Savannah’s pioneer female landscape architect Clermont Lee transformed our public spaces. Now you can see her drawings online

Drawings by Georgia’s first female landscape architect Clermont Lee are now publicly available online thanks to a collaboration between the Georgia Historical Society and the Digital Library of Georgia.

From 1940 through the mid-1980s, she made landscape designs for clients in Savannah, Georgia, and throughout the Southeast.

“These designs provide insight into the less-well documented elements of preservation and restoration projects throughout the state,” notes G. Andrew Fleming, the Friends of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites executive director.

Clermont Lee was a pioneering figure in the history of landscape architecture,” says Nate Pedersen, Manager of the Archival and Reference Team at the Georgia Historical Society. “We expect her drawings to be of significant interest to historic preservationists, landscape architects, gardeners, and scholars around the country. As such, we are delighted to be able to freely share her drawings online and are grateful for the support from the Digital Library of Georgia.”

Plans for many Georgia and South Carolina residences, churches, schools, city blocks, office buildings, parks, airports, and historic sites are among the detailed design drawings now available at GHS. Lee is probably best-known locally for her mid-to-late twentieth-century work designing formal gardens for several of Savannah’s historic house museums, including the Owens-Thomas House and the Green-Meldrim House, as well as plans for several of the Landmark District’s beloved squares. Across the state, Lee’s designs include plans for the Chief Vann House in Murray County and Baptist Village in Waycross.

Fleming also adds: “These types of records are invaluable in helping establish a complete picture of our state’s historic spaces.”

About Clermont Lee

Clermont Huger Lee, born in Savannah in 1914, was the city’s first female architect in private practice. She worked as an assistant to T.M. Baumgardner of the Sea Island Corporation during the Great Depression. She became interested in historic gardens in the 1940s after receiving her education at Barnard and Smith Colleges.

As one of the first professional female landscape architects in Georgia, Lee worked with and independently of some of her era’s leading preservationists. She focused on preserving, recreating, and reinterpreting historic gardens and landscapes. This was an aspect of the preservation movement that she felt was ignored in many plans that focused on historic structures. 

Lee represents a less recognized part of the movement’s story as both a professional woman working in the field and as a preservationist focused on the natural environment. Historic preservation, particularly during the mid-twentieth century, was associated primarily with professional male architects and developers. Women (usually wealthy white women) worked as volunteers and activists. 

In addition to her work in Savannah, she worked on projects throughout Georgia and in cities such as Jacksonville, Florida, and Hilton Head, South Carolina. Lee also worked on the founding of the Georgia State Landscape Architects Board.

Clermont Lee passed away in 2006 on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

About the Georgia Historical Society

Georgia Historical Society (GHS) is the premier independent statewide research and educational institution responsible for collecting, examining, and teaching Georgia history.  GHS houses the oldest and most distinguished collection of materials related exclusively to Georgia history in the nation. Visit  

Selected Images:

North Way and Adams Street triangular plat, page 1 of 2 (Darien, Georgia).  Courtesy of Georgia Historical Society
Chief Vann residence, page 1 of 2 (Murray County, Georgia). Courtesy Georgia Historical Society
Frame Company- Realtors (Ridgeland, South Carolina). Courtesy of Georgia Historical Society
Historic Madison Square, page 1 of 4 (Savannah, Georgia). Courtesy of Georgia Historical Society
Isaiah Davenport House, page 4 of 4 (Savannah, Georgia). Courtesy of Georgia Historical Society
Troup Square, Habersham Street, and Macon Street, page 1 of 5 (Savannah, Georgia). Courtesy Georgia Historical Society

Urban planning, civil rights, and trends in landscape design in Savannah are highlighted in the newest collection available from the Digital Library of Georgia

5600PC-10, Minutes of the Park and Tree Commission, Volume 1, page 60 (page 72 of digitized item), November 9, 1896

In partnership with The City of Savannah Municipal Archives, the Digital Library of Georgia has just made the minutes of the Park and Tree Commission 1896-1929 available freely online.  

