Landscape Restoration Project

The Landscape Restoration Project aims to revitalize public usability, restore a healthy ecological space, utilize native species and storm-resistant techniques, make maintenance improvements, and rebuild historical accuracy for visitor education and enjoyment. Overall, this will increase the value of the landscape and enhance the guest experience for future generations of residents and visitors.

The 26-acre Brucemore estate with gardens, a woodland, a pond, an orchard, sweeping lawns, and character-defining structures offers history, entertainment, respite, and hope. The important work to restore the landscape reflects a future-forward effort to leave the community and world a better place for future children and grandchildren.

Brucemore’s staff and Board of Trustees undertook a thoughtful and methodical landscape master planning process after the 2020 natural disaster. This included analyzing the loss, gathering community feedback on the landscape’s value and use, conducting a design charette led by an O.C. Simond’s expert and stakeholders, updating the site’s Historic Landscape Treatment Plan, and extensively researching the estate’s history and archives. This approach ensured a landscape master plan reflective of best practices, inclusive of community needs, and historically accurate.

As a result of these efforts, the Landscape Restoration Project will:

  • Balance preservation and community use
  • Rebuild the historic accuracy of the estate’s period of significance
  • Create innovative new history-based experiences for visitors near and far
  • Restore the ecology of the landscape by planting native species and using storm-resistant planting techniques
  • Seek improvements and efficiencies in sitewide maintenance


Phase I, the woodland restoration, was completed in 2022. This included the planting of over 400 native deciduous and coniferous trees and understory shrubs. In addition, walking trails were designed to improve interaction with the natural wooded space. Staff gained valuable experience to leverage during future phases, including the timing of plantings to ensure viability, the need for deer protection, and the machinery required for large-scale planting that will ensure continued success in the program.

Phase II featured a hedge row reestablished across the property. The project Landscape Architect and Brucemore’s Curator of Museum Collections discovered two main photographs in the archives from the 1920s and 1940s, which showed this hedge row from the Garden House lawn to the edge of the woodland. Replanting this highly visible addition re-establishes a screen from the neighborhood and helps recreate the interior garden spaces that are a signature component of Simmonds’ designs. Mock orange hedges are native to Iowa and part of Simmonds typical planting palette, giving them historical accuracy.

Phase III tackled various areas across the estate including the night garden, screening shrubs, and trees. The historic Night specialty garden, also known as the Evening Garden, rested on a small hilltop in the south center of the property during the Douglas era. This project restores the garden to its original historic footprint, mimicking its planting plan with flowers best seen at dusk, surrounded by the trees and shrubs that made this a “landscape room” a century ago. Elaborate hedge rows, similar to the mock orange hedge row planted in Phase II, delineated the edge of the property in the earliest designs. Shrubs are replanted along a portion of the Linden Drive and Crescent Street fence line to re-establish the original feeling of seclusion to the inside of the property. Finally, work to replace damaged and lost trees, and replant specimens throughout the estate, will restore the lush, native environment that makes Brucemore the most significant cultural landscape in the Midwest.

Future phases are being planned to include the pond, mansion surround, and First Avenue lawn. This work is funded primarily by donations to the Preservation Fund. Join your neighbors and friends by making a gift today. With your help, Brucemore can continue the work to improve our environment and preserve our history.

Community Impact

The early 20th-century landscape design at Brucemore reflected the philosophies of both the Country Place movement and the Prairie School of landscape architecture that celebrates plantings as they exist in nature through a series of “outdoor rooms” and vistas. Today, the landscape is a resource for visitors, neighbors, and community members who experience the site. It acts as a powerful backdrop to the many events and passive experiences that utilize its views to create unique experiences. Open seven days a week for pedestrian access, the landscape provides a unique connection and visual experience of the stories in our shared community.

The Brucemore landscape is unique in the United States and one of the last remaining intact examples of a design by the founder of the Prairie Style Movement, O.C. Simonds.  Building a sustainable future for the Brucemore landscape for future generations ensures the legacy of this place for the next 40 years.