The fruitful and fascinating history of gardens in Greenwich and the people who designed, tended and delighted in them will be the focus of the Historical Society’s spring exhibition. Visitors will revel in original landscape design plans, artworks, furniture, gardening and farming tools, as well as photographs and archival objects documenting the story of a variety of Greenwich landscapes, from the splendid gardens created for scions of industry who commissioned Greenwich’s Great Estates, to humble and hand-planted backyard vegetable gardens.
Cultivated for generations by farmers and agricultural laborers, in the closing years of the 19th century many planting fields and wood lots in Greenwich began a transformation into extravagantly designed gardens by wealthy New Yorkers seeking “The Country Life” away from the city. Looking to Europe for inspiration, Greenwich estate owners commissioned opulent English, Italian and French-inspired garden designs from titans of American landscape design, among them the Olmsted Brothers, Marian Cruger Coffin, Warren Manning, Bryant Fleming and Ellen Biddle Shipman.
Meanwhile, a reawakening interest in the Colonial Revival, a proliferation of popular magazines devoted to gardening, and an abounding interest in gardening and horticultural societies led to the cultivation of casually exuberant backyard gardens. In Cos Cob, the Holley family’s flower and vegetable gardens were a fixture of the landscape and provided food and flowers for the table where boarding artists, writers and other cultural figures who made up the Cos Cob art colony gathered. Letters, gardening journals and period photographs and artworks have informed the design of the gardens surrounding the historic Bush-Holley House and the Greenwich Historical Society’s museum campus today, which reflect the landscape as it appeared in the art colony era.
“Visitors to the exhibition will encounter rarely seen architectural and landscape drawings and stunning photographs of many of these magnificent gardens,” says Maggie Dimock, the Historical Society’s Curator of Exhibitions and Collection. “The show will also explore the vital role gardens and horticulture played in the social fabric of the town and how they affected the health and livelihoods of many residents.”
The Greenwich Historical Society’s museum and archival collections, a rich source for sumptuous landscape design drawings from estate gardens, books and other publications on gardening and horticulture, and artworks and artifacts inspired by the garden, forms the centerpiece of this upcoming exhibition. Beautiful Work will be accompanied by outdoor adult and family programs set amid the historical gardens and landscape of the Greenwich Historical Society’s museum site, including a series of Tavern Markets and summer Concerts on the Lawn.
Beautiful Work: The Art of Greenwich Gardens and Landscapes will be on view in the exhibition gallery at the Greenwich Historical Society’s Museum & Library. Admission to the galleries is $10 Adults; $8 Seniors and Students, Historical Society members and children under 18 are free. The galleries will be open Wednesday through Sunday between 12:00-4:00 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to reserve tickets in advance. To reserve and for more information: https://greenwichhistory.org/visit/