DescriptionIn 1966 Capitol Car Distributors, a Volkswagen distributing company, unveiled its new headquarters in Lanham, Maryland to much fanfare. At the time, the company managed over fifty-eight Volkswagen dealerships in the Mid-Atlantic region. Situated on thirty-three acres of land east of the Capital Beltway, the luxurious, 150,000 square-foot complex was designed by Mills, Petticord & Mills of Washington, D.C. Volkswagen’s iconic advertisements may have encouraged consumers to “think small,” but the sleek modern design of Capitol Car’s headquarters projected an ideal of a refined, successful corporate culture.
Wolf Von Eckardt, an art and architecture critic for The Washington Post, raved about the building’s posh interiors, its modern, “palatial façade,” and the beautiful Japanese-inspired landscaping. The garden featured an organically-shaped patio wrapped around a miniature lake surrounded by small conifers. A waterfall gushed over a natural limestone rock formation, and a pagoda-inspired pavilion provided a space for shade and relaxation. The garden’s designer, landscape architect Ethelbert Furlong (1894-1993), enjoyed a career of over sixty years, including designing the landscape for the 1949 House Beautiful “Pace-Setter House” and acting as a garden consultant to the Museum of Modern Art for its 1954 Japanese House, though he never actually traveled to Japan himself.
The garden received the 1966 Industrial Landscape Award from the American Association of Nurserymen. Lady Bird Johnson, who had launched her national beautification campaign a few years earlier, personally distributed the awards to businesses and landscape architects chosen from a nationwide survey of businesses with outstanding landscapes, commenting that “it must give a lift of joy to anyone who goes to look at these and a sense of civic pride to the community involved.” Today the campus is home to Hargrove, Inc., a management firm for special events.