Blue Garden

Reflecting Pools - Courtesy of Millicent Harvey
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The Blue Garden – a once-celebrated “secret garden” for Newport’s high society – is reinterpreted to preserve the original intent but provide for a more sustainable future.

The Blue Garden, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., and the Olmsted Brothers firm for mining magnate Arthur Curtiss and Harriet Parsons James on their Newport estate, was one of the most celebrated creations of the Golden Age of American gardens. This classic Italianate garden room was celebrated in its heyday, from its opening in 1913 through the 1930s, for its unusual horticultural palette — a monochromatic concentration of blues and purples, nestled like a “secret garden” behind dense evergreen plantings amid the rugged boulders on this Rhode Island peninsula. Following the deaths of Arthur and Harriet in 1941, their property was subdivided and a private home was built on the site of the garden.

In 2011, celebrated philanthropist Dorrance Hamilton acquired and reconstituted the James property with a goal of restoring the Blue Garden. Reed Hilderbrand led a multi-disciplinary team to uncover this unique garden and recreate its splendor. To reconstruct and reinterpret the space, the team fashioned a renewal strategy mindful of best preservation practices and consistent with contemporary standards of environmental responsibility. This required studious review of documents, plans, and photographs at the Olmsted National Historic Site in Brookline, Massachusetts, and archives across the country, along with careful analysis of the existing conditions and architectural artifacts still on the site.

Today, the new Blue Garden exists as a testament to America’s cultural legacy of extraordinary landscapes.


Newport, Rhode Island




1 acre




  • BSLA Honor Award for Design, 2017