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 The furnishings and decorative arts found at the estate reflect a quest for historical reference and authenticity that was an undercurrent of the Arts and Crafts style.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

  • The Stickley Room (Sep 25, '14)
    Newer members may think we have a new room at Blithewold – the small room across from Augustine’s on the second floor. Older members may reminisce and recognize that it is now exactly as it was when Blithewold opened to the public in 1978. Although we believe that the Stickley furniture was once in the […]
  • Slow flowers at Robin Hollow Farm (Sep 19, '14)
    I often tell people that we’re too busy in the gardens to get out much. That might sound like a complaint but it’s not. For one thing, I hate to miss anything here, and when we do take time out to visit to another garden, it’s a huge treat and I always come back inspired. […]
  • What to do with asparagus foliage (Sep 12, '14)
    I haven’t spent a lot of time in the vegetable garden this summer — Dan has been right on top of the planting, the weeds, and the harvests — but this week I found myself in there a couple of times. Gail, Betsy, the volunteers, and I had the pleasure of helping with a huge […]
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