Statuary Vista – A pictoral history

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On February 18, 1958 the Norfolk City Council, at the urging of the Old Dominion Horticultural Society, authorized the development of a botanical garden. They set aside 75 acres of land adjoining the 100-acre Municipal Gardens (more commonly referred to as Azalea Gardens) that was established in 1938. A 25-acre municipal plant nursery was on the other side (it is now where our arboretum is located) and the airport was to the south.

Already located in this acreage was the International Azalea Court Festival site (currently known as Renaissance Court). Almost immediately, with the help of the horticultural society, work began on creating new display areas. The first to be developed was a 2-acre space with a vista extending to the lake from the Azalea Court site. It was originally designed as a “bulb garden” but today is known as Statuary Vista.

Below are some photos of Statuary Vista through time. Click on each photo to view a larger image.

The future Statuary Vista, as seen from the Azalea Court Festival site (now Renaissance Court). 1958.
The vista after clearing in 1958. Photo taken from the same location as the image above. Note the lone tree at the end of the vista.
Mr. Frank Beach, member of the Garden’s Advisory Commission whose firm donated 10,000 bulbs and Robert Matthews (on the left), Horticulturist of Botanical Garden. 1959
The completed vista in April of 1960. Notice the overhead irrigation pipes along both sides amongst the plantings.
Installation of one of 7 sculptures in this garden in 1962. The sculptures were a gift from Mr. & Mrs. Bruce Dunstan of Richmond, VA in March of 1962. The gift included one American eagle in granite (placed at the end of the vista) and 6 “heroic size sculptures” carved from Carrara marble by Moses Ezekiel. They represented Rembrandt, Rubens, Canova, Phidias, Michelangelo and Durer.
Statuary Vista in April of 1963.
On June 17, 1974 Garden director Robert Matthews (right in the plaid jacket) supervises the unloading of Michelangelo as it is added to the vista.
Michelangelo is lowered into place in 1974. The workman on the far right is David Brady, who still works at the Garden today.
A sculpture of American artist Thomas Crawford was the last sculpture to be added to the vista. It was installed in 1974.
Mulching the garden with pine straw in an undated photo from the 1980s
Statuary Vista in an undated photo from the 1980s.
Statuary Vista looking towards Renaissance Court. April 4, 2005. Note how the osmanthaus hedge has almost surrounded some of the sculptures.
   In late August 2011, Hurricane Irene toppled a large oak tree across the vista. The tree knocked the Rembrandt sculpture from its pedestal and damaged it. It took staff several days to clear the tree from the vista.
   The Rembrandt sculpture was removed for conservation
   Statuary Vista in late October, 2011.

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