For my last post on the spectacular Elms Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, I wanted to highlight something I rarely feature on this page, a garden. When the mansion was completed by 1901, architect Horace Trumbauer and his firm went to work to produce plans for a natural landscape with a large lily pond at the far edge of the property. After 1907, the Berwind’s and high-society shifted and landscape ideals were influenced by newer theories in American landscape architecture, which sought influence from historical European gardens. Trumbauer reworked The Elms’ garden to reflect this new emphasis on reviving classical European garden design alongside landscape architects Ernest W. Bowditch and Jacques Greber advising on the parterre design in the sunken garden. A grand allée on the scale of 18th century French palace gardens extends across an expansive lawn toward two formal marble pavilions situated along a minor cross axis above a sunken garden. The marble pavillions appear to have been designed by Trumbauer and are inspired by 18th-century French garden pavilions. The grand context for the gardens is a park-like collection of specimen beech, elms, maples, linden and other large canopy trees. Many of the large trees have since succumbed to disease, but the formal Italian sunken garden remains one of the finest in the United States.
Harkness Estate – Water Tower // 1910
One of the most unique buildings on the grounds of the Harkness Estate has to be the most functional, the 1910 water tower. The structure was designed by architect James Gamble Rogers, a really under-appreciated architect who was commissioned by Edward and Mary Harkness to revamp their summer compound. The water tower features a skeletal frame with concrete block tower protecting it, surmounted by a shingled water tank which once had a functioning wind mill on it! Nearby the water tower, a garden designed by female landscape architect Beatrix Farrand frames the tower very well. In that garden sits a 110+ year old Japanese Thread Leaf Maple tree, which is probably the most beautiful tree I have ever seen.
Juniper Hill Cemetery Gate Lodge and Chapel // 1869 & 1913
As Bristol grew to be a dominant financial center in Rhode Island in the mid 19th century, prominent families there decided that their loved ones (and later themselves) needed a place of beauty to rest eternally. In 1855, descendants of Levi DeWolf, of the infamous slave-trading family, donated 22-acres of land for use as a cemetery. The old Levi DeWolf home remains fronting Hope Street, featured previously as the Reynolds-DeWolf House. It is a fine example of the mid-19th century rural cemetery movement, with winding lanes and paths. The landscape was designed by Niles Bierragaard Schubarth, who had done similar work at other Rhode Island cemeteries. Upon the opening of Juniper Hill, many families relocated their loved ones from other cemeteries in town here, so the families could be interred nearby each-other. The cemetery has three main structures; a gateway, the gate lodge, and a chapel/receiving tomb. The gate is a massive stone archway set at the entry to the cemetery, and was built in 1876 by the Smith Granite Company of Westerly, R.I. The Gate Lodge was built years earlier is located at the side of the entry into the grounds, and is a stone Victorian Gothic Revival building, designed by Providence architect Clifton A. Hall and constructed of granite quarried on the site during construction of the landscape. Yards away, the charming Amory Chapel and Receiving Tomb, built in 1913, is a 1-story stuccoed structure with a tile roof, designed by the firm of Angell & Swift of Providence. The small chapel stands out as it is a rare example of the Spanish Revival style, but has seen better days, and is apparently being used as a tool shed.
Cape Cottage Casino and Theater // 1899
The Cape Cottage Casino and Theater was one of several amusement parks developed in the late 1890s by Portland’s electric railways in order to increase business on their trolley lines. Residents of Portland would be able to take a surface trolley to the outskirts of the city in record time, and soak up the sun at luxurious summer communities. The Cape Cottage Casino and Theater was designed by iconic Maine architect John Calvin Stevens, completed in 1899. The casino represents the best in Neo-Classical design, with a full-height, projecting classical pediment supported by bold ionic columns. A wide entablature is accentuated with dentils and modillions; and at the entry, the main front door has a fanlight and is flanked by two small windows, creating a Palladian motif. In 1922, due to the demise in the trolley ridership, partly caused by the rise in personal automobile, the casino was sold off and the Cape Cottage Park Company then hired E.C. Jordan & Company, civil engineers, to subdivide the land and retained John Calvin Stevens and his son as consulting architects. Roughly 50 house lots were platted, resulted that were arranged around the former casino, which was extensively downsized and remodeled as a private residence. While the side wings were removed, the building does retain much of its architectural integrity, while its sheer size has been severely diminished.
Walnut Hills Cemetery // 1875
Walnut Hills Cemetery is located in South Brookline, and covers about 45 acres of rolling hills and mature trees. Paved and unpaved roads and paths wind through the cemetery, following the contours of the terrain. The cemetery is an example of the Rural Cemetery movement which began in 1831 in the United States at Mount Auburn Cemetery. Walnut Hills began in 1874, when the town of Brookline authorized the purchase of land for a new cemetery, as its Old Burying Ground was filling up, it was consecrated a year later. The town retained two landscape architects, Ernest Bowditch and Franklin Copeland, to oversee its layout. Just inside the entry gate, the superintendent’s cottage (1901), designed by Guy Lowell, and the receiving tomb (1901) to a design by Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow, Jr. add much to the bucolic landscape. Of the number of notable burials in the cemetery, the most notable is likely Henry Hobson Richardson, one of the premier architects of the 19th century.