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Robin Hill, 1940s, 2011-2012

Former owner:
Patterson, Malvern Courtney
Patterson, Malvern Courtney Mrs.
Willingham, William A.
Willingham, William A. Mrs.
Harrison, Robert
Harrison, Robert Mrs.
Rawles, James W.
Rawles, James W. Mrs.
James River Garden Club
Garden restoration:
Garden Graces
Physical description:
1 folder+ 35 digital images
Mixed archival materials
United States of America, Virginia, Henrico, Richmond
Robin Hill (Richmond, Virginia)
1940s, 2011-2012
The brick walled formal garden rooms within the 4.5 acre property Robin Hill pay homage to the gardens created on this site by earlier owners - but not until the current owners undertook significant recovery and restoration. In 1915 there was a one hundred acre farm known as Hillcrest with a Tudor style mansion overlooking the James River and historic Kanawha Canal. The pleasure gardens were laid out on crossing axes with brick paths and statuary placed in niches, in the style of the country place movement of the early 20th century. Much of the land was sold to developers as the city of Richmond grew, and the property was reduced to seven acres. During a subsequent owners' forty year tenure the fac╠žade of the house was transformed to look like a farmhouse, using brick and white stucco. Brick walls, paths and edging were added as well as truckloads of enormous trees and new garden beds and borders, and another 2.5 acres were sold. But despite prodigious planting the gardens were not tended and many mature trees and shrubs were choked out by English ivy and other vines. It was left to the current owners to dig out the overgrowth, rediscovering the hardscape structure and features of the garden rooms, and to restore crumbling brick walls and arches. New plantings replaced old yews, hollies, camellias, magnolias and other trees and shrubs as necessary, and perennial and annual flowers, particularly white flowers, were added.
The garden rooms at Robin Hill lie to the south of the house and terrace with distinct lawns enclosed by mixed evergreen and deciduous borders and a hedge of mature camellia sasanqua. Alongside the largest upper lawn but separated from the lawn by a brick wall there are ten rectangular beds planted with perennial and annual flowers that spill over the irregular bluestone or basket weave brick walkways. A concrete birdbath sits in the center of these garden beds on the axis that crosses the upper central lawn and leads to a pavilion, approached via a brick walkway between hedges of hydrangea and camellia. To one side of this cross axis there is an American holly grove while on the other side there is a woodland and small pond. At the far end of the lower central lawn on the main axis there is a wall fountain and pool with a gazebo set to one side. The axial design and plant materials used in the gardens of Hillcrest and Robin Hill suggest that landscape architects Warren Manning and Charles Gillette may have worked on this property but no conclusive records have been found.
The James River Garden Club was established in 1915 during meetings at Hillcrest, and owner Juanita Massie Patterson served as its first president. The club dedicated their 1923 book Historic Gardens of Virginia to Mrs. Patterson.
Digital images include copies of lithographs from a 1940s book owned by Mrs. William A. Willingham.
Persons associated with the garden include: Mr. and Mrs. Malvern Courtney Patterson (former owners, 1905-circa 1930); Mr. and Mrs. William A. Willingham (former owners, circa 1930-1947); Mr. and Mrs. Robert Harrison (former owners, 1947-1989); Mr. and Mrs. James W. Rawles (former owners, 1989-1991); Garden Graces (garden restoration, 2011-2012); Terraforma (garden restoration, 2011-2012).
The folder includes worksheets and other historical information.
Local number:
Data Source:
Archives of American Gardens

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