Blog post written by Lindsey Naylor
An audience at the High Point Museum this week will learn about the Reginald D. Tillson Landscape Architecture Papers, one of the newest additions to the Landscape Architecture Archive in NCSU Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center. Tillson practiced landscape architecture out of his High Point office from the 1920s to 1970s, completing projects that ranged in scale from home gardens to public parks to private subdivisions. His designs’ cumulative impact on the built environment of High Point — and other communities of the Piedmont Triad and beyond — was considerable.
Gwynn Thayer, Associate Head and Curator for Special Collections, and Lindsey Naylor, a Master of Landscape Architecture student and Research Assistant for the Landscape Architecture Archive, will share images and insights from first impressions of the Tillson collection, which is still being processed and which will be available soon to researchers. The full collection includes more than 250 tubes and flat folders that hold drawings spanning Tillson’s full career.
Tillson founded his firm in High Point in the 1920s, when the textile and manufacturing industries were fueling local wealth and population growth. His earliest designs were for the home landscapes of the High Point elite who were moving into the newly created Emerywood neighborhood, built just north of downtown and part of the Uptown Suburbs Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The gardens Tillson designed for Emerywood varied in complexity and drew from the popular Colonial Revival, Picturesque, and Arts and Crafts styles of landscape architecture.
In the 1930s, Tillson designed parks and nature preserve amenities throughout the Southeast for the Civilian Conservation Corps. His work with the CCC included the design of the High Point City Lake Park, where many of the features designed by Tillson remain intact today.
As High Point’s population grew and as trends in planning and development evolved, Tillson’s work grew in scale and complexity. He designed dozens of subdivisions and the grounds and siting for schools, churches and hospitals. And he continued his work on residential designs, which his son, David Tillson, said he preferred because of their intimate scale and horticultural focus. The breadth of the Tillson collection allows a unique view into planning and landscape architecture practice in the Southeast during decades of immense technological and social change.