Meet the landscape architect behind Lilac Way.

After designing the landscapes of Glensheen Mansion in Duluth, MN, Arthur Nichols (1881-1970) moved to Minnesota with his business partner Anthony Morell.

As a consulting landscape architect for the Highway Department from 1932-40, he designed the seven roadside parks that lined Lilac Way.

Arthur R. Nichols, Landscape Architect

Considered one of the state’s most important landscape architects

Nichols designed and supervised the execution of Highway 100 and Lilac Way.

  • Lilac bushes were laid out irregularly, separated by open space
  • Added evergreens, elms, trees and grassy slopes to fit natural topography
  • Unique design for seven roadside parks, beehive fireplaces and landscape plan was based on labor-intensive ‘Rustic’ style of architecture popular in 1930
  • Lilac Way parks included picnic tables, rock waterfalls, limestone pools surrounded by benches, rock gardens, fireplaces, walkways, flagpole stands, wayside rest signs and beehive fireplaces
  • Knowing how important jobs were, Nichols kept WPA workers busy planting lilacs when not roadbuilding
  • Worked with Chief Engineer Carl Graeser on Lilac Way

Nichols found a partner in the Golden Valley Garden Club.

lilacway-lilac-icon

“The WPA workers made nice stone tables and benches, and they were quite permanent!… People used them for many, many, years. They enjoyed them very much.”

Ruth Thorness, former Golden Valley Garden Club President

Nichols included more than 7,000 bushes of 12 varieties of lilacs, and thousands of shrubs, vines, and trees.

When landscaping was completed in 1938, over 30,000 deciduous plants had been planted.

Nichols Facts

  • Born in Springfield, Massachusetts on April 15, 1881
  • Attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was first graduate of its landscape architecture program in 1902
  • One of Minnesota’s premier landscape architects
  • Key player in establishing the field of landscape architecture in MN
  • In 1926, consulted on location, grading, and landscaping of proposed roads in Glacier National Park and designed the grounds of popular Glacier Park Hotel
  • Had a tremendous impact on MN’s roadside development work
  • Worked on landscape of “Glensheen”, Chester A. Congdon’s Duluth mansion
  • Designed most of MN’s waysides, scenic overlooks, and historical markers built during the 1930s and 1940s
  • Worked on plans for Northrup Mall at University of MN in 1930
  • Designed Lakewood Cemetery addition in 1948, which continued concept of cemetery as arboretum

A quote by Arthur Nichols

“…the lilac has possibilities of great beauty and attractiveness. We will endeavor to keep the landscaping as naturalistic as possible, and yet have lilacs form the predominating theme during their blooming season.”

More resources

Glensheen Mansion, landscape designed by Arthur Nichols

Glacier Park Lodge, landscape designed by Arthur Nichols

Anthony U. Morrell and Arthur R. Nichols – Duluth Landscape Architects – American Society of Landscape Architects, MN

Arthur Nichols, Pioneer – The Cultural Landscape Foundation

January 23, 1970: Death of renowned local and state landscape architect Arthur Nichols – Zenithcity.com

HISTORICAL OVERVIEW + DOCUMENTATION, MN Department of Highways – National Park Service