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Practical Ed

By January 15, 20093 Comments

Last March 27, I learned that my friend and colleague Edward C. Hartranft had died suddenly at his home in New Hampshire. He was only 67.

(photo by F. P. Steiner)

A talented designer with a great hand for drawing and an appetite for the best in food, wine, and music, he sprang into my life in the winter of 2000. At the time, he was working with the firm John G. Crowe Associates, which was named architect of record for the garden I was designing for Praecis Pharmaceuticals Inc., in Waltham, MA. JGCA project manager Chris McCarthy suggested that I meet a landscape architect in their firm who he said was a good designer, but also a free spirit. In came Ed, full of vim and vigor. I told him my ideas, and out came “Big Greaser,” his grease pencil, and off we went on a seven year association filled with silly laughs, adventure, and lots of “swirly-whirlies” — as he called my tendency to make designs with sweeping curves.

He called himself “Practical Ed” because he’d often find himself in the devil’s advocate role, to counteract my more conceptual nature. An inveterate nick-namer, he called my tendency to expand the boundaries of a project “Julie Creep.” Most days, when I would arrive at his Waltham studio with some breakfast treats for him, I’d receive in return some delicious “doodles over coffee” — little gems of drawings that laid out his thinking on the project at hand. I’d look them over, hear his thoughts, sketch over his lines with my own design ideas, and off we’d go, creating the bones of another landscape together. We worked on many residential projects around the Boston area, but also landscapes for the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in Wellesley, MA, the Kansas City Art Institute in Kansas City, MO, Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, OH, a garden for Marshall Field’s Department Store in Minneapolis, and many others. Ed often told me that when he and I began our work together at Praecis — the project we did together that he was most proud of — I “let the genie (him) out of the bottle” by tempting him with wonderful projects that gave his design talents room to fly. Once aloft, his spirit could never be stuffed back in. I’m so glad that I just happened to open that bottle.

marshall fields hoisted boat

Swaths of color at the Marshall Fields in Minneapolis. Photo courtesy Marshall Field’s.


Ed and I worked together on this part of Swan Point Cemetery, called Stranger’s Rest, in Providence, R.I. Photo by Edward Hartranft.


An excellent example of Ed’s fine illustration skills – Conceptual Design for the Rose Kennedy Greenway Wharf District, Boston, MA

No one was ever more generous than Ed. He loved giving little presents — CDs of favorite symphonic music (he loved Berlioz) or consummate artists like the sopranos Elisabeth Schwarzkopf or Renee Fleming; and big ones — like the deeply voiced Woodstock Gregorian Baritone wind chimes he gave me for Christmas one year; or the 8 bottles of Barolo wine given on another occasion.

So, every time the wind swells up and those big chimes sing out, I’m reminded of Ed and imagine him rollicking across the landscape, giggling as he goes.

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Jacqueline Trainer says:


    Thank you for putting down the eloquent words and feelings about Ed that I could not.

    I still miss him too.

  • FP Steiner says:


    Our little son, who was a big fan of Ed, said it right: Ed is still around and watches us with a chuckle. We spent so many wonderful days with him up in New Hampshire. Ed, behind that big maple tree, reveal yourself! We miss you…

    Thank you, Julie, for paying tribute to Ed, a man with a wealth of practical experience, a special person and a long-time friend.

  • John Ryan says:


    I was just thinking about Ed while surfing the web and came across your tribute. I worked with him at John Crowe’s and remember how excited he was when he talked about some of the projects that he worked on with you. I had never met such a genuine character as Ed, and the same still holds true today. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of his great drawings and little “whoop-de-doos”, as he’d call them. Paintings, too. Thanks for posting!