Skip to main content



Arboretum and Gardens

Arboretum and Gardens
4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20016

There are 10 different gardens in the campus arboretum. Read below for more information on each specific garden.

Woods Brown Amphitheatre

This is one of the most peaceful yet active places on campus. Whether quietly reading a book, talking with friends, listening to a lecture, dancing during a concert, or participating in a ceremony, you can always find something happening in this memorable space. 

The Woods Brown Amphitheatre was built and dedicated in 1954 and continues to be one of the most cherished spots on campus. The facility was funded by donations from the class of 1929 and was named to honor George B Woods who served as the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts from 1925-1945 and Mary Louise Brown who served as the Dean of Women from 1925-1944.

This special green oasis is bordered on three sides by large buildings. The landscape is anchored by the massive Tulip Poplars that shade the seating area. The edges are flanked by extensive plantings with a meandering stream that runs through the peaceful wooded setting. Large trees include Deodora Cedars, London Plane, Gingko, Dawn Redwoods and Hemlock. Smaller understory trees include: Dogwoods, Saucer Magnolia, Sweet Bay Magnolia, Japanese Snowbell. On the ground plain, you will find plantings include a variety of shrubs, many shade loving perennials and seasonal bulbs.

In the summer of 2007 the amphitheatre went under an extensive renovation. The stage and walkways were replaced. Boulders were placed in strategic locations to provide additional seating opportunities and help naturalize the setting and new palnting areas were introduced.

While visiting, be sure not to miss…..

  • The breath taking Virginia Bluebells blooming amongst the daffodils in the early spring.
  • The stately stand of Dawn Redwoods. This species which dates back over 65 million years was thought to be extinct until a small stand was found growing in the remote part of central China. Botanists gathered to collect seeds from this exciting find and now the direct descendnets are available at your local nursery for inclusion in your landscape. 
  • The two wooden seats that are nestled by the stream. These benches were carved from an oak tree that graced the landscape on our main quad for over 100 years. Unfortunately, the tree had to be taken down as it had become a safety hazard. The tree's removal was a little less painful knowing that the wood could be put to a good use.   

Friedheim Quad

The long rectangular shaped Eric A. Friedheim Quadrangle is the heartbeat of the AU Campus. This bustling space is framed on the ends by the Kay Spiritual Life Center and the Bender Library. Each side is bordered by major academic buildings and the University Center. The university community anxiously awaits the completion of the quad's the newest addition. The state of the art academic building is scheduled to begin construction in early 2008 and will serve as the new home of the School of International Service. The building will be the first "Green" building on the American University campus as is scheduled to achieve "Gold" status in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system criteria. LEED certification is the nationally recognized benchmark for the design, construction and operation of buildings in a sustainable manner. This exciting project, will be located adjacent to Bender Library on the south end of the quad. 

Historic Hurst Hall, built in 1896, is the first building erected on campus and is named after Bishop John Fletcher Hurst who bought the land to start the university and served as its first Chancelor.. Hurst Hall was the first building constructed on the AU campus and the first home of the "College of Liberal Arts." Construction began on March 9, 1896, and the building was completed on February 1, 1898.

The landscape on Freidheim Quad is anchored by the stately oaks that line the pathways. The Oak collection includes Scarlet, White, Red and Pin varieties. The central lawn is usually busy with activity and host many events throughout the year. Extensive plantings with ornamental trees, shrubs, perennials and ornamental grasses are found in front of each building. In the center of the quad is a circular seating area that was donated as a gift by the class of 1941.

In front of Bender Library, you will find the Clock which was donated by the Class of 1992. Be sure to see the seasonal annual display that surrounds the base of the clock.  

In 2003, a new plaza and seating areas were added in front of Kay Spirtiual Life Center. The enlarged paved area and surrounding plantings provide an appropriate setting for the many activities that take place in the building. Exciting future renovations plans are in the works that will significantly upgrade the appeance of the quad. Vehicular traffic and parking on the quad have long since been removed from the quad. However the remnants remain as we now use the old roadways as pedestrian walkways. The university is anxious to see transform the walkways into a more pedestrian scale and appearance. Reducing the width of the pavement will improve the appearance, provide more planting opportunities and help the environment.

