Beauport is not only a building but an incredible example of how a building and garden can be integrated into one concept. Henry Davis Sleeper took great care in his approach to spatial arrangement, materials, and colors of the interiors of the house but also designed a complimentary landscape. This is most apparent on the water side terraces where Sleeper designed a series of exterior rooms, or terraces, to extend the use and the feeling of the structure from the inside to the outside. Unfortunately certain components of this aesthetic were lost over the last seventy years.
While work continues on the building, Historic New England, supported by the Winfield Foundation, has been trying to restore these water side terraces or outdoor rooms. The work involved two phases and months of research.
The first phase was the restoration of the masonry elements to the late 1920s early 1930s. Over time two specific features had been lost. The first was a brick half-wall that separated the Walled Garden from the Lower Terrace, which was partially removed due to structural reasons in the 1990s. The second feature was the stairway leading from the Brick Terrace to the Lower Terrace. The stairway – an original feature of the garden – was bricked over in the late 1930s in an effort to expand the surface area of the brick terrace. When the project began it was uncertain whether the stairs—or an outline of the stairs—would be discovered once the brick flooring was removed. Everyone involved in the project celebrated when the stairway was found, albeit in poor shape. The project was now to preserve the existing stairway as opposed to building a new conjectural stairway.
The second phase involved working with the firm Reed Hilderbrand (Watertown, MA) to develop a planting plan for the terraces. The planting plan is mainly conjectural. Sleeper took great care in documenting his work on the building but no records have been found revealing his planting palettes or concepts for the landscape. What is known is that Sleeper was very moved by color and was clearly making connections between the indoor and outdoor spaces. Reed Hilderbrand took this in consideration and created plantings that were based on plants identified from period photographs as well as following a traditional Arts & Crafts palette. Significantly there were several plantings that do not appear in period photographs that had grown tremendously out of scale for the garden. These items were documented as having been installed after Historic New England acquired the property in the 1940s and were removed.
Beauport was one of 10 gardens featured on a house and garden tour program during the 10th Annual Cape Ann Garden Festival on Saturday, June 20. To kick off the weekend, Property Care Team Leader Benjamin K. Haavik led a lecture “An Evening in Sleeper’s Garden” on Friday, June 19 to 27 people outlining the recent landscape work. The festival was organized by the Sargent House Museum located on Middle Street in Gloucester.
Historic New England is currently looking for funding to continue the restoration for the interior portions of the landscape (or the non-water side) as the completion to the Save America’s Treasures grant. If you would like to make a matching contribution so that we can continue the much needed work at the house, please contact Development@HistoricNewEngland.org or call 617-227-3957, ext. 247.