Just being in class with Jim Cothran you could sense something of his fame, he’d worked at the renowned architecture/landscape architecture firm Robert & Co for over 40 years, he’d written one heck of a beautiful book on Southern Gardens, he seemed to know every garden in Charleston and Savannah, and he was a part of the founding of Trees Atlanta—most impressive and endearing to me. Our Historic Landscapes and Gardens class was a bit sluggish late on a weeknight, but perhaps the classroom’s lack of proper slide projector set-up possibilities frustrated him most. I, for one, would have been happy to memorize plant names for him, but that’s just me. He loved for students to seek his advice or conversation, and it was wonderful to see him light up when he was so engaged. He knew so much about plants and gardens, about cities today and historic landscaping alike. Judging by his slides though, formal parterre gardens were probably his favorites. I would love to see Jim Cothran’s garden.
Knowing him through other people always made me want to know him better and tomorrow I will join others at a memorial reception at the Cherokee Garden Library, a very special place to him, and hope to get to know him a little better, sadly post mortem. Jim died last weekend after a short bout with with lung cancer, and I don’t think anyone was ready to lose him at the young age of 71.
Additionally this week Lee Adler has passed. Mr. Adler is among the most famous preservationists in the South and in the US. I have no personal association with Mr. Adler outside of my textbooks, but he was an incredible ambassador for preservation, credited with saving the Victorian District in Savannah through an innovative new approach: “Save historic buildings by buying them, then market and resell them with covenants in place that require their restoration.” He put this into action through the Historic Savannah Foundation and other organizations, including the Georgia Trust caught on, this is the premise of our Revolving Fund today. Although he wasn’t the first to put this idea into action, he certainly spread the word and “changed the way people approached historic preservation” (Savannah Now).
Who is making up our list of great preservationists today? Who will we this sad to lose next? Hopefully, we can say there is a revolving docket of preservationists worthy of such obituaries. The loss is still personal, but their impressions have been made, their torch handed over, their lives well-loved and well-lived.