While visiting Freidheim Quad, be sure not to miss...

  • The eagle sculpture on the library end which was hand carved from a 100 year old tree that had to be removed from the Quad.
  • The Katsura and American Yellowwood trees planted at Hurst Hall.

Presidents Garden  

Originally known as the Chancellors house, the President's office is situated high on the hill adjacent to the main entrance to campus. The hillside is planted with many shrubs, perennials and seasonal annauls. The manicured lawn sweeps up from the roadway leading to the entrance terrace. The canopies of the large Pecan , Walnut and Oak trees extend over the building and shade the setting. This garden really comes alive in the spring with 100's of daffodils planted amongst the large masses of Azaleas and Dogwoods. During the spring of 2007, members of the neighborhood deer population decided to raise their new fawn within the fence d garden of the presidents private garden. The protected area made the ideal location for the safe development and foraging environment fo the latest addition. Staff from the presidents office "adopted the new fawn and watched her development until her move out to the "wild" of urbamn Washington DC. 

University Gateways  

Glover Gate is the main entrance to the AU campus and can be found on Massachusetts Ave. This entrance has the largest seasonal annual display on campus. The garden is always a topic of conversation as it changes throughout the year. The highlights revolve around the interesting use and composition of bulbs, annuals, perennials with a few exotics mixed in. Be sure to not miss the hanging baskets on the Washington Globe style light poles as you enter the campus. Rockwood Gate is located off Rockwood Parkway and has a more shady growing environment. Interesting combinations of annuals and perennials are grouped with the Japanese Kerria and the shade trees.

Battellee Hillside    

This garden is best viewed from across the roadway. The slope is home to many flowering roses. Be sure to take the steps up to the circular seating area where you can rest within the garden. Trees include Chinese Elm, Heritage Birch and Japanese Snowbells. In the fall the New England Aster and the Miscanthus are always a welcomed sight.

September 11th Memorial  

The memorial was dedicated on September 11th, 2002 to remember the tragic events of the previous year and to honor 5 members of the AU community who perished that day. The circular plaza consist of three types of stone paving and is defined by 4 curved stone seat walls. The memorial itself is a large carved piece of granite that is located behind one of the stone walls. The space serves as a gateway linking Friedheim Quad to the northern part of campus. An allee of Zelkovas line the new walkway that leads from the circle. Along the walkway you will find several seating areas nestled amongst the extensive plantings that line each side of the walkway. If visiting in the early spring be sure to see the large mass of Scenecio with its striking yellow display.

Roper Pocket Park  

This hidden gem is one of the most peaceful spots on campus. The garden was established in 2004 as a gift from the university president to his wife in honor of her father. Installation of the plantings was done as a volunteer effort between students, faculty and staff as a part of the annual Campus Beautification Day. The natural pond serves as the centerpiece of the garden which is nestled under the canopy of the stately Oaks. Many flowering shrubs and perennials surround the pond and seating areas. The stepping stone walkways are inter planted with a variety of interesting groundcovers such as Mazus and Ophiopogon.  

Washington College of Law Plaza  

The entrance plaza is always vibrant with activity. The granite tiered fountain serves as a comfortable gathering spot for students, visitors and neighbors. The interesting plantings frame the entrance, mask out the busy street and create comfortable nooks for people to gather and engage in conversation. 

Katzen Terrace and Sculpture Garden  

The Katzen Arts Center is the newest addition to the AU campus. Located across from the main entrance to campus, the Katzen garden completes the streetscape and entrance setting for the university. The linear plaza matches the contemporary architecture of the building. A simple and subtle water feature cascades over the bluestone blocks. The 6000 square foot sculpture garden is located off the main gallery floor. Scupltures also surround the building. The steep hillside along Massachusetts Avenue is planted with large mass of Knock Out Rose and Fountain Grass. The hillside to the west of the building was recently planted with over 100 native trees as a reforestation project.  

Tenley Campus  

In 1987, AU purchased this prime 8 acre site which was formerly the Immaculata School. The pastoral small campus is located about ¼ mile from the main campus. The Tenley Campus is home to the Dunblane Building which is the oldest structure on campus. The grounds at Tenley are anchored by the grove of wonderful shade trees that form the interior courtyard.