Originally known as Sunset Terrace, the Country Place Era estate just east of downtown Columbus was designed for the noted industrialist and philanthropist William C. Bradley by the Olmsted Brothers firm between 1920 and 1937. In 1947 the estate was subdivided and thirteen acres were donated to the City of Columbus for cultural and educational use. The gift included the Mediterranean Revival style home (1912) and several of the garden’s signature landscape features.
Bradley grew up on a cotton plantation and had a keen interest in the garden’s natural and physical features. He collaborated extensively on the design and construction with William Marquis, of the Olmsted Brothers firm. Of particular interest to Bradley was the use of natives with plant materials coming from P. J. Berckmans Company (a large Augusta nursery at which Marquis was previously employed), and from a former Alabama plantation just twelve miles away, which provided many of the site’s oaks, laurels, and red cedars. Nonliving native materials that were brought to site included rustic steps from a nearby plantation and boulders that came from the Chattahoochee River and were used in the waterfall. This residential commission is considered the largest and most important of thirteen residential projects carried out by the firm in Georgia.
Today, the garden’s extant Olmsted-era features include many of the mature plantings and the original natural spring ravine as well as a grotto and pool house. Current horticultural practices maintain the original design intent of planting native flowering shrubs and trees. The property was the only Olmsted Brothers commission included in the seminal publication, Garden History of Georgia, 1733–1933, published by Atlanta’s Peachtree Garden Club. The garden is a component of the Wynn’s Hill-Overlook-Oak Circle Historic District, which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.