The historical significance of the collection may not be obvious at first, but Luciana Spracher, director for the City of Savannah Municipal Archives, describes its importance to contemporary research: 

“While on the surface the Park and Tree Commission Minutes might seem mundane, upon closer inspection they contain important information that reflects the intersections of urban planning and civil rights, trends in landscape design, development of Savannah’s cemeteries (both African American and white, since Savannah’s cemeteries were originally segregated), and details such as the use of convict labor in city infrastructure projects; all topics that draw on current socio-political trends and that are largely underrepresented in scholarship.”  

She adds:  

“Minutes from the early 20th-century discuss issues surrounding segregation of public facilities, such as public pools and park benches. These records offer insider perspectives into the decision-making process related to these Jim Crow-era policies that are not often found in governmental records.” 

Spracher also describes the importance of digitizing the collection for accessibility:  

“Currently this collection is underutilized by researchers because it is available only on site in our research facility in Savannah and is often overlooked as researchers are likely to believe it contains information limited to topics such as tree planting, parks and playgrounds. By digitizing the collection and sharing it through the Digital Library of Georgia (and thereby through the Digital Public Library of America), it will become more widely accessible to researchers in broad geographic locations.” 

Daves Rossell, professor of architectural history at the Savannah College of Art and Design 

adds:  “Having a doctorate in American architectural and urban history, with a specialty in vernacular architecture and cultural landscape, I have had call to use the Municipal Archives on many occasions, including in preparation for historic district nominations, historic landscape recordation, and a variety of research on individual buildings. Without the Park and Tree Commission’s records, such fundamental aspects of our civic heritage would be as good as lost. The Park and Tree Commission records are among the most diverse and valuable resources available on many such topics.” 

Link to featured images:  

Title: 5600PC-10, Minutes of the Park and Tree Commission, Volume 1, page 60 (page 72 of digitized item), November 9, 1896 

On November 9, 1896, the Park and Tree Commission minutes cover a range of topics including the sidewalk in Colonial Park Cemetery, the use of convict labor in parks and squares, working with Public Schools to interest children in plants, photographs taken by John C. Olmstead, and the replacement of trees after storm damage. 
Minutes of the Park and Tree Commission, Volume 1, page 60 (page 72 of digitized item), November 9, 1896
Title: 5600PC-10, Minutes of the Park and Tree Commission, Volume 2, page 370 (page 374 of digitized item) October 6, 1919 
Description:  On October 6, 1919, the Park and Tree Commission minutes cover topics including the prohibition of “negroes” from Laurel Grove North Cemetery and a requirement of a photograph for “negro servants” allowed to care for lots, as well as the use of Emmet Park or Franklin Square for a Naval Radio Station. 

About the City of Savannah Municipal Archives  

The City of Savannah Municipal Archives collects, manages, preserves, and makes accessible records documenting the City of Savannah’s history; administers the records management program and the City Records Center to increase the efficiency of City agencies; and shares the City’s history with City employees, citizens, and visitors through outreach activities. The Municipal Archives services reference requests from researchers and the general public which relate to archival and historical City records under its administration in the City Records Center, and shares the City’s history through a variety of public outreach activities, including tours of City Hall, permanent and rotating exhibits, and special programs. Discover the Archives at   

About the Digital Library of Georgia 

Based at the University of Georgia Libraries, the Digital Library of Georgia is a GALILEO initiative that collaborates with Georgia’s libraries, archives, museums, and other institutions of education and culture to provide access to key information resources on Georgia history, culture, and life. This primary mission is accomplished through the ongoing development, maintenance, and preservation of digital collections and online digital library resources. DLG also serves as Georgia’s service hub for the Digital Public Library of America and as the home of the Georgia Newspaper Project, the state’s historic newspaper microfilming project.  

Visit the DLG at


Twitter: @DigLibGA