Correction: An earlier version of this letter incorrectly identified Enid A. Haupt. This version has been corrected..


A model of proposed changes at the Smithsonian complex in Washington in 2014. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

Gardens are never static, as horticultural philanthropist Enid A. Haupt knew so well. She also knew that a deal was a deal. That’s why her lawyers engaged in detailed correspondence with Smithsonian Institution leaders to establish a “garden for the ages” with an invested endowment of $3 million to sustain the eponymous space. While Adrian Higgins is rightfully concerned with maintenance costs, as he wrote in his Feb. 18 Arts & Style article “Not exactly a Garden of Eden,” Haupt’s endowment exists for that purpose, a point made by Haupt’s great-niece and former Smithsonian Institution secretary S. Dillon Ripley II’s daughter in their Feb. 18 Local Opinions essay, “Hands off the Haupt Garden and Ripley Center.” They underscored the Smithsonian’s legal obligation to adhere to Haupt’s intent, and the absurdity of the more than $2 billion master plan (revised with dizzying and costly regularity by its Danish firm) for the Smithsonian Quadrangle Historic District.

Lest it lose faith of donors and taxpayers, it’s time the Smithsonian stood down on the problematic master plan. As Commission of Fine Arts chairman Rusty Powell outlined in a recent hearing on the proposal, the Smithsonian should focus its efforts and dollars on real needs: restoring the Castle and incorporating the Arts and Industries Building into a master plan. By doing so, it can also give planners time to ensure the Smithsonian adheres to Haupt’s intent, honors the historic and cultural significance of the Quadrangle and duly adapts the garden to today’s climatic challenges.

Anne Neal Petri, Washington

The writer is president of the
Garden Club of America.