Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
July 17, 1998

Landscape architecture professor designs English maze for Winterset

by Heather Sauer, College of Design

After years of research, planning and fund raising, the town of Winterset has an unusual new landmark, thanks in part to an ISU professor and a wealth of community spirit.

This spring, a group of local students and adult volunteers installed the Winterset Maze near a Victorian arbor shelter at Winterset City Park. The 76-foot-by-139-foot maze was created with 1,900 Amur River privet hedge plants, a hardy variety well-suited to Iowa's climate.

Robert Kaldenberg, past president of the Winterset Rotary Club, initiated the maze project following a 1991 visit by a British couple who were Rotarians. When Kaldenberg expressed his admiration for English mazes, the woman, curator of a maze, encouraged him to develop one in Winterset.

The Winterset Rotary, in cooperation with the Winterset Parks and Recreation Department, sponsored the project. Robert Harvey, professor of landscape architecture at Iowa State and a 1956 graduate of Winterset High School, donated his design services "as a way to give something back to the community," he said.

After reading a number of books on mazes and talking with the estate manager for the famous Hampton Court maze in England, Harvey settled on a classic English maze design with seven "decision-making points," where visitors must choose which way to go to reach the center.

The limestone paths are extra wide to accommodate wheelchairs and baby strollers, and have steel edging to assist sight- impaired visitors in navigating the maze. At the center are several 1900s-style benches and a flower garden that includes a rose former Winterset resident George Washington Carver helped develop during his years at Iowa State.

Harvey built two maze models before construction began last fall. The second model was put in store windows in Winterset to be visible to the public.

"Donations simply poured in," Harvey said. The project also was the winner of a $1,500 Project Main Street award sponsored by Casey's and KCCI-TV in Des Moines. Casey's corporate headquarters gave another $1,000.

As part of the fund-raising effort, the Rotary club sold commemorative bricks that will be mounted in a benefactors' wall at the south end of the maze.

Site grading and construction of a retaining wall to protect the 83-year-old arbor shelter from erosion was done last fall. In early April, the contractor put in the maze paths. Students, teachers and other adult volunteers helped plant the maze later that month.

The Rotary has held several work days since then to finish fencing around the outside of the maze. Other projects in the works are the donor wall, a water fountain and flower beds.

Harvey said he is happy with the progress so far and is eager to watch the maze mature.

"It will need a lot of attention while the plants are getting established," he said. "The next two years are critical in that regard."

The young hedges are now about 12 to 18 inches high, and it will take three or four years before they reach their desired height of 42 inches. The maze will be open to the public during daylight hours nine months of the year.

"It's been an enjoyable experience to work in my hometown," Harvey said. "Also, it was fun to take material I've been teaching in landscape history classes and be able to apply it on a project, bringing a design concept that dates from antiquity into the 20th century."

The cost of the project, funded primarily through private donations, was $43,000. About one-fourth of that was for a limestone retaining wall near the existing arbor shelter.

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