Intersection of Sweetbriar Road and Heathwood CircleIntersection of Sweetbriar Road and Heathwood Circle
Harlan P. Kelsey Triangular Parks
Two triangular parks, located at the intersection of Heathwood Circle and Sweetbriar Road and at the intersection of Tomaka Road and Heatherwood Circle, are the work of noted landscape architect Harlan P. Kelsey of Salem, Massachusetts. Originally constructed to guide traffic flow and complement the grounds surrounding the Heath mansion, these parks now serve as a decorative feature of the neighborhood by providing lasting green space. The design of these parks was typical of Kelsey’s work, which focused on wooded areas and curving streets that followed the contours of the land.
In 1914, M.C. Heath commissioned Harlan P. Kelsey, a noted landscape architect from Salem, Massachusetts, to plan the subdivision that would become known as Heathwood. This project took just under six years, as Kelsey began his work in January 1914 and concluded it in December 1919.
Kelsey was no stranger to Columbia, as his firm had rendered an assessment of the capital city almost a decade earlier, in 1905. Prepared by his company, Kelsey & Guild, Landscape Architects, the document titled, “The Improvement of Columbia, South Carolina: Report to the Civic League,” addressed issues ranging from city infrastructure to suburbanization. An excerpt from Kelsey’s commentary reveals his philosophy on new development outside the city’s limits:
“In studying the conditions of growth obtaining in Columbia, we have been much impressed with the rapid development of the outlying suburban districts immediately adjoining the city limits. The suddenly narrowed streets and utter lack of uniformity of plan and administration one encounters on reaching the city’s boundary give a warning that, unless soon heeded, disastrous conditions will result, impossible of remedy, except at a cost almost prohibitive . . . . The outlying districts need the fire and police protection, paved streets, water and sewer systems, and the schools of Columbia; but far more does the city itself need the suburbs, to protect itself against poor and imperfect sanitation, and polluted air and water, and to secure before too late, available areas for park purposes.”
This perspective helped drive on the local level the nationwide “City Beautiful Movement,” which sought to address the evils of the modern world such as poor sanitation, lack of design in development, and a dearth of public parks. On the latter issue Kelsey would make his mark in Columbia by assisting in the design of Heathwood as well as the Forest Hills neighborhood.
Working closely with Columbia developer and Heathwood resident Joseph Walker, Kelsey aimed to design residential communities that centered on park-like and spacious settings. Made evident by the nine parks that exist in Forest Hills and the two triangular parks in Heathwood, Kelsey’s work heavily emphasized green space as well as implementing a design that followed the natural topography of the land.