Litton, Burton

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To view the finding aid for the Litton Collection, see the Finding Aid at the Online Archive of California.

Litton PortraitBurton ​Litton (1918-2007)

Born on a ranch in Santa Rosa in 1918, Burt Litton completed his undergraduate studies in Landscape Architecture at UC Berkeley. He graduated from Berkeley in 1941, earning cum laude honors and then attended Harvard’s Graduate School of Design for one year before he enlisted in the U.S. Navy to fight in World War II. Following the War, Litton graduated from Iowa State University with a Masters in Landscape Architecture in 1948 and took a teaching position at UC Berkeley. During his 40 years as a Berkeley professor he taught almost every course offered by the department; the most notable was his graduate course, Examining the Landscape Provinces of California. Litton also served for 4 years as the Landscape Department Chair and was the motivating force behind creating the campus landscape committee to preserve the campus’ landscape design through its growth phases. In 1968, concurrent with his position at UC Berkeley, Professor Litton joined the U.S. Forest Service as part of their research division. His work there focused on researching the aesthetic qualities present in many of the nation’s scenic highways and national parks. Litton's efforts included research and consulting on forest management practices in Wyoming, the Tennessee Valley, and the Lake Tahoe region. His work influenced the management policies of both the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

Much of his work during this time resulted in published manuscripts and technical research papers. Litton also wrote several articles related to features of the landscapes that interested him. Notably he wrote an article for Landscape Architecture magazine about the variety of designs found in Western Fences and on the changing uses of vacant-undeveloped land. The majority of records found in the collection relate to his research topics for the Forest Service. The material includes written drafts, notes, and hand-drawn reference maps related to each project. Litton carried his landscape analysis into his personal travels and teaching. His graduate course often took extended weekend field trips to many of his favorite California landscapes. Students would be required to assess the forms and characteristics of the site and interpret their observations through sketches and watercolor prints. Litton encouraged his students to improve their watercolor techniques and continue to visit the ordinary landscapes around them.

Litton Watercolor

The bulk of the Burt Litton collection is comprised of Litton’s research and analysis while working with the US Forest Service. Much of the material consists of articles, reference notes, research notes, photographs and drafted manuscripts prepared between 1970 and 1990. There is extensive material relating to Litton’s investigation of the water level of the American River, and the Clark’s Fork Region in Wyoming. The collection also includes course materials, syllabi, and lectures notes from the dozen courses that Litton taught at UC Berkeley from 1965-1998.