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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 The furnishings and decorative arts found at the estate reflect a quest for historical reference and authenticity that was an undercurrent of the Arts and Crafts style.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.

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    From Our Blog

  • A-May-zing (May 15, '15)
    It’s not often anymore that my posts fall on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day and I’m thrilled for the excuse to post endless pictures of what’s happening on the grounds right now. The daffodils have pretty much gone by, except for the extra-pretty latest ones, but spring is ready to move on and so am I. May […]
  • Stop and smell the daffodils (May 08, '15)
    Of all the seasons, spring is the one that puts every sense on high alert. We’re all eyes for the colors, have sharp ears for frog and bird songs (we heard the orioles this week), and those of us not plagued by allergies have been breathing so deeply to catch every scent we’re getting lightheaded. Or is it […]
  • The Trip on the Lusitania (May 01, '15)
      In April 1910 Bessie and William McKee, with Marjorie and 11-year old Augustine, took a 2-month long trip to Europe taking in the major cities and traveling first-class all the way.  They sailed on Cunard’s R.M.S. Carmania from New York to Liverpool, England, where they were met by their own chauffeur, Krohe, in their […]
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