The End of the Summer

Every year, when October comes around, I am reminded of a delightful, sentimental letter sent from Bessie McKee to her sister Alice Pardee Earle in October 1911. Bessie had enjoyed a wonderful summer at Blithewold, working in the gardens and entertaining her friends and family. But by the end of October, everyone but Bessie had left, even her husband William McKee who needed to be in Boston to be near his work. Estelle had taken Augustine to Boston to start the school year
at Miss May’s School on Commonwealth Avenue and Marjorie picked up her social life in the city.

The family reconvened for weekends at Blithewold and Estelle and Augustine spent one last night on the Sleeping Porch, despite the bitter cold. John DeWolf worked alongside Bessie and Estelle, gathering quinces and mushrooms, ordering new trees for the following year, and tying up the Gardenia Roses. But the main focus outdoors was the new sunken garden with its new stone wall and plans for a fountain.

On October 29, Bessie wrote to Alice, “We are leaving Bristol tomorrow and my heart is broken over leaving this dear place. We are making a new garden at the north end of the house and I am especially sad to leave before the work is finished. It will have the effect of a sunken garden and we have built a stone wall about it, and on the face of the wall next the house will be a fountain and stone steps curving down on either side of the fountain. The wall is nearly done and the steps, but the mask & basin are not in place. We are delighted with the effect so far & think it will be lovely next summer. We have also put in the wall the north star that was in the north tower of the old Blithewold. We could not get it into the new house so that it would look towards the north. I am very glad to have it at last placed. I have a small stone in the wall from your rocky coast, it is one Augustine picked up when she was climbing over the rocks, also two from Cape Cod — some quartz crystal from Coleraine, and two stones from the White Mts … we have a number from places we have been, it is rather fun, I think … we had our first frost last night but it took only the heliotrope — the salvia is not touched.”

Bessie, Marjorie and Augustine working near the fountain (Augustine with pick-axe)