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Inventory of the Emerson Knight Collection, 1898-1965
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Collections

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Emerson Knight collection
    Dates: 1898-1965
    Collection number: 2004-2
    Creator: Knight, Emerson, 1882-1960
    Collector: Environmental Design Archives
    Collection Size: 1 carton, 3 boxes, 1 half box, 1 flat box, 1 tube, 4 shoeboxes
    Repository: Environmental Design Archives

    College of Environmental Design
    University of California, Berkeley
    Berkeley, California
    Physical location: Environmental Design Archives

    University of California, Berkeley

    Berkeley, California 94720-1820
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from materials in the collection should be discussed with the Curator.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of Item], Emerson Knight Collection, 2004-2, Environmental Design Archives. College of Environmental Design. University of California, Berkeley.

    Acquisition Information

    The collection was donated by the family in 2004.

    Biographical Note

    Emerson Knight (1882-1960)
    Emerson Knight was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1882 and moved to Los Angeles when he was nine years old. His father, William Henry Knight, was an author, astronomer, and California pioneer. In 1913, Knight embarked on a walking tour of England and studied art in Paris. He returned to Los Angeles in 1916, but soon indulged his trekking desire by walking to Monterey, stopping at the California missions along the way.
    He began supervising landscape developments for Cammillo Fancheschi in Santa Barbara, and in 1917 became an associate of Mark Daniels, a San Francisco landscape engineer. Knight took charge of 80 acres of the J. Cheever Cowdin estate in Hillsborough (south of San Francisco), and designed gardens and country estates in San Francisco and the peninsula. In 1918, Mark Daniels left his office, including most of his equipment and books, to Knight.
    In the late 1920s, Knight traveled to Mexico where he did studies for the Mexican National Highway Commission regarding areas that might be developed into parklands and historic monuments. He was awarded a diploma as an honorary member of the Sociedad Forestal Mexicana. Upon returning to the United States, Knight worked for the Save-the-Redwoods League, the Monterey City Planning Commission, the California State Park Commission, and the National Park Service. He was elected as a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects, and established the San Francisco headquarters at his office so that the Society could qualify for representation in the San Francisco Federation of Arts. He was involved in the plan for the preservation of historic Monterey and worked on park surveys, including one with Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.
    Outdoor theaters played a major role in Knight's career. In 1924 he oversaw the completion of a garden theater on the Max Cohn estate, Little Brook Farm, in Los Gatos. He designed the Woodland Theater in Hillsborough, and collaborated with Regua and Jackson on the Mount Helix theater outside San Diego. Knight is probably best known for his design of the Mountain Theatre on Mount Tamalpais in Marin County. Planning for the project began in the late 1920s, but progress was slow until 1934 when Knight convinced the National Park Service to get involved. (Knight was working as an inspector for the Park Service at the time.) The Civilian Conservation Corp was then engaged to work on the theater, which was completed in 1938. Knight's design for the theater was intended to blend into the natural environment, using natural elements as much as possible. Large boulders were used for seats, trees and bushes were transported to the site to create natural boundaries for the stage, and drinking fountains were built of indigenous rock.
    In the 1940s, Emerson Knight suffered a period of ill health, but still wrote articles and poetry. He served as associate editor for The Architect and Engineer magazine for 11 years, and was a member of the San Francisco Arts Commission and the Commonwealth Club. He died in 1960.
    Dean Luckhart. Emerson Knight: Landscape Architect 1882-1960. Paper for L.A. 2, University of California, Berkeley, 1962.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Emerson Knight Collection spans the years 1898 to 1965 and documents Knight's personal life, projects, and professional activities through reports and correspondence, drawings, and photographs. The collection is arranged in four series: Personal Papers, Professional Papers, Project Records, and National Park Service. The Personal Papers include personal correspondence and photographs, along with other personal memorabilia. The Professional Papers include correspondence, writings, and reports for organizations with which Knight was involved, such as Save the Redwoods League and Protect the Mother Lode Society, documentation of activity in other professional organizations, writings for publications, and reference files.
    The Project Records document projects developed by Knight from 1927-1949 through drawings, photographs, and records consisting of reports and correspondence. Knight is well known for the design of the Mountain Theater at Mount Tamalpais that is documented in photographs and drawings. A previous donation of Knight's papers contains further documentation of the Mountain Theater in the form of correspondence and reports. His work on parks and preservation for the Mexican government is also documented in reports and photographs. Additional documents include records and photographs of his project in Monterey, CA, limited photographic documentation of residential projects completed by Knight, and one drawing of a planting plan for his own residence.
    The National Park Service series includes projects Knight worked on during his years at the National Park Service, from 1934-1937. Projects from that time include reports and correspondence for preserving historic Monterey, CA, work on Oregon coast parks, the California coast and beaches, and East Bay Regional Parks, in addition to other projects.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Landscape architects--California.
    Landscape architecture--California.

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Landscape architecture drawings

    Related Collections

    Emerson Knight Collection, (1954-1), Environmental Design Archives, University of California, Berkeley.