The outdoor altar is a beautiful site for celebrating Holy Eucharist. Set in the southern end of the yard, the altar is covered by a canopy of kiwi vine with broad green leaves.
Every summer, staff of the Diocese of Oregon worship outdoors amidst the sound of the gurgling streams and chirping birds. One year an albino deer wandered onto the field during the Eucharist!
As Rick Grimshaw, Vice-President of the Board of Trustees of the Diocese of Oregon, shared at last year’s diocesan Convention, diocesan leadership has for several years been contemplating the best stewardship plan for Elk Rock Gardens. This historic property was generously gifted to the diocese by Peter and Laurie Kerr more than 60 years ago and houses the diocesan office (The Bishop’s Close) and a privately-managed public garden.
Today the Diocese of Oregon is very pleased to announce that it has signed a Letter of Intent to sell the Bishop’s Close and Elk Rock Gardens to Mr. Jordan Schnitzer. Mr. Schnitzer is a lifelong Portland resident with significant experience in civic, religious, non-profit, and community-based organizations and causes, including sixteen years on the Board of Trustees for the Portland Japanese Garden.
Mr. Schnitzer intends to develop a long-term master plan to restore and revitalize Elk Rock Gardens in a way that honors the history and tradition of the garden as well as the legacy of the Kerr family’s intention in donating it to the diocese, maintaining it as a private/public green space with a deed restriction that prevents any subdivision of the property for redevelopment.
In addition to the important preservation of this beautiful and beloved garden, Mr. Schnitzer agreed to a favorable lease-back option for the diocese for up to five years, which allows us time to enter into a diocesan-wide conversation planning for the future location of the diocesan office.
We give thanks for Mr. Schnitzer’s generous commitment to the future of Elk Rock Gardens and invite your prayers for the diocesan leadership and staff as we journey together into the next location from which we can best serve the Episcopal churches of western Oregon.
“Once home to a family that made their millions in the grain industry around the turn of the century, the 13 acres were gifted to the Episcopal Bishop of Oregon with the stipulation that they remain open to the public. High up on the bluffs of the Willamette River, the views are simply breathtaking. Mt Hood can easily be spotted far off in the distance.”
Read more of Lori Osterberg’s review on AFAR.
It may be fall, but there are still signs of new life popping up around the garden. The fall crocus are beginning to force their way up through the damp soil, pushing aside the cover of autumn leaves.
The bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla) is beginning to shed its leaves, which can grow up to 30 inches long. This tree is located on the western side of the lower parking lot.
The Willamette Week featured Elk Rock Garden as one of Portland’s hidden gems.
“Much is rightly made of Portland’s Japanese Garden, which expanded this year. But few know that Portland has a public Scottish garden just as large, and in many ways just as lovely.”
Read the full article in Willamette Week.
Some two hundred years ago the trees you see in this photograph began to grow in what is now Elk Rock Garden on the grounds of the Bishop’s Close. During a recent storm the roots became waterlogged and all three of the major trunks came down. Today the company tasked with cutting them up and removing them from the grounds finished their work. Except for the tracks of heavy moving equipment, only the memory of these beautiful trees remains.
The July issue of the digital magazine, Garden Time, featured an article about the garden.
Here is an excerpt from the article:
The Elk Rock Garden at Bishop’s Close is a treasure of a botanical garden tucked into a Dunthorpe neighborhood overlooking the Willamette River. Originally the home of Peter Kerr, a native of Scotland, the state, along with an endowment for maintenance and upkeep was donated after his death by his daughters in 1957 to the Episcopal Bishop of Oregon on the condition that the garden be open to visitors. Because of this generous gift, we have the pleasure of visiting this gem of a garden year-round.
Here is a link to the whole magazine: http://www.gardentime.tv/gto/1307/GTDM-1307.pdf
March 29, 2013
Peter was born May 30, 1940 in Portland. His parents were Sir James and Lady McDonald (Anne Kerr). He attended Riverdale School and the Thacher School in Ojai, Calif. before graduating from Brown University. His interest in the environment led him to earn a BA in Botany and subsequently a Master’s degree in Forestry from Duke, followed by a year studying worldwide forestry at Hamburg University, Germany. Peter then embarked on a life of travels and adventures. At the age of 25, he signed on with the Government of Kenya to administer a million acres of Forest Reserve and plantations. He harvested, reforested and commanded fire-fighting on large swathes of northern Kenya as a Divisional Forest Officer. There he met and married his wife, Jill, a resident of Nairobi. After six years in forest management and silviculture, he was encouraged by his father to take on and farm the family property in Wilsonville. As a farewell to Africa, Peter and Jill drove across the continent, through the jungles of the Congo and across the Sahara desert in their trusty landrover, rather than just boarding a northbound plane. They were, however, to return many times on safaris with their friends and family to share the glories of their beloved Kenya. On arriving in Oregon, Peter decided that Inchinnan Farm was perfect for the cultivation of filberts (hazelnuts). The orchards thrived and Peter was named Nut Grower of the Year in 1990. Alongside the filberts, he planted and managed many acres of forest and was named Oregon Tree Farmer of the Year 1993. Because of his experience and expertise the State Department invited him to advise agriculturists and foresters in Bolivia, Brazil and the Republics of Azerbaijan and Georgia. Peter felt a strong responsibility to his community. He was very active in organizations concerned with the environment, such as The Nature Conservancy and with the preservation of agricultural land. He was on the founding board of 1000 Friends of Oregon, a group dedicated to promoting awareness of the benefits of land-use planning, as set forth in Senate Bill 100. In recognition of his commitment to these principles, he was presented with the 2013 Tom McCall Legacy Award by 1000 Friends. He was also involved in many cultural organizations, including the St. Andrew’s Society and the Oregon Historical Society. Peter died peacefully at his home surrounded by his family. He is survived by Jill his wife of 44 years; his son, James (Vanessa); his daughter, Jennifer (Douglas); and granddaughter, Emma; as well as his sisters, Laurie Meigs and Jane Malarkey. One of Peter’s fondest wishes was the preservation of Elk Rock as a botanic garden open to the public. Instead of flowers, the family suggests remembrances may be made in his name to The Friends of Elk Rock Garden, 1000 Friends of Oregon or The Nature Conservancy.
Memorial donations can be sent to the Friends of Elk Rock Garden at PO box 69244, Portland OR, 97239.
Published in The Oregonian on April 7, 2013