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Miller EDISON COTTAGE & Ellen Biddle SHIPman Garden

Location: 24 Miller Park
What's Nearby: Bell Tower and Miller Park

Physical Characteristics:  Skillfully designed, balancing formal and wild elements, the elaborate garden that surrounds the cottage was designed by landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman at the invitation of her friend Mina Edison. Heritage Landscapes, Preservation Landscape Architects and Planners, was commissioned (2017) by the Chautauqua Foundation to analyze and prepare planting plans (trees, shrubs and perennials) for the Miller Cottage Landscape, based on Ellen Shipman's original 1922 Garden. While contemporary standards set by the State of New York now prohibit the introduction of some exotic and invasive plants originally specified by Shipman, Chautauqua’s Supervisor of Gardens and Landscapes Betsy Burgeson has substituted native plants where required. “Still,” says historic preservationist Bob Jeffrey, “the new garden will be an ode to Ellen Biddle Shipman and follow her design carefully.”

After extensive hardscape work, the gardens were planted summer 2019 and are in the process of getting established in their new home. Weekly Tours Wednesday at 1pm will pay homage to the first four years of the ‘Assembly’ tour the Garden learning not only about it’s plantings but about Ellen Biddle Shipman. Limited tickets are sold at the Main Gate Welcome Center on Wednesday mornings.

Historical Context: Chautauqua co-founder Lewis Miller build this pre-fab Swiss chalet style home on this site in 1875 and it has been in the Miller family for 140 years. It was originally white with raspberry trim! The only structure specifically designated as a National Historic Landmark on the grounds, it remains largely unchanged and retains many of its original furnishings. Now it’s the property of the Institution, thanks to a generous gift from Tom Hagen.


At this time, interest grew in the original garden plans designed in 1922. Mina Miller Edison, wife of Thomas Edison and daughter of Lewis Miller, commissioned the gardens in the 1920s and hired one of the most important landscape designers of the era, Ellen Biddle Shipman. A rare woman in what was then a man’s profession, Shipman designed many residential landscapes for distinguished American families such as the Astors, Rockefellers and Vanderbilts. Shipman also undertook public landscape projects such as the Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University, the plantings along Lake Shore Boulevard in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan, and the Longue Vue House and Gardens in New Orleans, Louisiana.


Mina Edison was president of the Bird Tree and Garden Club for twelve years and worked collaboratively on the garden with Shipman. The Bird Tree and Garden Club purchased plant markers for all the shrubs, trees and perennials in the garden, to be placed at the time of the garden’s completion.

Luminaries from industry and politics from Henry Ford, President Grant and others visited the Miller Cottage during their time at Chautauqua.


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The plant census is in the process of being finalized based on being implemented summer 2019