Blithewold’s landscape embraces active recreation and quiet repose, integrating indoor-outdoor living spaces in a way that anticipates a more casual 20th century lifestyle. The Dock Complex, tennis courts and former Golf Clubhouse reflect Augustus Van Wickle and his passion for sports. Photos, descriptions and home movies—as well as kayaks and croquet sets—that remain in the collections demonstrate the active lifestyle of his two daughters and a turn-of-the-century feminist spirit. The Summerhouse and open-air breakfast room, sleeping porch and piazzas offered ample opportunities for less active family members to enjoy the benefits and beauties of the outdoors.
The extensive use of works of art and artifacts collected by the Van Wickles in their travels around the world, as well as family heirlooms or items specially commissioned for the site, imparts a rich and lively unity to both outdoor and indoor spaces. The furnishings and decorative arts found at the estate reflect a quest for historical reference and authenticity that was an undercurrent of the Arts and Crafts style. The intimacy of the site, its gracious and quiet beauty, have ensured its relevance for generations of visitors from all walks of life, who find inspiration for their own homes and gardens.
Blithewold’s buildings and grounds are the result of an interdisciplinary collaboration between its owners and several talented architects and designers. The gardens are the only known example of the work of landscape designer John DeWolf, a Bristol native involved over nearly two decades on the site. Architects Francis Hoppin and Walter Kilham were both nationally-prominent domestic architects who were involved there at early points in their careers. The estate buildings were published in national architectural and lifestyle periodicals soon after construction, and the gardens cited in books in the 1920s. Both Kilham and interior designer Samuel Bridge Dean shared Bessie and Will McKee’s interests and lifestyle and were actively involved in the American Arts and Crafts Movement.
Monday, February 16
- Friday, February 20
February Vacation Camp Sequoia
Monday, April 20
- Friday, April 24
April Vacation Camp
Friday, May 08
Dahlia Days with Rick Peckham's Greenhouse, Little Compton, RI
After the blizzard
(Jan 30, '15)
As storms go, this one (we’re calling it Juno?) was pretty great — at least for those of us without travel plans or emergencies. For me, it struck just the right balance between excitement from the big buildup in the media and bluster-full winds, and a kind of compulsory coziness. There was nothing to do for a whole night and […]
February at Blithewold “I Remember”
(Jan 29, '15)
The Christmas decorations are put away for another year, and Blithewold enters a hibernation of sorts — taking a well-earned rest before the activity and commotion of preparing for another season. An icy wind is howling around the Mansion, rattling the windows on the third floor. My mind turns to springtime and my favorite time […]
Learn something new — on fertilization
(Jan 23, '15)
When we get busy I’m apt to forget my quest to learn something new every day. But during the winter we have the time and plenty of opportunities in the way of classes, lectures, symposiums, trade and garden shows to make a habit of it again. And it’s a treat whether I’m learning something totally […]