In a setting as beautiful as any National Trust property in Britain, this evening I shared a glass of sparkling wine and appetizers in the Sunken Garden at Hill-Stead, a historic colonial property. One can imagine the family entertaining visitors or enjoying the peace of the garden in much the same way it’s a favored location for weddings, picnics, casual strolls and the ever popular Poetry Festival, a premiere event in the Hill-Stead program.
In the soft evening light protected by the lichen covered stone walls and evergreen hedges, the delightfully designed garden beds are a tribute to the vision of talented female garden architect Beatrix Farrand. Her plans were discovered in California more than 25 years ago by Claire Edwards then painstakingly restored in a joint effort by the Hartford Garden Club and the Connecticut Valley Garden Club over many back-breaking years and still tended today by the active “Garden Gang” volunteers. If I ever want to know what plants will do well in this climate I simply have to refer to the plants that thrive in this oasis and I am reassured.
Beyond the formal grounds, the property trails and fields are worth rambling. If you are lucky, plan a walking tour with Betty Collins or simply stroll and discover on your own because the grounds are open longer. Each month the character of the property changes and I never tire of exploring its seasonal charms.
Most people know the Museum for its wonderful art collection and decorative arts but it’s the stories of the people who lived there that also capture the imagination. The house is far from a dusty archive: the knowledgable guides and staff share the stories in a personal way. The house is opened for tours, events and “white glove” behind the scenes experiences or evening functions when the paintings gleam.
Back to the reason for tonight’s small gathering. It was a small celebration to thank the Chairs for the successful Dinner Auction in late May. For me, it was a chance to step away from the computer after working some crazy long hours on the Annual Report and remember firsthand why this place is so special.
As I cast an eye over the finished report tonight with it’s mix of archival materials and the images I created for the Museum and new perspectives on the property i had not seen before laid out by a designer I’d never met with words from dedicated people I am just getting to know better, it was proof that we truly are greater than the sum of our parts.
In the past few years I have come to appreciate Hill-Stead for its beauty and for the friendships of committed individuals who share their talents to preserve this gracious property. Most museums or historic properties have significant challenges in this era but Hill-stead seems to have an extra edge - a band of long term supporters who come together year after year in a very constructive, positive way to protect something unique.
Come visit and then see how you can add your mark to history.