The Vision for Blithewold in the Future

Vision

Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum is widely recognized as a thoughtfully conserved and authentic historic site of consequence; a cultural landscape of historical importance and contemporary relevance; and a place of tranquility, beauty, and repose.

Blithewold respects founding family member Bessie Van Wickle’s vision of creating “an estate in which new beauties are constantly revealed and the perfect accord between Architecture and Grounds is ever apparent.”

The property is:

  • A destination for enthusiasts of gardens, history, the arts and the natural environment, as well as for those seeking an experience of tranquility;
  • Interpreted as a cultural landscape with a variety of heritage assets including gardens, grounds, buildings and archives all closely linked to its vibrant social history;
  • A model of sustainable stewardship of an historic property, continuing to evolve naturally and culturally;
  • Environmentally respectful in carrying out its programs, activities and initiatives.
    Blithewold’s stewards preserve the property in accordance with its cultural and environmental significance while maintaining operational excellence and integrity. The property is fully supported by the greater community, its membership, donors, visitors, scholars, and staff. 

Blithewold's Defining Character

Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum is an historic site with an unusual combination of significant horticultural, cultural, and physical assets. 

Blithewold:

  • Is a sanctuary, a place of peace and repose, embodying and reflecting the quiet elegance, taste, enjoyment, and experimentation of two generations of a family who loved the place and saw it as a home rather than a testimony to their social or financial position.
  • Is a nationally-distinguished arboretum with remarkable specimen trees that are considered among the finest in the United States.
  • Enjoys a waterfront setting with spectacular views of Narragansett Bay, offering visitors wonderful scenic perspectives, ever-changing light and rare maritime access.
  • Is distinguished by buildings, gardens, archives, furnishings and objects which together illuminate periods rich in history and provide an unusually cogent and complete perspective on the life and times of an extended family. These collections are the foundation of diverse and well-researched interpretive programs. 

Blithewold's Stewardship Principles

Blithewold’s organizational mission is “to preserve New England’s finest garden estate through excellence in horticulture and historic preservation, and by our example to teach and inspire others.” Adopted by the Blithewold Board of Directors in 2002. 

Operationally, Blithewold adheres to the following principles:

  • Focus on the Visitor: Blithewold is a hospitable, accessible, historic property with broad interpretation, committed to attracting, engaging and welcoming visitors and members of all ages, interests and backgrounds.
  • Integrity: Blithewold makes decisions for the institution based on its mission. It is among the few late 19th and early 20th century American estates that retain completeness and authenticity, from the buildings and landscape to the details of plant materials, interior furnishings, family archives, and artifacts.
  • Education: Blithewold provides creative opportunities for exploration, study, and enjoyment of the physical site, its social history and collections: in schools and online; throughout the community and beyond; in thoughtful collaborations with universities and horticultural organizations; and with other institutions in the region and further afield.
  • Stewardship: While successive generations have left their imprint on the site and its features, design decisions implemented in the 1890s are largely intact and evident. The family’s desire to preserve Blithewold’s defining character is respected by the organizational mission to conserve a multi-generational family’s seaside estate for the enjoyment, pleasure, and education of adults, children, families, horticulturists, historians and the general public.
  • Human Capital: Across the organization, Blithewold understands that staff and volunteers who work on the property have traditionally been one of its greatest assets. It respects their contributions and nurtures their professionalism.

    From Our Blog

  • One step back… (Apr 17, '14)
    …two ahead. By now there should be a spring in our dance step – and there is. I can tell because it squishes. This week another 2″ of rain fell. But on top of that, a frosting of sleet. A lot of wind blew in the latest storm, making a few open daffodils kiss the ground, […]
  • A Trip to New Orleans (Oct 01, '13)
    Have you ever marveled at the different ways men and women see historic sites?  Here at Blithewold, Docents have to be prepared to answer very different questions from visitors.  Marjorie Lyon, herself, was well aware of this disparity, and in … Continue reading
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