A common garden, 100 feet north to south and 120 feet east to west, it is bordered by six houses on each of two streets on the Upper East Side. The name refers to an area once owned by the family of Edith "Jones" Wharton, who acquired the land in 1790. Architect Edwin S. Hewitt bought the developed twelve brownstones in 1919. He removed the walls and fences separating the backyards to create a single common area to be shared by all the owners, called the "Gerry Gardens" for a previous owner. Hewitt unified the architecture of the houses by installing planting beds, pathways, fountains, and pools, and set up the covenants to allow no structural additions. The garden is one of the few protected open green spaces left in the midst of high rises and a dense population. The trees, including an America elm, form an umbrella over formal beds of taxus, ilex, hostas and ivy. An upper terrace includes a large fountain with sculptured figure in the center. The lower terrace contains a pool and mask wall fountain. The surrounding area--once a large reflecting pool--was bricked over. Few changes have been made to the property since the first design.
Persons and firms associated with the garden include: Robert and Louise Matilda Livingston (builders of twelve houses, late 1850s-1869); Edwin S. Hewitt (architect, 1919); Kennett Lynch & Sons (statuary and fountain figure, 1960s and 1997); Frances D. Dewey (head gardener, 1980-2000); Susan Murray (lighting, 1986); and Chris Stager ("Swiss Capes" fountain restoration, 1997). List of owners' names in 1921 included in documentation.
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The folder includes a work sheet, articles, a narrative history, a planting plan and a features plan.
Garden featured in James M. Fitch and F. F. Rockwell, Treasury of American Gardens (New York: Harper Bros., 1956), p. 61
Garden featured in Christopher Gray, "A Leafy Enclave with Just 12 Keys," in New York Times, 28 December 1997
Garden featured in William Bryant Logan, "A Secret Garden," in Home and Garden, October 1990
Garden featured in Avenue, June/July 1990, pp. 108-109
Garden featured in Mick Hales, Gardens Around the World: 365 Days (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2004), pp. 30-31
Smithsonian Gardens, PO Box 37012, Capital Gallery, Suite 3300, MRC 506, Washington, DC 20013-7012