Mar 21 2024

News from Kruse: March 2024

Posted at 11:52 am under Kruse House

A Hint of the Master: Jens Jensen and the Kruse House Garden
By Keith Letsche

Black & White Photo of Jens Jensen seated in one of his council rings.

Jens Jensen seated in one of his council rings


You may have wondered where the ideas for the distinctive rock terraces and pond came from that you see in the Kruse House Garden. The source of these is likely the master landscape architect Jens Jensen (1860-1951). Born in Denmark, Jensen emigrated to Chicago in 1884, where he took employment with the city’s West Park Commission, working his way up from laborer to general superintendent of the West Park system. During this time, he designed or redesigned the system’s major parks like Humbolt, Garfield, and Douglass Parks, and his masterpiece, Columbus Park. In 1920, he started his own landscape architectural practice, creating gardens for prominent client’ s like Henry Ford and Ford’s son Edsel.

Jensen used natural features of the Midwestern landscape as themes for his designs. Terraced tiers of rocks were intended to invoke the rocky outcroppings of the Midwest’s post-glacial landscape.  Often the focal point of his rocked terraces was a small grotto that featured a pond or a “council ring,” a circular arrangement of rocks for sitting. At the height of his influence in the 1920s and 1930s, his designs inspired much imitation, and the large size and natural contours of the Kruse House lot provided a perfect opportunity for the Kruses to realize what then a very contemporary garden design based on Jensen’s ideas. Compare the Kruse House lily pond below with the one next to it that Jensen designed for Henry Ford’s Fair Lane estate in Gross Point, Michigan.

Photo of the pond in the Kruse Garden. It is surrounded by rocks and natural greenery.

Kruse House Lily Pond

Photo of rocky pond

Grotto pond at Fair Lane, Henry Ford’s estate in Grosse Point. Michigan

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