United States of America, Connecticut, Hartford County, Farmington
Hill-Stead Museum Sunken Garden (Farmington, Connecticut)
The Sunken Garden is located adjacent to the 1901 Colonial Revival mansion, Hill-Stead, designed by Theodate Pope (later Riddle), with plans prepared by the architectural firm McKim, Mead, and White, to showcase the Pope family's important collection of French Impressionist paintings. Integral to the original plan of the country house was its landscape, designed to embrace not only a working New England farm, but also rustic woodland walking gardens and the formal Sunken Garden. Laid out in a natural depression with its asymmetrical boundaries defined by eight-to-ten-foot high drystone walls, the Sunken Garden consists of a summer house surrounded by brick paths and geometric flower beds that are enclosed by a hedge, forming an elongated octagon with grass filling the space between the hedge and outer stone wall. The garden is planted with 75 varieties of primarily perennials as well as small flowering trees and evergreens. At the far end is a stone sundial designed by Theodate Pope Riddle. The Sunken Garden was grassed over in the 1940s wartime labor shortage, leaving only the summer house in place. Today's reconstruction, initiated in 1983 by the Connecticut Valley Garden Club and the Garden Club of Hartford, is based on a planting plan by the landscape designer Beatrix Farrand for the "garden of Mrs. J. W. Riddle, Farmington, Conn.," discovered in the former's archives at the University of California, Berkeley. The Farrand design, dating from 1916, with its careful choice of texture, foliage, and color combinations of perennials (limited here to a palette of blues, pinks, whites, pale purple, and greys) echoes the theories of Gertrude Jekyll, the English garden designer whose work Farrand admired.
Persons and organizations associated with the garden include: Alfred Atmore Pope (former owner, 1901-1913); Ada Brooks Pope (former owner, 1913-1920); Theodate Pope Riddle (former owner, 1920-1946); the Hill-Stead Museum (owner, 1946 to date); Beatrix Farrand (landscape designer, 1916); and Roland/Towers (landscape restorers, 1986).
Archives of American Gardens encourages the use of its archival materials for non-commercial, educational and personal use under the fair use provision of U.S. copyright law. Use or copyright restrictions may exist. It is incumbent upon the researcher to ascertain copyright status and assume responsibility for usage. All requests for duplication and use must be submitted in writing and approved by Archives of American Gardens.
Connecticut Valley Garden Club facilitated the submission of this garden's documentation.
The folder includes a worksheet, photocopies of garden plans and Beatrix Farrand's plant list, a 1999 plant list, and brochures about the museum and the garden that also include plans and plant lists.
Garden has been featured in Paula Dietz, "The Sunken Garden at Hill-Stead," The Hartford Monthly, May 1989, p. 54
Garden has been featured in Anne Stillman, "The Garden at Hill-Stead," Connecticut Preservation News, September/October 1995, p. 12
Garden has been featured in Kathleen McCormick, "The Hidden Jewel," Historic Preservation, October 1995, p. 80
Garden has been featured in Rea Lubar Duncan, "Sunken Treasures," Connecticut Magazine, August 1998, pp. 116-121
Garden has been featured in James F. O'Gorman, Edward S. Cooke, Jr., and Allyson M. Hayward, Hill-Stead: The Country Place of Theodate Pope Riddle (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2010)
Smithsonian Gardens, PO Box 37012, Capital Gallery, Suite 3300, MRC 506, Washington, DC 20013-7012