The National Museum of American Illustration


J.C.LEYENDECKER, BELLHOP WITH HYACINTHS, 1914, Saturday Evening Post cover

Gardens at Vernon Court to be Open for Public Viewing as The National Museum of American Illustration hosts “Nature Perfected”- First-Ever Garden Event

The National Museum of American Illustration announces a special weekend event, June 23rd, 24th & 25th, 2006. “Nature Perfected- A Garden Tour”, is a three-day event during which the Museum will be open each day for self-guided tours, including the opportunity to tour the Gardens at Vernon Court. A Garden talk, incorporating questions and answers, will be offered each day at Noon. Noted arborist Clem des Jardins will be a speaker on Saturday and Sunday. This three-day event will be the only opportunity this season for visitors to tour the gardens. Additionally, while the Museum is typically open for guided tours only, this event will offer general admissions for self-guided tours; an opportunity to tour the Museum at the visitor’s own pace. Generous corporate support for “Nature Perfected” is provided by Sam Kinder & Brother, Inc.

Japanese Zelkovas at the Frederick Law Olmsted Park along Victoria Avenue. There are nine Champion Trees within the Olmsted Park, and two within Vernon Court, as recently measured by Arborist and Tree Preservationist Matt "Twig" Largess.

“The Gardens at Vernon Court are spectacular- we received so many visitor requests to tour the grounds last year that we started planning this event is response”, says Laurence Cutler, NMAI Chairman. “This event will offer visitors the opportunity to compare, side by side, two concurrent, yet totally different, trends in landscape design created during the late 1800’s: the Historic Revival garden at Vernon Court, alongside Frederick Law Olmsted’s naturalistic plan at our adjacent property, the former estate Stoneacre, now the Frederick Law Olmsted Park. Both properties are 3-acre sites, and therefore offer a unique opportunity for comparison. Furthermore, the Rose Garden is typically at its peak of bloom at the end of June, and is an exquisite sight- and smell- to behold”.

gardens archive

Vernon Court, view of gardens circa 1904. Photograph from Museum archives.

Vernon Court was commissioned by Anna van Nest Gambrill in 1898. She hired her florists, the firm of Wadley & Smythe, as landscape architects for the property. They worked with architects Carreré & Hastings to enlarge Hampton Court Palace’s Pond Garden design which King Henry VIII (1509- 1547) created for Anne Boleyn, to fit Vernon Court’s three acre site. As a result of its success, Wadley & Smythe won other landscape commissions ranging from Windermere in Connecticut to the Saratoga Race Course. At the turn of the 20th Century, Saratoga vied with Newport as the Nation’s social capital and that commission was significant indeed. The only other known collaboration between Carreré & Hastings and Wadley & Smythe was at Arden House (1909) in Harriman, New York, a mansion for the Averill Harriman family, on a gargantuan 9,000 acres.

At Hampton Court, green and white trellis works were adopted for garden edgings. Likewise, architect Hastings and Wadley & Smythe determined that such trellis works were a significant transitional element between the manmade and the natural worlds. A resultant effect was noted in the May, 1906, Town and Country where critic Elizabeth Toombs said “Mrs. Richard Gambrill’s summer house in Newport is strikingly beautiful...the gardens have been her joy and pride ever since she first planned to make them rival anything of their size...she has succeeded wonderfully in bringing perfection.” In 1915, author Louise Sheldon wrote in Beautiful Gardens in America, “Probably no place at Newport is more noted for its beauty than Vernon Court...it is unspoiled by garish accessories, and to the lover of the garden majestic, it represents a perfect type.”


The Rose Garden at Vernon Court, photographed in June 2005.

Since acquiring the property in 1998, Museum Co-Founders Judy & Laurence Cutler have spared no effort in restoring the grounds to their original splendor. Projects completed within the last year include restoration of the wrought iron gates (whose design was derived from the gates at Versailles), repair and repainting of the stucco garden walls, repair and repainting of the architectural trellis work, replanting of the Rose Garden, and repair and restoration of the granite walls at Stoneacre, now the Frederick Law Olmsted Park.

“Nature Perfected- a Garden Tour” runs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, June 23rd, 24th and 25th, 2006. The National Museum of American Illustration, including the Gardens at Vernon Court and the Frederick Law Olmsted Park, will be open each day from 10:00-3:00. Tickets are available at the door; Admissions fee $25, seniors or military, $22, children 12 and under not admitted. For more information please visit www.americanillustration.org or telephone 401-851-8949 ext. 18.

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The National Museum of American Illustration- 492 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI 02840. T: 401-851-8949 ext.18- F: 401-851-8974- lcutler@americanillustration.org- www.americanillustration.org

The National Museum of American Illustration is a nonprofit independent, educational, and aesthetic organization. It is located in Newport, RI on Bellevue Avenue at Vernon Court (1898), a Beaux-Arts adaptation of an 18th century French chateau. It is the first national museum devoted exclusively to American illustration art. Illustration consists of original artwork created to be reproduced in books, magazines, newspapers and advertisements. ‘Golden Age’ paintings by such luminaries as Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish, NC Wyeth, and 75 others are displayed in ‘Gilded Age’ architecture, creating a unique union of art and architecture- a national treasure. The Museum is administered by the American Civilization Foundation, a nonprofit organization with the goal to present the best possible venue for appreciating the greatest collection of illustration art; the most American of American art.

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