A Brief History of Greenwood Gardens
Two very different American families have left their marks on Greenwood Gardens. In the early decades of the last century, self-made multi-millionaire Joseph P. Day established the gardens as a private pleasure grounds, a place of retreat from the hectic pace and sizzling heat of the big city. Here his family cultivated lush annuals and perennials and commissioned pergolas, terraces, a summer house and tea house constructed of rough local stone and decorated with colorful Arts & Craft tiles.
The architect William Whetten Renwick laid out the garden according to strict axes and vistas bound by walls and pavilions made of rough local stone embellished with colorful Rookwood tiles.
After the Days sold the property, and following some years of decline, Peter P. Blanchard Jr., an introspective gentleman farmer, and his wife Adelaide Childs Frick purchased the property and created an evergreen formality to the garden.
In 2000, following his father’s wishes, Peter P. Blanchard III and his wife Sofia began the process of establishing Greenwood Gardens as a nonprofit conservation organization, reaching out for guidance from the Garden Conservancy, a national organization based in Cold Spring, New York. Greenwood Gardens is now one of 16 exceptional gardens in the country endorsed by the Garden Conservancy.
While the Gardens is still graced with the original cascades, grottos, Tea House and Summer House, it has taken more than a decade and the completion of the first of a three-phase preservation program to restore vitality to the historic grounds.
The last part of the current phase of preservation work has been the restoration of the forecourt, the original entry area to the Gardens. We have reconstructed the circular drive and moved two enormous native holly trees to a center bed. We have laid down rough stones to edge the adjacent hilltop and repaired curved retaining walls to the east and the west.
The towering, hand-wrought iron-grill gate greeting visitors as they emerge from the parking area was recently restored by Greenwood Gardens after suffering years of exposure and neglect. Extensive conservation work has mended the broken and rusted birds of paradise, parakeets, vines and ferns conjured in the early part of the last century by one of America’s great master craftsmen, Samuel Yellin, who has been described as the `Tiffany of metalwork.’
Greenwood Gardens maintains a number of outdoor sculptures and ornaments. The stone Tea House is framed by ceremonial hand-washing basins of granite and whimsical oversized chess pieces. Granite lanterns adorn the walls of the cascade terrace, while bas-relief plaques, named “East Wind” and “West Wind,” flank the stairs on the Main Terrace. A bronze sculpture of a boy holding two geese by the sculptor Emilio Angela (1889-1970) has been reinstated in the center of the Garden of the Gods. Latticework panels at the Cottages and fascinating array of ornamental plants are returning to the Greenwood Gardens.