Stenton Colonial Revival Garden

1912 view of the Colonial Revival Garden

1912 view of the Colonial Revival Garden

The current cynosure of the Stenton landscape is the 1911 Colonial Revival Garden. This apparently straight-forward rectilinear garden includes a center lawn panel surrounded by gravel walks, flower beds and a perimeter of mature boxwood shrubs. The significance of this garden lies in its connection to the Logan era, the stewardship of the Dames, and to the nationalistic Colonial Revival Movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The development of a viable approach to the restoration of this garden has been central to our work at Stenton.

The garden was the brainchild of early NSCDA/PA Garden Committee Chair Letitia Ellicott Wright and Philadelphia landscape architect and horticulturist John Caspar Wister. Wright and Wister intended the layout of the garden to be “as nearly as possible to the old original, and, in any event…a typically colonial garden…”. The Logan papers include records—letters, inventories and receipts—of the plants brought to and grown at Stenton in the 18th and 19th centuries. These were carefully studied by Wright with the intent of including only historically accurate plants. Cuttings from boxwoods at Mt. Vernon were propagated and formed the border surrounding the garden.

This garden was installed in 1911, and enjoyed much attention through the 1920s. Notably, it served as the backdrop to the founding of the Garden Club of America when its first meeting was at Stenton in 1913. By mid-century, interest in the garden had slackened and the garden began to lose its form. In the 1980’s thanks to the interest of one Dame, Lillian Chance, the garden was revived Since then it has been maintained by a small-but-dedicated corps of volunteers; its current form reflects the effects of time.

Our restoration proposal sought a balance between the original Colonial Revival intent, intervening influences, and current maintenance realities We worked closely with the Stenton Garden Committee to develop a plan for a garden that retains its historical integrity while also contributing to Stenton’s plans for the future.

A preliminary phase of work was accomplished during the spring of 2013, in preparation for the centennial visit of the Garden Club of America.

In 2015 Stenton began a major project to rejuvenate the Colonial Revival Garden. The work was generously funded by the McLean Contributionship. All of the deteriorated wood bed edging was replaced, existing gravel paths replaced with proper sub-grade preparation, and the outer path re-established. By necessity, the relationship between the paths and the (now mature) boxwood was re-interpreted. Water and electrical service were brought into the garden area to facilitate maintenance and events.


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