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

  • Not goodbye (Oct 24, '14)
    I’d prefer to think that the season is in transition rather than ending but when we start throwing some of summer’s best blooms into the bed of Blithewold’s truck, it definitely feels more like a goodbye than a see-you-later. This week, once again, the rain and a woolly nor’easter held off just long enough for […]
  • Celebrating Our Arboretum (Oct 23, '14)
    There’s something very new and exciting going on this year in Blithewold’s Visitor’s Center during Christmas at Blithewold. Gail Read, Gardens Manager, Kris Green, Interpretive Horticulturist, and Betsy Ekholm, Horticulturist, have partnered with the garden volunteers to design a display to Celebrate Our Arboretum. Essentially, they are pulling different natural features from throughout the Grounds, preserving […]
  • A rabbit’s eye view with Noel Kingsbury (Oct 17, '14)
    We are so lucky that yesterday’s rain held off just long enough to take a ground-level tour of Blithewold’s gardens with British garden designer/plantsman/author, Noel Kingsbury. He showed us, plant by plant, exactly what to look for to help predict how different plants will behave in our gardens. He reminded us that plant growth falls along […]
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