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Low-Key Genius: O.C. Simonds and His Pier Cove

Landscape historian, Barbara Geiger will discuss Low- Key Genius: The Life and Work of Landscape-Gardener O.C. Simonds, her biography of a significant Chicagoan.

Meticulously researched by Geiger, Low-Key Genius is the first full-length biography of Ossian Cole Simonds (1855- 1931), a leading Midwestern landscape-gardener in the early decades of the twentieth century.

The book presents a thorough study of Simonds' career, from his apprenticeship with William LeBaron Jenney at Graceland Cemetery through his last commissions for the Morton Arboretum, the Alexander Graham Bell gravesite in Nova Scotia, and Gilbert Grosvenor's estate Wild Acres.

Often referred to as a “Prairie style” designer, Simonds pioneered the use of native species while continuing the naturalistic design tradition of Capability Brown, Humphry Repton, and Frederick Law Olmsted. His concern for preserving our natural water and forest resources was prescient in an age of unregulated mineral extraction. With commissions from some of the era's most influential families, including the Pullmans and Lowdens, Armours, Deerings, and Pattens, Simonds worked with these tastemakers to create landscapes of subtle, refined beauty, appropriate to their locale.

Barbara Geiger teaches in the College of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, the Regenstein School at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and other locations in the Chicago area. A landscape historian and educator, her philosophy is that each individual needs to know about the landscape we inhabit if we are to create true sustainability.

The program will begin at 7 p.m. at the Old School House History Center in Douglas.