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NJASLA’s First 50 Years: Who was Oliver A. Deakin?

NJASLA’s First 50 Years: Who was Oliver A. Deakin?

Prepared by Ilonka Angalet (NJASLA President-Elect), with collaboration from Roy DeBoer (FASLA) and David Earl (ASLA)

The New Jersey Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects was formed in 1964. NJASLA will be celebrating its 50-year anniversary in 2014.  In an effort to reaffirm the history of our Chapter, I would like to introduce you to some of our founding members. Attendees at the first meeting held in 1964 included:  Don Richardson, Paul Krarup, Ross Pell, Larry Dumont, Lou Miceli, John Weed, Richard Cripps, Elizabeth Pattee, Russ Butler, Al Dilischer, Max Heim, Roy H. DeBoer, Oliver Deakin, John Haleck and Jeff Hall.

Oliver A. Deakin (FASLA) was the first New Jersey Chapter President. He also served as President of the NY Chapter of ASLA between 1958-1961. He was a Rutgers graduate (1929), and went on to Harvard Graduate School of Design to earn his MLA degree.  He was the (Landscape and) Parkway Engineer for the New Jersey Department of Roads and Highways (now NJDOT) for 27 years, and was on the design team for the original 16 mile segment of the Garden State Parkway, extending from the Raritan River north to the Union toll plaza. His involvement represented the first time that a landscape architect was involved in the alignment of a major “parkway” in the U.S. Oliver Deakin gained national and international recognition for his role in creating the first national standards for highway aesthetics and making the Garden State Parkway an example of excellence in parkway design that the world could emulate. He served the public sector as a landscape architect during his entire professional career.

As Parkway Engineer for New Jersey, he was one of the chief collaborators of the Garden State Parkway Planning and Design team. He prepared the preliminary studies and sketches of the right-of-way and prepared the construction design documents that included grading plans, planting plans, cross sections, elevations, cost estimates, details and specifications. He worked with the construction division during the Parkway construction in the performance of: selective thinning, clearing and protecting existing trees and shrubs in the right-of-way, rough grading, finish grading, seeding, nursery inspections, planting operations and the inspections of architectural features.

In addition to his career with New Jersey Roads and Highways, he was a member of the following:  The American Civic and Planning Association, Society of American Foresters, the American Holly Society, NJ Federation of Shade Tree Commissioners, Chairman of ASLA Committee on Public Roads, Controlled Access Highways and Parkways, Rutgers College of Agriculture Turf Advisory Committee and Secretary AASHO Committee on Roadside Development.

Deakin participated in the Horace Brown Lecture Series at Stevens Institute of Technology on Landscape Design and its Relation to the Modern Highway and co-authored the book The Highway and the Landscape.

This is the first in a series of articles about the history of the NJASLA. The series is being authored in celebration of the 50 year anniversary of the ASLA New Jersey Chapter. For more information about #NJASLA50, visit the NJASLA website at www.njasla.org.

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