Beacon Hill House

BeaconHillHouse_feature_CharlesBirnbaum_2009.jpg
Newport, RI
United States
Beacon Hill House

In 1909, railroad magnate Arthur Curtiss James purchased the Glover Estate,  encompassing 125 acres on Aquidneck Island overlooking Newport Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean. Beacon Hill House was designed in 1910 by the architects John Mead Howells and Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes. By 1914, the site had grown to include an ornamental, Italian Alpine vernacular style farm designed by Grosvenor Atterbury.

The grounds of Beacon Hill House were adorned with Italianate gardens designed by several notable landscape architects and gardeners, including a French parterre by Jacques Gréber. Granite bedrock was blasted to form a thousand-foot long, partially-sunken and terraced garden which originated at the reflecting pool. Lined with 5,000 rose bushes, the axial greensward ascended stone steps and retaining walls, terminating at a stone-and-iron balustrade and pergola against a granite cliff. The ten-acre Blue Garden was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. in 1913, and featured blue and purple-hued flowers such as agapanthus, delphinium, heliotrope, and hydrangeas. The plan was predicated on a central axis flanked by two colonnades, made picturesque by the  irregular placement of gray boulders and informal plantations of cedars and pines.

The mansion succumbed to fire in 1966 and the land was subdivided and redeveloped. A house was built atop the foundations of the Blue Garden, which owner Dorrance Hill Hamilton restored in 2012. The Swiss Village was renovated in 2002 and is operated by the SVF Foundation.