What began as a summer home for landscape architect Jens Jensen in 1919 grew to the 130-acre estate known as The Clearing. Following his wife’s death in 1934, Jensen moved to the secluded property. He referred to The Clearing as a “school of the soil,” and placed great emphasis on direct study of the landscape. Jensen crafted a curriculum, inviting as lecturers such friends as landscape architect Alfred Caldwell, architects Eliel Saarinen and Frank Lloyd Wright, sculptor Carl Milles, and writer Sherwood Anderson. Nestled atop the Niagara Escarpment, limestone cliffs rising out of Lake Michigan's Green Bay, its conception was influenced by the folk schools of Jensen’s native Denmark. His design consisted largely of simple wood and stone buildings and elemental landscape features, including one of his signature council rings, carved into the site’s native forests; traversed by walks, these woodlands surrounded a matrix of open meadows. In 1935, he opened his school as a place where city dwellers could have a spiritual contact with nature.
The Clearing’s natural setting nurtured Jensen’s ideas about social responsibility and environmental stewardship until his death in 1951. Today, in keeping with Jensen’s original mission for the school, The Clearing is a non-profit institution offering workshops and classes in nature, arts, and the humanities.