She Didn’t Receive the Credit She Deserved

Having your dream job doesn’t always work out they way you expected.  Ruth Shellhorn was a talented landscape architect who designed most of the landscapes and walkways for Disneyland, but she is mainly forgotten by Disney history and mostly unknown by Disney fans. My source is:

https://www.acast.com/disneyhistoryinstitutepodcast/dhi-024-ruth-shellhorn-the-first-female-designer-of-disneyland

You can hear the entire podcast blog at the link.

Ruth had to deal with many issues as landscape architect for Disneyland. This was the 1950s, when women were not as respected for their work. Walt Disney recognized Ruth’s talent, and she was respected at the Disney studio, but she experienced resistance, resentment and rejection at the Disneyland work site in Anaheim.

Walt had hired originally Jack and Bill Evans to do the landscaping at Disneyland, because they had landscaped Walt’s home.  But Walt was dissatisfied with their designs for Disneyland.  So he hired Ruth Shellhorn, but retained the Evans brothers, and misunderstandings developed over who was the lead designer.  Ruth did most of the design work, but was very particular and by-the-book, and this caused problems, because Disneyland was built pretty much on the fly, sometimes disregarding established procedures because of deadline and budget pressures.

After Disneyland was completed, Ruth hoped to be kept on retainer, but Walt decided to keep the Evans brothers instead.  It is thought that even though Ruth was more talented, she was less able adapt to Disney, where Walt required a collaborative culture that stressed results over individuals to get things done.  It’s a shame that such a talented contributor to Disneyland is mostly forgotten.  But the next time you walk around Disneyland, think about the beautiful landscaped areas designed by Ruth Shellhorn.

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