fully restored by Okamura, keeping Shiota’s vision alive for future generations.

The Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden is three acres and includes a waterfall, pond, bridges, a pavilion, and a traditional Shinto shrine. In 2001, the garden received a New York Landmark Conservancy Preservation Award.

This image comes from the Donald L. Nowlan Brooklyn collection (ARC.120). For more information please see our finding aid here and for more photographs from this collection please visit our image gallery here.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections; visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m. [email protected].

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