Legacy in Blue: Recapturing an Iconic Newport Garden

Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Saturday, January 31

Lecture 2 – 3 pm

Reception 3-4 pm

Free Pre-registration requested

All are invited to listen in to the story of how the historic Blue Garden in Newport, R.I., was returned to its former state of glory thanks to the efforts of those dedicated to the cultural legacy of landscape art.

Among the many notable gardens created by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., and the Olmsted firm, the Blue Garden – designed for Arthur Curtiss and Harriet Parsons James for their Newport estate, Beacon Hill House – remains a unique expression of landscape art. This classic Italianate garden “room” was celebrated in its heyday, from its opening in 1913 through the 1930s, for its unusual horticultural palette-a monochromatic concentration of blues and purples “with a touch of white,” all nestled like a “secret garden” behind dense evergreen plantings amid the rugged boulders on this Rhode Island peninsula.

Seemingly forever lost, this unique garden room has been rescued from under its mantle of weeds by a dedicated and philanthropic preservationist, Dorrance Hamilton. At her behest, a wide-ranging team of landscape professionals, led by Doug Reed of the landscape architectural firm Reed Hilderbrand in Cambridge, thoroughly studied the history of this garden’s origins, evaluated the remaining integrity of its features, and has overseen the reconstruction and reinterpretation of this extraordinary space.

Come share this remarkable story with two of the team members, landscape historian and Olmsted specialist Arleyn Levee of Belmont and landscape designer Sarah Vance of Brookline, now the director of the Blue Garden, as they describe the intricate process of this rescue. From a detailed review of documents, plans and photographs extracted from the Olmsted National Historic Site in Brookline, Mass., as well as from archives across the country and from a careful analysis of the landscape conditions and architectural artifacts still remaining on the Newport site, the team fashioned a renewal strategy respectful of best preservation practices and consistent with contemporary standards of environmental responsibility.

Today, the  Blue Garden exists as a testament to this multi-disciplinary approach to the rehabilitation of our cultural legacy of extraordinary landscapes.

Tower Hill will offer a trip and tour to the Blue Garden on July 23. For more information call 508-869-6111 or visit towerhillbg.org. Tower Hill Botanic Garden is located at 11 French Drive in Boylston, Mass.

Admission to Tower Hill is $12 for adults and $9 for seniors.

Upcoming events with the BSLA EP’s

Next Thursday, January 15th, we welcome Graham-Coreil Allen as a guest speaker. Graham is a Baltimore-based, architecturally-trained public artist. He’s the genius behind the awesome Hopscotch Crosswalk. See his bio below for more info. Graham will be presenting on his current activities and projects.

Presentation starts at 6:30pm at Reed Hilderbrand’s office in Central Square Cambridge. All are welcome, emerging and established.

In additional Boston design scene news, the BSA is hosting its next Conversations on Architecture series which will feature Michael Blier, landscape architect and founder of Landworks Studio in Boston. The event is next Tuesday, January 13th, 6pm at the BSASpace. For more info and to RSVP, click here


Graham Coreil-Allen is a Baltimore-based, interventionist public artist who explores the constructs and contradictions of our everyday built environment through videos, maps, public installations, words and walking tours. Situated within invisible public spaces such as parking lots, median strips, riverbanks and corporate lobbies, Coreil-Allen’s ongoing New Public Sites project playfully tests the boundaries of pedestrian agency, interprets the overlooked and banal, and investigates the negotiable nature of public space. The public artist studied at Tulane School of Architecture, completed his BA at New College of Florida and received his MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art’s Mount Royal School of Art. Coreil-Allen has staged public art projects for numerous spaces, places and events, including the The Deitch/Creative Time Art Parade, Eyebeam, openhouseNY, Washington Project for the Arts, Arlington Art Center, Artscape, Transmodern Festival, Current Space, Baltimore City, and the US Pavilion at the 13th International Venice Architecture Biennale.