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“These Men Were Prophets!” » John Dunbar

John Dunbar (1859-1927) was selected by Calvin Laney to become Highland Park’s first assistant superintendent and horticulturist. Soon he fulfilled these roles for the entire park system. By the early decades of the 20th century, he had developed a national reputation as someone “who has been identified with Rochester’s parks since 1891. He is widely known both in the United States and abroad for his knowledge attainments and achievements as an arboriculturist.”*
* American Florist, March 20, 1915

“He is acknowledged as the peer of many of the ablest representatives of this great department of labor and his deep interest in the work and his appreciation of the beauty that can be developed through landscape gardening finds expression in the improvements which he has instituted in connection with the Rochester park system ” **
History of Rochester and Monroe County Vol II, The Pioneer Publishing Company, NY 1908

Together with Calvin C. Laney, Dunbar worked to realize the vision of Frederick Law Olmsted for Highland Park. He utilized the vast donations of stock from the Mt Hope Nurseries and supplemented these with purchases from Germany, England and France, His success eventually led to a renowned partnership with Dr Charles Sprague Sargent, the director Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, and access to Asian varieties to supplement the growing arboretum. Dunbar created much of the identity of Highland Park in his selection and manner of planting its collections of shrubs, lilacs, pinetum and other trees. He also began the tradition of developing new varieties of lilac in his adopted home of Rochester. Today, in his honor, Highland Bowl is known as John Dunbar Memorial Pavilion and includes an outdoor amphitheater that is used for summertime concerts and film series. The pavilion is also available for rent by organizations and individuals.

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