RONALD LEE FLEMING
Ronald Lee Fleming, founder and President of The Townscape Institute, purchased Bellevue House in 1999. Since that time, restoration and revival have been the words of the day, inside and out.
Highlights of the Bellevue House gardens include meticulously designed allées, follies, and ornamental pools, a lyrical oriental water garden bursting with water lilies, and whimsical monkey sculptures sitting atop deceased Fagus sylvatica trunks. A massive Horsechestnut predates the house built in 1910, and is suspected to be the oldest and largest on Aquidneck Island. An immense Fernleaf Beech creates a natural sheltered space where a moss garden thrives and branches of the “mother” beech have layered into the surrounding earth. Other specimen trees include a magnificent Scots Pine, Hemsley Snowball, massive English Yews, Turkey Oak, and European Ash.
Ogden Codman, Jr., the architect of Bellevue House, was born into a prominent family in Boston, the eldest of five children. He studied at MIT, with extended visits to France. He is best remembered for his book, The Decoration of Houses, written with his friend, Edith Wharton, in 1899. In 1904, at the age of 41, he married Leila Webb, a widow of established wealth. She died 5 years later and he moved to France, never to return. Cadman built 22 houses to completion; his clients included john D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Frederick William Vanderbilt. He designed the east wing of the Metropolitan Club in New York as well as the living quarters of the Breakers in Newport. He died in France 1951 at the age of 87.
MAIN HOUSE AND PORTICO, 1910
A man of refined and elegant taste, Ogden Cod man, Jr. was a proponent of the Federal style practiced by Samuel McIntyre of Salem, who was influenced by the 18th Century classical revival architectural style of the Adams Brothers of Scotland. Codman designed the Bellevue House for his cousin, Martha, in 1910. This distinguished house rises three stories with windows in decreasing heights to give a proportional elegance to the facade. A balustrade is set just above the eave line, and the pitch of the roof is almost flat. An elliptical fanlight surmounts the front door, along with paired sidelights, thus illuminating the entrance vestibule. The double-story portico with fluted Corinthian capitals is a striking expression of the classical ideal.
THE TEA HOUSE, 1926
Harvard-educated architectural historian, Fiske Kimball, director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art from 1925-1955, reproduced the 20-foot square Derby Summer House designed by Samuel McIntyre. It is a classic example of American Palladianism with a large arched opening and windows with wooden keystones. An excellent example of the 18th century garden house, it was based on the original Elias Hasket Derby Summer House, now relocated to Glen Magna Farms, Danvers, MA.
Coclman designed the original trellis pattern for the excedra, an ornamental curved high screening panel, for the Edith Wharton Estate,”Land’s End.” Our copy serves as the western terminus of the axial path through the Achille Duchene pollard garden.
TEA HOUSE ALLEE, 2009
An axial path frames the keystone motif in each trellis. A wooden gazebo pavilion at the center of the allee acts as a “belt buckle,” cinching the intersecting axes in the garden.
The octagonal structure with a cupola is from an original design by Samuel McIntyre for a church in Salem, MA. Inspired by Scottish architect Robert Adam, these designs became popular with the merchant elite of Salem. Note the weather vane, a monkey with a telescope, which William Reimann of Cambridge, MA, created in connection with the Voltaire monkey carved out of a tree trunk in front of the house.
POMONA SCULPTURAL FOUNTAIN, 2006
Landscape designer and owner, Ronald Lee Fleming, conceived the narrative garden with architect J.P. Couture. A metaphor of his life and family, it includes a granite sculpture of his head spurting forth “the stream of life,” that extends to the grand children’s pool. The fountain connects the family to the property. An adjacent garden includes a bronze relief of the valleys around Pomona College in Claremont, CA, the family alma mater.
ORIENTAL WATER GARDEN AND CHIPPENDALE STYLE CHINESE FOOTBRIDGE, 2008
A red Chinese arched footbridge, from an 18th century design by English architect James Paine, frames the waterfall and its connecting lily pond.
A hexagonal tent-like structure original to the property, and attached to the north garden wall, is open on five sides. It serves as an ornamental shelter and is now a focal point closing the allee view. The lattice design is repeated in the front gate, the allee’s gazebo, the swimming pavilion terrace, and in the excedra in the pollard garden.
SOUTH POOL, 2013
The southern terminus of the Pomona Fountain iconography, the axis points and allees of the follies and the pool exemplify the ideal of classical balance. This Arts & Crafts garden includes broken stonework, ceramic pots, millstones, and planting pockets in the arts and crafts style, paying homage to Lutyens and Jekyll.
EAST POOL, CABANAS, & PAVILION OF PLEASURE, 2013
These cabanas are living quarters for visiting artists, dancers and writers. A barbeque and pizza oven with an outdoor fireplace is sited between the cabanas on the terrace. The pool reflects the border of Casablanca lilies.
THE GREENHOUSE AND THE LIBRARY, 2016
The Greenhouse, or Banqueting Hall, and the Library are the latest additions to the “academic village” of classical follies. The lower level of the library will contain a nymphaeum and a theatre for family plays. The Greenhouse will also be used for elegant dining.
BELLEVUE HOUSE INTERACTIVE TREE MAP
GARDENERS OF BELLEVUE HOUSE
Horus Khuit and Kidder Gowen care for Bellevue House’s complex and demanding landscape.
‘I have around 17 years of gardening experience, much of which has been focused in food security and herbal medicine. I have also been trained in fine aesthetic gardening and have worked for many years in that capacity. Together, Kidder and I share the vantage of advocating for seed saving with the goal of having bioregionally adapted plants as well as incorporating native plants into landscapes. We enjoy bringing the stories of traditional uses of the myriads of unspoken for plants back into the conversation of modern garden design.’
Much of Kidder’s 7 years of professional gardening experience has been focused on edible landscapes, and food gardens.
‘I have a degree in culinary arts with an emphasis in nutrition and took on an year internship after school with an amazing vegetarian chef In Costa Rica at a five star yoga retreat center. I also have experience as a caterer and private chef, but have found my real passion in growing plants. Horus and I both are self studied herbalists and create herbal products that highlight some amazing native and naturalized herbs. Together using very locally sourced ingredients – much of which we grow or harvest right here on the island – we make salves, tinctures, tea and culinary herbs blends. The idea of utilizing all parts of a resource and creating as much as you can vs buying is something that often occupies my mind and effects the way we approach everything.’
VISITING BELLEVUE HOUSE: By appointment only. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
c/o The Newport Arboretum
PO Box 863
Newport, RI 02840