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 The furnishings and decorative arts found at the estate reflect a quest for historical reference and authenticity that was an undercurrent of the Arts and Crafts style.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

  • Serving up a feast (Jul 25, '14)
    Whenever anyone asks, “When is the best time to visit Blithewold?” Gail and I usually run through a list that includes spring for the daffodils, early summer for the roses and Rock Garden, and late summer and fall to see the Idea Gardens in their full glory. But now I wish I could go back and […]
  • On formality and fine tuning (Jul 18, '14)
    Mother Nature dumped almost three more inches of rain on Blithewold this week and the gardens responded by growing with an exuberance bordering on, and even crossing over the line to loose, lush informality. I have a hard time defining formality when it comes to gardens though I’m sure I know it when I see […]
  • Mid-summer shift (Jul 11, '14)
    The gardens are going through a bittersweet transition from June’s hurrah to a mid-summer huzzah, and although we sometimes experience a “July gap,” the shift seems pretty seamless this year. Delicate oxeye daisies gave way almost overnight to beefy Shastas, echinaceas, and rudbeckias. Sturdy summer phlox are taking over, as we speak, for the elegance […]
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