Thomas Warren Sears Collection

Thomas Warren Sears

Reynolda House, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

The Thomas W. Sears Collection documents the work of Thomas Warren Sears (1880-1966), a landscape architect and amateur photographer from Brookline, Massachusetts. Sears designed a variety of different types of landscapes ranging from private residences, schools, and playgrounds to parks, cemeteries, and urban housing developments located in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New York.

Biographical Note

Thomas Warren SearsThomas Warren Sears, photographer unknown. Thomas Warren Sears was born in 1880 in Brookline, Massachusetts. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University in 1903 and Bachelor of Science degree in landscape architecture from the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard in 1906. Sears was an amateur photographer who won awards for his photography while at Harvard. In 1915 his images were published in the book, Parish Churches of England. After graduation he worked for the firm of Olmsted Brothers Landscape Architects for two years and then briefly practiced in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1913, Sears established an office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he spent the remainder of his professional career. He retired in 1964 and died in 1966.

Sears designed many different types of landscapes ranging from private residences, schools, and playgrounds to parks, cemeteries, and urban housing developments. His designs were primarily located in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New York. Just a few of his private landscapes include Marengo in Easton, Maryland; Sunnybrook, the Isaac H. Clothier, Jr. estate in Radnor, Pennsylvania; and Balmuckety in Pikesville, Maryland. Balmuckety was placed on the Baltimore County Historic Register in July, 1998.

In 1915, Sears started work on Reynolda, a country estate in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He generated design plans for the property intermittently over the next two decades. Reynolda's formal gardens, greenhouses, and acres of fields and woodlands subsequently became part of Wake Forest University.

During World War I, Sears designed Army camps in Battle Creek, Michigan and Spartanburg, South Carolina. He also helped lay out Langley Field, at that time an experimental aviation field in Hampton Roads, Virginia. In the 1940s, Sears designed the amphitheater at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania for concerts, outdoor performances, and other special events. During that decade he also worked on Colonial Revival gardens at Pennsbury, William Penn's country estate in Bucks County, Pennsylvania located by the Delaware River.

Scope and Content

The Thomas Warren Sears Collection includes over 4,600 black and white glass negatives and glass lantern slides dated c. 1900 to 1966. While most images show private and public gardens in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New York, there is a significant number of unidentified views and views shot in Europe. Few images are captioned or dated.

In addition, there are approximately 50 plans and drawings, most notably for Balmuckety in Pikesville, Maryland and Reynolda in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.


  • American Society of Landscape Architects. Illustrations of Work of Members. New York: House of J. Hayden Twiss, 1931.
  • Architecture and Design, Vol. V No. 21, September, 1941 (issue devoted to the work of Thomas Warren Sears.)
  • Architecture and Design, Vol. XVII, November 1953 (issue devoted to the work of Thomas Warren Sears.)
  • Birnbaum, Charles A., and Robin S. Karson. Pioneers of Landscape Design. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000.
  • Brown-Bush, Louise and James. Portrait of Philadelphia Gardens. Dorrance and Company, 1929. Main Line Magazine, October, 1992.
  • Record of the Classes, Harvard College, Class of 1903. (1928 and 1953 volumes.) Sears, Thomas Warren and Charles Howard Walker.
  • Parish Churches of England. Boston, New York: Rogers and Manson Company, 1915.