Barbara Geiger

UmbrellaStories Rooted in the Land

In this virtual age, how wonderful it is to be grounded in our physical environment.  My philosophy as a landscape historian and educator is that each of us needs to know about the landscape we inhabit if we are to create true sustainability.

Upcoming Programs and Events

The Lathrop Lions and the Family Behind Them

South lion in front of Art Institute of Chicago. Undated photo from Library of Congress.

Chicago’s iconic pair of lions has stood guard in front of the Art Institute since 1894. Sculpted by renowned animal sculptor Edward Kemeys during the World’s Columbian Exposition, the statues were donated as a tribute to Henry Field (Marshall’s brother) by his wife Florence Lathrop. Her family was one of the most prominent and influential in Chicago, yet kept a low profile—the lions are never called the “Lathrop Lions”. Learn about this fascinating and influential family: uncle Thomas Barbour Bryan, who developed Graceland Cemetery and much of downtown Chicago before the Great Fire; nephew Bryan Lathrop who instituted the world’s first oil-burning crematorium and whose wife, Helen Aldis, was the sister of real estate magnates Owen and Arthur; nephew Barbour Lathrop who funded plant explorations for the nascent US Department of Agriculture, and, of course, niece Florence and her own family.


Past Programs

For more than a decade I’ve taught  in the College of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Botanic Garden, the University of Chicago Graham School, the Newberry Library, and other institutions in the Chicago area.

Members of the Art Institute of Chicago have taken dozens of my “Inside The Devil in the White City” day-long bus tours. 120+ libraries and historical societies in the region booked my “Downton Abbey: Centuries in the Making” from 2012-2015.

My seminars include such topics as:
Downton Abbey: Centuries in the Making
In Good Spirits: Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery
Daniel Burnham and the Plan of Chicago
Inside The Devil in the White City
Olmsted, Simonds, & Jensen: Landscape Genius
Arts & Crafts: The Antidote to Civilization

Each course, tour, and lecture is packed with content in a meaningful context. The presentations are  filled with anecdotes, humor, and thought-provoking intellectual excursions. I’ve lectured on boats and buses, in parks and gardens, in classrooms and auditoriums, at golf clubs and riding clubs, even in cemeteries and columbariums. Private programs have included garden, antique, woman’s, and Sherlock Holmes clubs, Questers groups,  senior clubs, and rare book shops.

Biography of Landscape-Gardener O. C. Simonds

Low-Key Genius; The Life and Work of Landscape-Gardner O. C. Simonds by Barbara GeigerMy comprehensive biography Low-Key Genius: The Life and Work of Landscape-Gardener O.C. Simonds came out in 2011. Simonds (1855-1931) was the designer of such historic sites as Graceland Cemetery and Lincoln Park in Chicago, Alexander Graham Bell’s burial site in Nova Scotia, and Shorewood Hills and Tenney Park in Madison, WI.

Overshadowed by his more gregarious and activist colleague Jens Jensen, Simonds was planting native Illinois species a decade before Jensen arrived in America. He was responsible for over 1,000 landscape plans during the course of his fifty-three year career, and was an early proponent of scenic roads, clean rivers, and appreciation of natural topography. Learn about this prolific and nationally significant landscape-gardener who was well ahead of his time in his approach. Available at Amazon and other booksellers.

More Information

For more information or to book a program, course, or tour, contact me at info <at>