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Wednesday, May 30, 2018 | 7:00pm Lecture | Reception to follow

Renewal of the Blue Garden in Newport, Rhode Island

Sarah Vance, MLA, Director, the Blue Garden and
Arleyn A. Levee, Landscape Historian, Hon. ASLA
Offered with Friends of Fairsted
Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, Hunnewell Building
125 Arborway, Boston, MA 02130


Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., with the Olmsted Brothers firm, designed the Blue Garden from 1912–1918 for the Newport, Rhode Island estate of Arthur Curtiss James and his wife, Harriet. The garden room featured a unique planting palette of blues and purples “with some whites”, and shades of green foliage, and was surrounded by an evergreen enclosure to screen the garden from view. The garden was opened to friends in August 1913 with a celebration called “The Blue Masque”, and was heralded with numerous magazine articles and photographs depicting its architectural and horticultural riches. By 2012 the garden was almost forgotten, subsumed under a thick covering of weeds and invasive trees. This lecture will present the story of the people who originally created the Blue Garden and how the restoration team used original plans, drawings, and photographs from the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site Archives to reinterpret the design and rebuild the garden in all its glory, while meeting contemporary sustainable standards.

Arleyn A. Levee
Arleyn A. Levee is a landscape historian and preservation consultant, specializing in the work of the Olmsted firm. For many years, she has worked with various non-profit preservation groups and landscape architecture firms doing the research and evaluations needed for rehabilitation and protection of Olmsted-designed historic landscapes, both public and private. She is the author of The Blue Garden: Recapturing an Iconic Newport Landscape, published in 2016, and many articles about Olmsted firm commissions and the various firm designers responsible for this work. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Wellesley College, Master of Arts in Teaching from Harvard University, and a Certificate from the Radcliffe Seminars Program in Landscape Design.

Sarah Vance
Before assuming the position as Director of the Blue Garden, Sarah Vance was a senior associate with Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architecture, part of the team that developed the rehabilitation plan for the garden and supervised its construction. Her role included analyzing the original drawings and developing planting plans for the garden and surrounding planted enclosure. As Director, she now works with a dedicated group of gardeners to ensure the design intent of the garden’s plan and to maintain it as an accessible and sustainable landscape. She takes special pleasure in sharing the story of this once-forgotten landscape and experiencing the appreciation, surprise and delight of its many visitors. Sarah received a Master in Landscape Architecture with Distinction from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.


March: Emerald Necklace Conservancy Annual Meeting – Parks as Infrastructure for Living

November: An Emerald Evening — Olmsted Award of Excellence

September: Historic Olmsted Subdivision Walking Tour

September: Olmsted’s Muddy River Restored: Re-linking the Emerald Necklace

December: Arthur Shurcliff and the Design of Colonial Williamsburg
Elizabeth Hope Cushing

May: Mariana Griswold van Rensselaer: A Landscape Critic in the Gilded Age
Judith Major

December: The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted, Volume 8: The Early Boston Years, 1882-1890
Charles Beveridge, Ethan Carr, Amanda Gagel

March: Community by Design: The Olmsted Firm and the Development of Brookline, MA
Keith Morgan, Elizabeth Hope Cushing, Roger Reed