I’ve just returned from a few days, my first ever, in Newport, Rhode Island. In addition to the ocean, the mansions, the shopping, harbor and wonderful dining is an absolute jewel of a garden, the Blue Garden.
Originally designed by Frederick Law Olmstead for Arthur Curtiss and Harriet Parsons James as a hortus conclusus, aka a secret garden, for their Beacon Hill House in 1913, it was a unique expression of landscape art. The garden gets its name from the limited and prefered color palette of purples and blues requested by Mrs. James.
It’s opening celebration, “The Masque of the Blue Garden” in August 1913 was covered in detail by newspapers and periodicals across the country and up until the early 1930s the social events in the Blue Garden were heralded features of Newport.
Sadly, the garden, with its labor-intensive upkeep fell into disrepair after the deaths of Arthur and Harriet in 1941. Fortunately, in 2012 the property was purchased by the late philanthropist, Dorrance H. Hamilton who had a deep interest in preservation and gardens and made the full, intricate and painstaking restoration possible, under the guidance of architecture firm Reed Hilderbrand. You can see a wonderful video that traces the complete restoration on their website.
Standing in this incredible space, I realized that photos truly do not do it justice, so trust me that it is something you really need to see and walk through for yourself!
Today, the garden is private, but available for tours (Thursdays from mid-June to mid-Oct) for individuals or groups related to garden design, landscape architecture, horticulture or historic preservation by contacting the garden director, Sarah Vance. My hostess has become very involved with the garden and I must thank her for the opportunity to visit this landmark space.
What a gift to the town of Newport and all those who venture that way.