Landscapes, Streetscapes, Parks & Garden Fixtures

Benchmarks

Traditionally styled benches add to the beauty and tranquility of public parks and gardens.

Click here for a listing of suppliers of benches

By Nicole V. Gagné


The dictionary defines a “benchmark” as “something that serves as a standard by which others may be measured.” That term certainly embraces the four firms covered in this survey article. All produce high-quality benches for parks and gardens, which set the standard for these ubiquitous and much-loved site furnishings. The materials used for these benches may be metal, wood, carved stone, cast stone or even recycled plastic. But what they all have in common is that they’re handsome, sturdy, functional and traditionally styled – the kind of bench that creates the irresistible temptation to stop, sit and enjoy the beauty of whichever site it calls home.


Classically designed and ornamented benches from Florentine Craftsmen are available in hand-carved Italian limestone. The firm typically creates the benches in straight or curved models, measuring 58 in. wide x 15 in. deep, but they can also be made to any size or shape. Photo: courtesy of Florentine Craftsmen

Florentine Craftsmen of Long Island City, NY, has been producing statuary and site furnishings for elegant homes and gardens for almost a century. The firm’s product line is based on the original designs and molds that were developed by Vincent Primavera, who founded Florentine Craftsmen in New York City in 1915. Nowhere is that link to Old World artistry more apparent than in its park and garden benches. “We do a lot of high-end work. Our customers want the real thing,” explains Michelle Ciriello, the firm’s president. “It’s timeless. It’s an heirloom that you can pass on in the family.” Case in point: the classically designed benches from Florentine Craftsmen that are hand-carved in Italian limestone and offered in straight or curved models measuring 58 ins. wide x 15 ins. deep; they can also be made to any size or shape. The firm also offers a classic bench in cast stone, measuring 17 ins. high x 48 ins. wide x 15 ins. deep; the curved version is 58 ins. wide.


Firm founder Kenneth Lynch originally collaborated with landscape architect Robert Moses and the New York City Parks Commission to create his 1939 World’s Fair bench; Kenneth Lynch & Sons has been producing them for New York City parks and public areas ever since. Photo: courtesy of Kenneth Lynch & Sons, Inc.

Florentine Craftsmen also offers a line of garden furnishings in its welded collection: cast aluminum that's hand welded for superior quality. Among the classic designs available in this series is the Star and Dolphin Design Double Settee, which stands 32 ins. high x 40 ins. wide x 21 ins. deep and is available with or without cushions. The metal construction and attractive star-and-dolphin motif provide a handsome alternative to the weighty classicism of Florentine Craftsmen’s stone and cast-stone benches.

Cast-stone benches are also available from Kenneth Lynch & Sons, Inc., of Oxford, CT. This manufacturer of ornamental furnishings – everything from garden statuary and fountains to planters, birdbaths and, yes, park benches – works mostly in cast stone, lead and bronze. Although most celebrated for its cast-stone statuary, the firm’s park benches are also among its best-selling products.

In its cast-stone line, most of the benches are backless and come in either curved or straight designs, with classical or modern styling. Yet these beautiful items have their equal in Lynch & Sons’ metal-and-wood benches: familiar furnishings that can be found in American parks from Disneyworld to New York City’s Central Park. These benches are styled similarly to the ones developed by Kenneth Lynch (who founded the firm in the 1920s) in collaboration with landscape architect Robert Moses for the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. As Timothy Lynch, company president and son of Kenneth Lynch, has commented, “Most people have been seeing our products regularly for years, either in gardens and parks and other public places, or even on film.”

These traditional-looking benches are offered in dozens of designs and are produced in lengths from 4 to 8 ft. They’re built with cast-iron arms and legs and use the antifungal South American wood ipe for the slats. Municipal planners have taken so strongly to these benches that several communities such as Lennox, MA; Hoboken, NJ; and Arlington, VA, choose to rely exclusively upon benches from Lynch & Sons.


This hexagonal bench from Canterbury International is from the firm’s “1890” series of site furnishings. The interior-use benches are made of oak; jatoba or purpleheart is the material for exterior use. Support castings are available in aluminum or iron. This bench comes in graduated diameter sizes that range from 8 to 20 ft. Photo: courtesy of Canterbury International

Another manufacturer of garden ornament and landscape furnishings is Canterbury International of Los Angeles, CA. The firm meets virtually all outdoor-item needs, down to clocks, umbrellas and bollards, and its benches can be found in public areas from coast to coast. Although Canterbury International offers some backless concrete-leg benches that feature metal or wooden seating, it also has more traditional lines, such as the “1890” and “Wood Bench” series. All are made using either oak (for interior use) or jatoba or purpleheart (for exterior use); castings are in aluminum or iron, and custom colors are available. The popular 1890 benches offer a broad spectrum of possibilities: lengths from 4 to 12 ft.; with back or backless; freestanding or cantilevered; in hexagonal, square or rectangular shapes.

The firm’s “Bowery” line includes a variety of metal benches, also measuring from 4 to 12 ft., which are available in backless, straight or curved models, including a “Serpentine Bench” that’s made to the architect’s specifications and is available in any size and configuration. The Bowery benches are made chiefly in custom aluminum or stainless steel and feature formed metal seating; the straps are 1/4 in. thick x 2 ins. wide and are welded and ground for maximum strength.


The classic gull-wing supports of bench model 162 from DuMor Site Furnishings are cast iron; everything else, however is steel – tubing, pipe and plate. (The fasteners are stainless steel.) Available in lengths of 6 or 8 ft., this steel bench can be obtained in 11 different colors in baked-on polyester powder finishes. Photo: courtesy of DuMor Site Furnishings, Inc.

Metal benches are also offered by DuMor Site Furnishings, Inc., of Mifflintown, PA. Since the firm’s inception in the 1980s, parks and private grounds throughout the United States have relied on DuMor for benches and other site furnishings. Its metal benches are available either with backs or backless and in numerous designs, both traditional and contemporary. Using steel-bar seating and cast-iron supports, they come in lengths of 6 or 8 ft.; extended lengths are available in some models. A range of color options is offered in durable, baked-on polyester powder finishes.

DuMor’s wood benches, also with backs or backless, have slats made in the customer’s choice of Clear All Heart, Free of Heart Center Redwood; clear Douglas fir; or Western Red Cedar (all with clear preservative treatment); some are also available in ipe. Fasteners, contour straps and supports are stainless steel or cast iron, and the range of designs comes in various lengths, from 4 to 8 ft.

“Certain site conditions may dictate the use of different materials,” says DuMor marketing director Steven R. Richards. “So it’s important to offer them in our products.” Hence, the environmentally conscious DuMor also offers benches made of recycled plastic. A high-density polyethylene is the raw material of the bench, derived from post-consumer bottle waste. (The product is more than 90 percent recycled.) These benches come in traditional designs with cast-iron supports and stainless-steel fasteners; they also have polyester powder finishes in green, grey, “Cedar” (light brown) or “Redwood” (light grey) hues.