Historic Landscape Gardener

Full-time, non-exempt. Work occurs onsite and in person.

Reports to: Executive Director


The Smeja Homestead Foundation, a private nonprofit operating foundation, owns 560 acres of land along the Kishwaukee and Rock rivers in Rockford, Illinois. The property includes the 26-acre Esta Barrett Manor and Gardens, a historic country house and adjoining 160-acre farmstead, laid out by landscape gardener, O. C. Simonds, one of the leaders of the natural landscaping movement of the early twentieth century. The remaining 373 acres of land are wooded bluffs, land enrolled in the USDA Conservation Reserve Program, floodplain forest, and an archeological site that is a designated Land & Water Reserve. Much of the site is focused on the naturalized landscape with a sustainability emphasis, while the sunken garden and its heirloom plantings were the pride of Esta Barrett. The historic site will be rebranded from Indian Hill Manor to Esta Barrett Manor and Gardens in the spring of 2024.

Position Summary:

The Smeja Homestead Foundation is seeking a Historic Landscape Gardener to restore and maintain the integrity of the manor grounds and gardens, work day-to-day to plant, prune, weed, and make the core 5-acre manor grounds, sunken garden, and surrounding beds presentable to the visiting public, assist with interpretive programming, and help to plan for future projects.

Essential Functions:

Oversee the management of and perform cyclical, seasonal, and emergency maintenance of the manor grounds and gardens. This includes maintaining the legacy of historic plantings: lawns, flower beds, planters, borders, trees, and other plantings while developing strategies for the naturalistic parts of the grounds.

  • Secure and manage contractors and service providers to maintain the grounds and gardens.
  • Participate in the development of the annual budget and contribute to annual long-range budgeting and planning efforts, gathering cost estimates for capital improvement projects and ongoing operations.
  • Recruit, train, and supervise landscape volunteers and interns, while being mindful of the safe handling of equipment and materials.
  • Work with staff on logistics related to tours, events, and special property uses to ensure safe and rewarding experiences for audiences and visitors; assist with holiday decorating of the interior and exterior of the manor.
  • Conduct educational and interpretive programs in cooperation with the executive director, and lead garden and natural area tours.
  • Build a plant database beginning with the sunken garden and expand to other key areas of the developed landscape over time. Report changes to the accessioned plant collections including additions and removals; maintain labeling on specimen plants and interpretive displays.
  • Other job-related duties as assigned may be necessary to further the mission and vision of the Smeja Homestead Foundation.

Qualifications and Experience:

  • An Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Horticulture, Plant Ecology, Natural Landscaping, Forestry, Natural Resources, or a similar field. Experience can be a suitable substitute for an academic degree.
  • Ability to operate and maintain various types of tools and equipment safely and efficiently (e.g. tractors, mowers, chainsaws, and hand tools.)
  • Working knowledge of native plants indigenous to northern Illinois, and ability to identify and manage invasive species.
  • Required pesticide applicators’ license and/or certifications, or ability to obtain a license.
  • Previous experience working with the public and volunteers is desired.
  • Possess a valid driver’s license and own a vehicle.
  • Occasional weekends, evenings, and planned special event dates are required.
  • Strong supervisory skills. Ability to prioritize tasks and delegate them when appropriate.
  • Basic computer skills and use of email, Microsoft Office, and internet browsers.

 Physical Requirements:

The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions. While performing the duties of this job the employee must be able to frequently lift/carry up to 40 lbs. unassisted. The employee will frequently perform moderate physical activity and occasionally somewhat strenuous daily activities that require considerable use of their arms and legs, moving their whole body, climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, bending, and handling of tools and chemicals.

Working Conditions:

Work will be performed mostly outdoors, and the employee will be exposed to changing weather conditions (rain, sun, wind, snow, heat, humidity, etc.) and certain types of pollen and allergens. The job requires that the employee follow standard safety procedures, be alert, and take necessary precautions (e.g. wearing/using protective clothes, gloves, and equipment, hearing and eye protection, respirators) to avoid possible injuries or health problems that may result from walking on irregular ground, exposure to irritants and chemicals, working around moving equipment and power tools, exposure to extreme cold and heat for periods of more than one hour, noise, or atmospheric conditions that may affect the respiratory system.

 Compensation: This is a full-time permanent position. Salary range: $40,000 – $45,000 (annually based on a 40-hour week). Benefits include a stipend for health insurance and paid time off. A pre-employment background check is required.

 Non-Discrimination Policy: The Foundation does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, national or ethnic origin, age, status as an individual with a disability, military or veteran status, genetic information, or other protected classes under the law.

 To Apply: Please send a cover letter, resume, and three references to Brian Reis, Executive Director, Smeja Homestead Foundation at brian@indianhillmanor.net with “Historic Landscape Gardener” in the subject line.

Application Deadline: March 30, 2024

Esta Barrett Manor and Gardens, Smeja Homestead Foundation, Inc.

6901 Kishwaukee Road

Rockford, IL 61109