January 13, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

Deep in the middle of the urban block owned by St. John's Episcopal Church in downtown Tallahassee is a garden treasure. The congregation lovingly refers to the place as Eve’s Garden. I’m pretty sure name is a memorial to someone from the congregation, but I can’t help equate it with the Garden of Eden. The 19th Century gothic revival church defines the character of the block. This sturdy brick edifice feels timeless in this location, far older than it's mere 130 or 140 years. And at least one reason for the solid feeling is the way the gardens and landscaping surround the building. And Eve’s Garden is the oasis at the very back.


A quick glance is all it takes to understand the importance of this garden, it's embodiment of spiritual calm and repose. I don’t believe there is a recipe for making spaces like this, but there does seems to be common elements that at least contribute.   Eve’s garden has level changes. A visitor steps down into the area from the upper garden or surrounding walks. Light from above is framed and filtered. The rooftops on all sides are visible and frame the edge of the sky. Above, tree limbs filter portions of the light. Old, lovingly crafted materials are prominent. The old brick wall is soft and weathered. The bronze frieze is has a mottled patina. And there’s a fountain. Though not always running, the water is present.


The master plan we just presented to the St. John’s congregation will preserve many wonderful historic parts of the church and repurpose many other areas. When it comes to the central courtyard, we’re recommending the upper garden should be reworked to extend the level across to connect the walkways. The stairs down to the lower level can be moved to better frame the special area by the fountain. It’s the lower level, the heart of Eve’s Garden, that can’t be compromised. Eve’s Garden is at the heart of this whole amazing block. The master plan will, if anything, make it even more special.


Holy Place/ Sacred Architecture