published april 19, 2023 | written by emily cough | edited by bhhs staff
As the signs of spring slowly start to emerge in Bar Harbor, the cloudy and rainy days can only mean one thing: flowers will soon bloom across the island. Native Lilies of the Valley, Blue Irises, and Starflowers, and even the invasive Lupines will once again dot the landscape with their bright, colorful petals.
It’s easy to take one look outside and see the natural beauty of Mount Desert Island. The Wabanaki Nations, who made their encampments here every summer, certainly knew of the beauty and abundant natural life. The painters of the Hudson River School movement were also certainly influenced by it, shown through their artwork. And so were the Rusticators, who came back to the area year after year to summer here.
And once the affluent and well-known caught wind of the beauty the island had, like the Rockefellers, Astors, Morgans, and Vanderbilts, they began to build their grand “cottages,” to spend their summers here as well. They brought their own ideas of beautification to the island; paved roads, ornate buildings, and, of course, plenty of gardens–and you certainly can’t have lavish gardens without proper planning and a landscape architect!
Who else could’ve been fit for the job to satisfy such notable names, as above? Of course, it’s none other than Beatrix Cadwalader Farrand!
Born June 19, 1872 in New York City, Farrand (née Jones), who spent her summers at Reef Point Estate in Bar Harbor, soon developed a passion for landscape architecture through her chance meeting with artist Mrs. Mary Sargent. Through her, Farrand met Mr. Charles Sprague Sargent, a botanist and professor at Harvard University. It was then and there, at the Sargent’s home in Massachusetts, where she lived during her studies, that Farrand began to learn not only landscape gardening and planting, but botany as well.
At 21, she began to put what she learned into practice, using the upper floor space at her mother’s home in New York City to curate her designs. Once satisfied, she slowly began to branch out and work on neighboring gardens of the Reef Point Estate, steadily making a name for herself. As well, through her skills and the connections of her mother and famed aunt, author Edith Wharton, Farrand was introduced to notable people, which in turn led her to working on more projects. From there, she rose to prominence and became the only woman among the founders of the American Society of Landscape Architects.
Through the years, Farrand went on to design and plan the gardens for the National Cathedral in D.C., the East Colonial Garden and West Garden at the White House, Dumbarton Oaks estate in D.C., and even places in our own backyard: the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden in Seal Harbor and the carriage roads in Acadia.
With Farrand’s death in 1959, her legacy continued on through her numerous works and gardens, but for a more in-depth look at Beatrix Farrand’s life, please visit this link. And if you’re interested in learning more about Beatrix Farrand’s legacy, consider visiting Garland Farm, maintained by the Beatrix Farrand Society.
As for us at the Historical Society, we’re proud to have a few of Farrand’s possessions, some of which are on display in our Flower Room (be sure to stop by and visit our new additions in there)! And not only that, but our gardens here emulate the style of Farrand as well, featuring architecture and plantings that she may have used!
Interested in viewing our on-display collection? Consider becoming a member by joining us here and get free admission for the year–and mark your calendars for our opening day: May 26th! Until then, see you next week for another Way Back!