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Friday, May 29, 2015

Doing well by doing good

Asticou Azalea Garden, designed with the financial support of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in the late 1950s.
Earlier this month, financier David Rockefeller announced that he is giving a thousand acres of land on Mount Desert Island to the Mount Desert Land and Garden Preserve on the occasion of his 100th birthday.
The park at Stourhead, designed by various landscape architects, 1741-80. English landscaping tremendously impressed our American gilded-age fashionistas.
Mount Desert Land and Garden Preserve is comprised of two gardens built in the late 1950s. Asticou Azalea Garden is patterned after a traditional Japanese garden. Thuya Garden and Lodge is a semi-formal herbaceous garden in the English style. The donated land abuts the Thuya Garden property and includes carriage roads, hiking trails, fields, woodland and streams.

Duck Brook Bridge in Acadia National Park
In 1910, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. built a hundred-room cottage in Seal Harbor called The Eyrie. Acadia was a gift to the American people, but it also effectively sequestered Seal Harbor from the hoi polloi who holidayed on the Maine coast.

The Eyrie was torn down in the early 1960s.
Rockefeller and his neighbors were concerned about ‘overdevelopment,’ by which they meant the possibility of neighbors like you and me. They created an association, donated 5,000 acres to it and gave it to the Federal government. Rockefeller bought more land and donated it; this formed the nucleus of what is now Acadia National Park.

A car venturing on the Acadia carriage road, 1920s.
With its carriage roads, Acadia was very much a combination of English park and public accommodation. So it is fitting that it would also have its formal gardens in the English style (Anglo-Asian gardens being an English garden theme), and fitting that they would end up being public spaces.

I’ve always found it kind of charming to imagine American robber barons aping their British cousins in the creation of their Stately Homes, their vast Parks, and their Gertrude Jekyll-inspired gardens. Many of those British homes have been transferred to the National Trust; many of their American equivalents have become museums and parks. It almost gives you faith in the democratizing tendencies of Father Time.

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park in August 2015. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops! Download a brochure here.

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