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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 The furnishings and decorative arts found at the estate reflect a quest for historical reference and authenticity that was an undercurrent of the Arts and Crafts style.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 BIG Tree (Dec 20, '14)
    When you enter the Mansion this holiday season, you will be amazed by the massive Christmas Tree dominating the front hall. Standing proudly at 22 feet tall, it sets the festive tone for the entire Mansion, as it does every year during the Christmas at Blithewold season. The mastermind behind the beautiful Tree is Joanne Murrman, who […]
  • Break in routine (Dec 19, '14)
    I have felt at sixes and sevens ever since the garden volunteers started taking their winter break. I miss their company, no doubt about it, but I also miss the structure they bring to my day. No two days are ever the same in any garden but here at Blithewold there’s a certain routine. We’re […]
  • Holiday houseplants (Dec 12, '14)
    Given how many wonderful winter-blooming houseplants there are in the world, I find it sort of astonishing that poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is listed as the best selling houseplant in the US and Canada. But I suppose that fact must be chalked up to a couple things: Poinsettia are festive and fun. What’s not to love about […]
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