Garden History: Thornewood, Tacoma, Washington

It seems a long understood principle that beautiful architecture benefits from being surrounded with a beautiful landscape and vice versa. This photo of the approach to the Thornewood in Tacoma, Washington illustrates that fact. it doesn’t hurt that the grounds and the gardens were designed by the Olmsted Brothers (John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.), famous for their designs for Central Park in New York City, among others.

I love the mature trees surrounding the building along with the casual looking (but probably perfectly planned) rhododendron bushes among the expanses of lawn. This would have been a very impressive introduction to a very impressive home when visitors arrived.

Today this is Thornewood Castle, a historic inn and gardens and open to the public for some events. Their web site offers this bit of history about the gardens.

“The sunken “Secret Garden” is truly English in every way. Find the gates and you will feel you are stepping into the novel “The Secret Garden.” The garden was designed over 100 years ago by the Olmsted Brothers and exists today much as it did in the Thorne’s day.

The Olmsted Brothers, lead by stepbrothers John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., designed many of Seattle’s original parks a hundred years ago. They were also well-known for designing Central Park and Prospect Park in New York.

The walled garden is entered through lovely 100 year old wood gates, and a walkway bordered with flowers and shrubs encircles the sunken garden. Steps in the front and back of the garden lead down into the sunken area. The central focus of the sunken garden is the reflecting pool, surrounded by a lush lawn. Many pieces of Thornewood’s statuary are found in the garden.

The Olmsteds planted wisteria, purple clematis, climbing hydrangea, and pillar roses in this formal English garden.

In 1926, House Beautiful named the gardens one of the five most beautiful in America. It was also named the most beautiful garden in America by the Garden Club of America in 1930. The sunken garden has also been featured in a Smithsonian Heritage exhibit.” — from the Thornewood Castle web site

[Thornewood] [slide]

[Thornewood] [slide]

Photographer: Curtis, Asahel

Type: Projected media

Date: 1933
    1933 Aug

Topic: Summer
     Driveways
     Lawns
     Rhododendrons
     Shrubs
     Evergreens
     Vines
     Houses
     Gardens

Local number: WA005014

Physical description: 1 slide: glass lantern, col.; 3 x 5 in

Notes: No 35 mm slide

Place: Washington (State)
     Tacoma
     Thornewood (Tacoma, Washington)

Persistent URL:http://siris-archives.si.edu/ipac20/ipac.jsp?&profile=all&sour ce=~!siarchives&uri=full=3100001~!184133~!0#focus

Repository:Archives of American Gardens

View more collections from the Smithsonian Institution.

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