Juilliard Park and the Landscape Architect Who Designed It

Submitted by krinehart on August 7, 2017 - 9:01am
  • Howard Gilkey with Mrs. Kraft and Mrs. Parson in Santa Rosa - October 23, 1949 photo

    Howard Gilkey with Mrs. Kraft and Mrs. Parson in Santa Rosa - October 23, 1949

The Historical Society of Santa Rosa recently informed its members by way of a Face Book post that the City of Santa Rosa's Recreation and Parks Department is conducting a pond resurfacing project at Juilliard Park. Many likely know that property upon which the park sits was given to the City of Santa Rosa by Frederic A. Juilliard in 1931. If you've been to the park it's hard to miss the large boulder with the plaque stating this.

At the time, the 9-acre parcel contained the  Juilliard home,  built in 1872, outbuildings, fruit and shade trees. A condition of the gift was that the City of Santa Rosa remove the residence and other structures and develop the property for use as a public park. Planning for the park began in 1932 and completed in 1938 - although I have yet to find an exact dedication date.

Funding for the park came from the City of Santa Rosa Relief Fund and at least two federal programs: the Civil Works Administration and Works Progress Administration.  What people are probably less familiar with is the landscape architect who designed the park - Howard Gilkey.

Although Howard Gilkey (1890-1972) was born in Iowa, he spent his teens living in Santa Rosa on Morgan Street with his parents, Barton and Laura Gilkey, his sister Esther and grandmother, Harriett Wetmore. While attending Santa Rosa High School, Howard worked for Luther Burbank. After graduating he attended UC Berkeley where he had the unique opportunity to serve as an assistant to a landscape designer who was superintendent of horticulture for the Panama Pacific International Exposition in 1914. Gilkey would later be hired to work on the 1939/40 Golden Gate International  Exposition at Treasure Island.

Gilkey graduated from Berkeley in 1916 and took a job at Mills College where he taught landscape gardening. In 1921 and 1922, he was city park engineer and acting city planning engineer for the City of Oakland.  One of Gilkey's most notable projects completed while with the City of Oakland is the Cleveland Cascade project near Lake Merritt. To learn more about this amazing historic site check out Adrienne Schell's blog post "Oakland Landscape . . . Gilkey's Vertical Grandeur

Other examples of Gilkey's work during the 1920s include designs for Mills College, St. Mary's College and the Woodside Estate of Mortimer Fleishhacker. In the early 1930s, Gilkey served as a work-relief employee of the WPA and supervised 3,500 people engaged in the renovation of Golden Gate Park.

It was also during the 1930s that Gilkey returns to Santa Rosa where he designed Burbank Park at the Santa Rosa Junior College as well as Fremont and Doyle Parks and of course Juilliard Park.

An impressive Wikipedia entry exists for  Howard Gilkey which I drew upon for this story. However, the contributor makes no mention of Gilkey's work in Santa Rosa. For that, I relied on back issues of the Press Democrat as well other sources such as Bill Montgomery.

Bill Montgomery, retired Santa Rosa Recreation and Parks deputy director, has completed quite a bit of research on Gilkey and is known to take on the persona of Howard Gilkey while leading tours of Juilliard Park. Gilkey is just one of many "characters" played by Bill who is a volunteer member of the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery Preservation Committee.

As Santa Rosa's 2018 sesquicentennial approaches, there is an opportunity to celebrate Howard Gilkey and the parks he designed which are such an important part of the city's identity. As for Juilliard Park specifically,  it may too be celebrating an anniversary in 2018 - it's 80th birthday!

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