The landscape contracting firm originally known as J.H. Small & Sons was founded by English-born horticulturalist John Henry Small, who began his career working in the Frogmore Gardens at Windsor Castle. Small immigrated to America in 1849 and established a nursery in Washington, D.C., in 1855. In 1886 he opened a florist shop on 14th and G streets. By 1892, Small and his two sons had opened stores in fashionable parts of New York City and were providing flowers for the most important dignitaries and socialites on the eastern seaboard.
Under the aegis of John H. Small, Jr., in 1912 the firm opened a second store in Washington on 15th and H streets. During this time, Small, Jr. enlarged the scope of the practice by designing local residential gardens, including the George H. Myers residence (now the Textile Museum). This garden exhibits a strong Beaux-Arts formality mixed with a naturalistic sensibility commonly found in Country Place Era designs.
John H. Small, III earned an M.L.A. from Cornell University in 1913 and soon joined the family business. By 1923, the firm was advertising itself as “landscape contractors” rather than florists, and during the 1920s and 1930s, Small III created a number of residential landscapes in middle-class suburbs noted for their simplicity and sensitivity to context and topography, including Foxhall Village in Washington, D.C.; Greenwich Forest in Bethesda, Maryland; and Hilltop Manor Apartments in Bladensburg, Maryland.