Peter P. Blanchard III, the son of Peter P. Blanchard Jr. and Adelaide Childs Frick Blanchard, was born in Manhattan in 1951, and grew up in Short Hills on the estate that would become Greenwood Gardens. The family lived blissfully, spending their spare time exploring the adjacent South Mountain Reservation on horseback or playing tennis. Sadly, Adelaide passed away after a brief illness in 1956, when Peter was only five years old.
An only child, Peter spent much of his time exploring outdoors. His favorite pastime was venturing into the South Mountain Reservation, always accompanied by more than one of the family’s dogs (at one time numbering 20). There, his imagination took over, allowing him to step back in time, always on the lookout for Lenape Indians or Revolutionary War troops. He said that “immersion in the natural world meant that there was rarely room for a dull or even a lonely moment in the day.”
Throughout his life, Peter’s love of the natural world only increased, leading him to study Biology and Art History at Princeton University. He later received master’s degrees from the Yale School of Forestry and Columbia University’s Teachers College. Early in his post-academic career, Peter taught biology at The Chapin School, The Masters School, and Hardwood Island.
Over time, Peter’s father had a growing vision that the property where Peter had grown up should be maintained as a public garden after his death. When that time came in 2000, Peter, and his wife, Sofia, set out to fulfill the wishes of the elder Blanchard and ensure the estate would be maintained for future generations as a public garden. Work began almost immediately to stabilize the buildings and the gardens, and in 2002, they began a collaboration with The Garden Conservancy to help preserve the property and create an organization that would provide long-term oversight.
Greenwood Gardens was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 2003, guided tours were offered to raise awareness about the project, and a Board of Trustees was formed. Significant renovations were needed to enable the public to safely visit. These included renovation of the Main Terrace wall, creation of the Cottage Parking lot from a tennis court, and the addition of accessible restrooms, among others.
Since opening to the public in 2013, Peter was a regular and hospitable presence during open days at Greenwood Gardens, intent on ensuring that every visitor would enjoy a high-quality experience. He spent countless hours interacting with visitors and sharing insights about the history of the property and its natural and structural features, as well as leading tours of the barnyard and conducting workshops on art and nature journaling. In a 2016 op- ed piece for the Star-Ledger entitled 5 Reasons Why My Family Donated a 28-Acre Historic Site to NJ he wrote, “We view Greenwood, the landscape where I grew up, as a place worthy of our investments in time and other resources. We gain great fulfillment from protecting this place for ourselves and for others,” as a means of gaining the public’s understanding of the efforts undertaken by his family and supporters to preserve the property for public enjoyment.
A man of letters, Mr. Blanchard authored three long-range land conservation studies published by the Trust for Public Land and New York City Audubon: Buffer the Bay Revisited (a review of unprotected open space fringing Jamaica Bay (1992); The Century Plan (presenting 100 conservation sites on Barnegat Bay, (1994); and An Islanded Nature (a study of remaining natural areas in Western Staten Island (2001). He also wrote We Were an Island; the Maine Life of Art and Nan Kellam (University Press of New England, 2010); and Greenwood; A Garden Path to Nature and the Past (Greenwood Gardens Publications, 2016).
Peter is remembered fondly for his unwavering kindness, quiet charm, and sharp and unexpected wit. He was a clever wordsmith who always had a joke at the ready and made everyone feel at home at Greenwood. He regularly stationed himself, along with his faithful Corgi, Ginnie, at the top of the staircase leading to the Reflecting Pool Terrace, where he would welcome questions and provide answers with humor and friendliness toward anyone with an interest in learning more about the fabled estate. He dearly loved his role as a member of the Visitors Services team.
Peter was a keen steward of the environment, a naturalist and conservationist. In addition to his work at Greenwood Gardens, he also ensured that islands adjacent to his adopted home in Mt. Desert, Maine would be preserved so that their flora and fauna would flourish.
Peter passed away on August 7, 2022, at the age of 70. He died peacefully at his home in Manhattan, with his wife, Sofia, and son, Theo, by his side.
Peter P. Blanchard III is the author of three long-range land conservation studies published by the Trust for Public Land and New York City Audubon: Buffer the Bay Revisited (a review of unprotected open space fringing Jamaica Bay, 1992), The Century Plan (presenting 100 conservation sites on Barnegat Bay (1994) and An Islanded Nature, (a study of remaining natural areas in Western Staten Island (2001). He also wrote We Were an Island; the Maine Life of Art and Nan Kellam (University Press of New England, 2010); and Greenwood; A Garden Path to Nature and the Past (Greenwood Gardens Publications, 2016):
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