Ah… Summer! Although every season at Beauport is spectacular, summer is always the best. And this summer is even more special as it marks the completion of a multi-year Landscape Restoration project!
The restoration of the landscape has been many years in the making. Working from reports commissioned in the 1990s–which outlined character zones and color palettes– staff developed an overall plan for the landscape. In 2009 Historic New England started working with the landscape architecture firm of Reed Hilderbrand to turn all of the planning into a reality. The first phase of the project was to restore the waterside terraces – a series of sharply defined formal spaces. This project redefined the use of space and the use of material to more closely match the original owner’s intent- Henry Davis Sleeper. This project was completed in 2009.
The second phase of the project was to create and implement a plan for the front gardens. This space, similar to the terraces, had lost its clear definition. The interpretive period for the landscape at Beauport focuses on the late Sleeper period / early McCann period (late 1920’s through the early 1930’s). This period was selected because it best represents the integrity of Sleeper’s original intentions, while presenting the landscape at the time Helena Woolworth McCann (second owner of the property) was first attracted to Beauport. In essence, the spatial relationships and structure of the landscape were well established by this time. With the exception of the McCann era brick wall along the road, any changes to the landscape composition were implemented by SPNEA / Historic New England.
The landscape during the interpretation period exhibited several key features that follow a progression from a “naturalistic” style to a formal style as one traverses from the land entrance to the sea entrance at the terraces. Landscape materials used to create walls and define the ground plane change from rough stone to a more formal brick. Plant palettes change from native plant communities- like sumac, bayberry, and summersweet- to individual specimens and hybridized plant species. Geometries change from flowing lines to rigid rectilinear lines. Landscape spaces transition from amorphous volumes to defined garden rooms. This progression is indicative of the arts and crafts movement in landscape and it is the defining characteristic of Beauport.
Much like the house, the landscape can be divided into several distinct units or rooms. Each unit is comprised of specific materials and plants that define unique characters, such as the Old Field Succession, the Sun Dial Garden, and the Entry Courtyard. In order to move forward with the project, the character zones were clearly defined and a set of design principles were established that were followed throughout the planning and implementation process. The design principles included general rules, such as “Defining circulation through the configuration of planting beds and lawns” to more specific rules, such as “Entry Courtyard Garden: Simple palette of shade plants with contrasting textures and hollyhocks in sunny pockets.”
Construction began in April and the final shrub was planted at the end of June. The results are pretty amazing and worth a visit! Now we are off to water…