Category Archives: Landscape

Season Closing

So Beauport is now closed for the season.  The regular tour schedule is generally June 1 through October 15.  But just because the house is closed to the public, doesn’t mean there is no activity–well, besides the occasional mouse.  Closing during the winter months is beneficial not only for the house but also for Historic New England.  During the open months, Beauport can easily bring in over 5500 visitors to a house that was built as a private residence.  This amount of traffic does cause some wear and tear to the building and the winter months are a time to repair, investigate, and plan for future projects.  Also, the furnace has been defunct since 1954, which means the house is extremely cold in the winter.  The average temperature of the interior is roughly 30 degrees during the months of January and February, which would make an interesting tour but maybe not an enjoyable one!  

But closing for the season is not just switching the lights off and walking away.  To winterize Beauport takes several weeks and involves many different steps both on the interior as well as the exterior.   

The interior of the Museum is thoroughly cleaned.  This means dusting and wiping down all surfaces; light vacuuming of the floors, hooked rugs, and drapes (over a screen to avoid pulling of the fabric); and washing windows and ultra violet acrylic panels.  Rugs are stacked, covered, and pulled out of general paths– this eliminates walking over them during the winter walk throughs.  Furniture with fabrics are covered with dust protection and every object is examined for any signs of damage or stress.  With over 50 rooms and 10,000 objects, this task can take over a week to complete.

          

As was mentioned, the house can get pretty cold during the winter months, therefore it is imperative to turn the water off to the facility each year.  With seven full baths, one half bath, and eleven sinks in the house, this is challenging and time-consuming– not to mention the public facilities near the Gate House, the Office bath in the Garage, and the six outdoor spigots! 

Turning off the water is not a simple task–the valve to the main line in the street has to be shut off; water meters are removed; water heaters are drained; faucets that are prone to freezing are disconnected; caps to drains are unblocked; all faucets are opened; and environmentally friendly anti-freeze is poured in the traps.  On the exterior, spigots are opened and drained then blown out with compressed air to eliminate any water sitting in a low spot underground.

And then there is the landscape.  This past summer, Beauport’s landscape was restored to the period of interpretation.  In order to allow the new plantings to establish and survive in this harsh New England environment, the birch trees have been braced and the lower portion of the trunks have been wrapped with a mesh material to discourage chewing or clawing from squirrels and other small animals.  In addition, all the new arbor vitae have been wrapped in burlap to minimize the damage from the driving winter storms. 

  

All this to make sure that the house continues to stand for generations to come– we hope you come and visit us next year!

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Landscape Restoration Complete

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 front gardens

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 terrace gardens- 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. 

Beauport landscape- 1930s

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…

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Landscape Restoration In Process

Major work continues at Beauport this year– including landscape restoration of the east gardens, more window conservation work, and repainting of the side wall shingles to the historic color.

Here is just a sampling of what’s happening at the site:

Before work and during the landscape restoration

During landscape restoration work

Repainting the side wall shingles to the historic color

 

More windows!

 

Scaffolding installation for repainting and window work

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East Gardens Landscape Restoration

After years of research, planning, and data collecting, Historic New England is ready for Phase II of the Landscape Restoration project at Beauport.  Information on Phase I of the Landscape work can be accessed here.  Anyone interested in bidding on Phase II of the Landscape Restoration work should contact Jodi Black, Preservation Project Manager at 617.997.5580. 

The interpretive period for the landscape at Beauport focuses on the late 1920s through the early 1930s.  This period was selected because it best represents the original owner’s intentions (Henry Davis Sleeper), while presenting the landscape at the time Charles and Helena McCann, the second owners, were first attracted to Beauport.  With the exception of the McCann era brick wall along the road, most of the changes to the landscape composition were implemented by Historic New England over the last 70 years of ownership. 

 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 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 is one of the defining characteristics of Beauport. 

 Much like the house, the landscape can be divided into several distinct rooms or zones.  Each zone is comprised of specific materials and plants that define unique characters.    

Phase II of the Landscape Restoration will focus mainly on the Old Field Succession area–including the Entry Courtyard and the Second Dial Garden. 

The Old Field Succession is defined by un-honed stone walls, natural rock outcroppings, pea-gravel walks and beaten earth pathways.  Historic photographs show the gardens with multiple levels of shrubs, small trees, and clearly defined planting beds.  Included in this area is the Second Sundial Garden, which was created after Sleeper moved the sundial from the harbor side terraces to the Old Field Succession area.  The Sundial Garden creates a center spoke to the Old Field Succession area allowing a visitor to pass through five possible pathways.  Although the sundial is still there, a few of the paths are not as clearly defined as before and include overgrown shrubs and very large yew bushes.

This area will be again planted in a more naturalistic manner using native plant communities.  The restored landscape will include small birch trees, arborvitae, chokeberry shrubs, and Pennsylvania wood sedge for ground covering.  The Sundial Garden will again include a more defined geometric arrangement to sweeping pathways and will be planted with perennials in a garden-esque manner. 

 The work is scheduled for May and June 2011… stay tuned.

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