Ruth Patricia Shellhorn
Early life and Education
Ruth Patricia Shellhorn was born on September 21, 1909 in Los Angeles, CA. Encouraged by her parents Arthur and Lodema to go outside at a young age, Shellhorn loved the outdoors. She was inspired at age 15 by neighbor and lanscape designer Florence Yoch to pursue a career as a landcape architect. Shellhorn attended Oregon State University to study Landscape Architecture, but transferred to Cornell after her junior year for additional study and specializing. She left Cornell during the depression, a few credits short of her degree. Shellhorn’s records were reviewed by the school in 2005 and she was awarded degrees in Architecture and Landscape Architecture.
Shellhorn married Harry A. Kueser in 1941 and remained close to him as a wife and business partner until his death in 1991. Shellhorn passed away on November 3, 2006 after suffering from a stroke.
Career in Architecture
The bulk of Shellhorn’s career was spent as an independent landscape architect and designer. In 1945, Shellhorn’s husband Harry A. Kueser left his job to become the full-time finance manager of Shellhorn’s practice, allowing her free to work on her designs. She was comissioned to work on private gardens and landscapes for notable Hollywood players like Spencer Tracy, Gene Aurty, Barbara Stanwyck and Ben Goetz. Shellghorn designed the landscapes and parkign lot areas of many LA-area department stores in from the 1940’s to 1970’s. This was a relativeley new concept at the time as more Americans began driving to department stores in cars. Shellhorn was also a crucial part of the design for the design of the traffic and foothpaths at the Anaheim theme park, Disneyland.
Aside from designing, Shellhorn also conducted land studies. She spent two years conducting the Shoreline Development Study for the Greater Los Angeles Citizens Committee.The study helped create the first sewage treatment plant in Los Angeles. Shellhorn also did work for the Los Angeles City and County Regional Planning Commission, and helped qwith the foundation for the California Coastal Act.
Major Buildings and Projects
- Disneyland path design (1955)
- Designed shopping malls and outside landscapes for Bullock’s Department Stores in Wilshire, Palm Springs, and Lakewood locations. Completed remodel for Bulloks’ Westwood Location.
- Designed shopping malls and outside landscapes for Fashion Square Mall locations in Santa Ana, Sherman Oaks, Del Amo and La Habra
Press and Awards
- LA Times “Woman of the Year (1955)
- Alpha Zeta Scholarship Cup – Oregon State College School of Landscape Architecture, for highest grades in the School of Agriculture
- Clara Waldo Prize for Most Outstanding Freshman Woman -Oregon State College
- Phi Kappa Phi -honors in her junior year at Oregon State College
- Beaux Arts Competition – National Award
- Charles Goodwin Sands Memorial Medal – Cornell University, for most outstanding design in a collaborative senior project
Way, Thaisa. Unbounded Practice: Women and Landscape Architecture in the Early 20th Century. University of Virgina Press: Charlottesville and London, (2009).