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.
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.
Ames Mansion-Borderland // 1910
One of the more stunning homes and parks in Massachusetts is located in Easton, known as the Borderland State Park. Borderland was the 1,200-acre estate of Blanche Ames Ames, an artist, political activist, inventor, writer, and prominent supporter of women’s suffrage and birth control. Blanche Ames’ husband, Oakes Ames (of the Ames Family of Easton), came from a wealthy Massachusetts family that owned the Ames Shovel Works. Marrying in 1900, Blanche and Oakes (who were not related even though they had the same last name) constructed their stone mansion in 1910 and created a system of ponds and dams on their property. Blanche and Oakes, who wanted a fireproof house, became displeased with the work of their architect because of the challenges he faced with their design and engineering requirements. Dismissing the architect, Blanche took over the design and construction management of the mansion and hired the Concrete Engineering Company to draw plans according to her specifications. Also on the grounds is a hunting lodge with fireplace, overlooking the large pond on the estate.
Once the mansion was completed, Blanche set up a studio on in the house and developed a scientific color system for mixing paints. She became the sole illustrator of her husband’s botanical books (Oakes was a renowned authority on orchids and taught botany at Harvard from 1900 until his retirement in 1941). Later in life, Blanche became the co-founder of the Birth Control League of Massachusetts and the Treasurer of the League of Women Voters from 1915 to 1918. She also gained notoriety for her political cartoons depicting the struggle for women’s suffrage. In addition to these many accomplishments, Blanche was an inventor who, in 1939, designed a hexagonal lumber cutter. During World War II she designed, tested and patented a method for ensnaring enemy airplanes in wires hung from balloons. Remaining active her entire life, Blanche received a patent for a water anti-pollution device in 1969, a year before her death.
The estate remained in the Ames family for 65 years, until 1971, when the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was gifted the Borderland Estate and all furnishings inside for use as a State Park.
Derby Summer House // 1793
The Derby Summer House is a rare and excellent example of a formal eighteenth century garden house designed with, the lightness of detail which, characterized the Federal Style. It was built in 1793-94 by Samuel Mclntire, the noted craftsman-carpenter of Salem. The structure was built in Elias Hasket Derby’s farm garden in present-day Peabody (now the site of a shopping mall) and featured two figures on the roof; a Milkmaid and Reaper, designed by John and Simeon Skillin of Boston (removed at the time of the photos). The Derby Farm eventually purchased by Mrs. William Crowninshield Endicott, a descendant of the original owner, and she had the summer house transported to Glen Magna Farm 4 miles away. The structure is now a National Historic Landmark.
Saugus Ironworks House // 1687
In America’s colonial infancy, all iron (for nails, weapons, tools, cookware, and horseshoes) was imported from England and costed settlers a premium for shipping. In the mid-1600s, John Winthrop, Jr., son of Governor John Winthrop, saw the untapped need for an ironworks in the newly settled American colonies. In 1643, along with a series of investors, Winthrop formed the Company of Undertakers of the Iron Works in New England, which soon after established the first ironworks in modern-day Quincy. The venture failed due to a lack of iron ore in the area and an inadequate supply of water to power the machinery, and Winthrop was replaced by Richard Leader to head up the struggling company. Leader selected a site in modern-day Saugus (then a part of Lynn), situated on 600 acres of land, bordered by the Saugus River, which was both a source of waterpower and a means of transportation.
The new iron works, which was called Hammersmith, began operations in 1646. The works consisted of; a large blast furnace, a forge, and various outbuildings for the harvesting and treatment of raw ore and treated iron. At its opening, it was one of the most technologically advanced iron works in the world. As there were so few skilled ironworkers in the colonies at the time, many were brought over from England and Scotland, the latter as prisoners of war, following the Battle of Dunbar in 1650. The ironworkers did not fit in with the local Puritan society and often ran afoul of its laws. Many ironworkers were arrested for crimes such as drunkenness, adultery, gambling, fighting, cursing, and not attending church.
The ironworks struggled as by 1650, John Gifford and William Aubrey assumed management of the Iron Works and were known to “cook the books” and had shady business dealings. A large Ironmaster’s House was constructed by 1687-88 (though other sources state it was originally built as far back as 1646) which is now the oldest remaining building in Saugus, and one of the oldest extant homes in America. Samuel Appleton, a military and government leader in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, sued the ironworks which had been owned by his father-in-law, William Paine, in order to secure an inheritance of £1,500 left by Paine to Appleton’s three children with Hannah Paine. Samuel Appleton, Jr. would eventually take control of the Ironmaster’s House as part of the settlement.
After the iron works closed, the site fell into disuse and became hidden by underbrush. It was revived in 1915 by Wallace Nutting, an early preservationist, who restored the home to its original appearance and restored the grounds as well. The home was later sold and future uncertain, until William Sumner Appleton, Samuel Appleton Jr.’s descendant, worked to acquire the property and did. The Boston architecture firm of Perry, Shaw & Hepburn, Kehoe & Dean, which was responsible for the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg, was hired to reconstruct the Iron Works, rebuilding many of the outbuildings and landscape, partly from historical records and partly by conjecture, and the Ironworks reopened in 1954. In 1968, the park was acquired by the U.S. Government and is now operated by the National Park Service seasonally and is open for amazing tours of the building and grounds.