A major focus of energy went to building and maintaining traditional Japanese gardens. It’s estimated that there were, at one point, more than one hundred gardens at this 814-acre site, constructed between the rows of barracks, outside the mess halls, along the firebreaks, and underneath the guard towers. These provided communal spaces—places for children to play and families to gather and relax.
National Trust for Historic Preservation, "The most common gardens were small plots outside of the barracks apartments, typically near the entrances. The first such garden began on April 19, 1942, less than a month after the camp opened. It was the design of Southern California landscaper William Katsuki, who created the garden outside his barracks in Block 24. By October 1942, there were so many gardens throughout Manzanar that the Manzanar Free Press held a garden contest, which is believed to have spurred even more gardens."
After Manzanar closed in 1945, most of the site was bulldozed. Debris, sand, and silt covered the ponds, and vegetation grew over everything. When the National Park Service conducted an archeological survey in 1993, only a few of the biggest gardens were still visible.
"Since then, Jeff Burton, an archaeologist at Manzanar National Historic Site, and his team have worked to uncover the gardens. Using newspaper accounts, oral histories, photographs, consultations with Japanese garden experts, and archaeological excavations, Burton and his crew—many of whom are volunteers—are finding and, in some cases, restoring or recreating the gardens. So far, 20 have been excavated, mapped, and stabilized."
Here are a few more before and after pictures. For more about the camp gardens, go here and here. For more about the restoration project, go here. (As always, click on the images to view large on black.)
|Merritt Park, named for the camp director, Ralph Merritt|
|Ansel Adams: Merritt Park (1943)|
|Kitaro Uetsuzi: Merritt Park (1943)|