Dedicated to the preservation of Long Island's 'gold coast' estates and other things old.
I know that criticism of the efforts of others is the easiest of sports, but really???? I almost prefer it in its ruined condition. Who is responsible for this sort of "restoration"?
I had exactly the same reaction.(In fairness, one of the reason why nearly all the great private gardens of the 1920s are gone is the the ruinous cost of maintenance. Every time I have something done in the country, where the formal gardens are quite extensive, I have to remind myself, Remember -- this in consumption, not investment.)
I had not been to Chelsea in quite some time (maybe 3 years) and it looks like it has been turned into a wedding factory. But in fairness to the County at least they finally figured out a way to get some sort of income on the property that can pay for some level of maintenance (for instance the house had been painted since I last saw it).
I only wish that some sort of committe was created to vet these odd ideas and create some sort of overall plan for restoration and maintenance. Too often, the efforts appear as if an individual with limited taste and an equally limited budget was let loose. The results are worse than doing nothing, and the money spent an utter waste.
I'm neutral regarding the new fountain (yes, I can be very pedestrian) so have a question for Magnus & Ancient. For the sake of learning: can you provide a link to an example of what this restored fountain should have looked like?Maybe someone from the County will see it & make a note for the future?
I wish they would open for house tours. I also thought that they were supposed to restore the rose garden to the north of the mansion.
Doug- As a steward of a site of historic or architectural interest as Chelse is, I believe that their is an obligation to return it to its origional state, to the extent that is practical. Chelsea was well and extensively photographed in its prime. Alas, I don't have access to those photos, but I would put money on the fact that there is a representation of this fountain. That would have been my starting point. And if finances prevented a full restoration, I would have cleaned up and preserved what was left and waited for happier times. I most certainly wouldn't have gone to the local garden center and put together a pastiche of what was easily and inexpensively available, plonked it down and called it a day. Sorry if my tone seems harsh, but I find what they did here maddening, and so emblamatic of a really limited and wronheaded approach to these things that Nassau county seems so often to take.
Elsewhere in the garden world...This is what $39 million gets you:http://www.mccollab.com/Custom_File_Uploads/Materials%20Cons_Nemours%20Exterior_Project%20Sheet.pdf
Well kiddies, I'm very late to this party, but here goes. I know that some will smack their foreheads in disbelief, but I do hate to criticize the sincere good intentions of others. That said, I concur with every single words Magnus typed. This fountain looks like a typical camel by committee to me, good intentions unchecked by appropriate and informed oversight.'Taste', and what is 'right' are very subjective, but I too prefer the neglected antique fountain to its well-intentioned but garden center-ish restorationAs to wedding factory vs. house museum, discussed elsewhere here. It's a sad fact that house museums (I sit on the board of one), unless they have endowments like John Holmes, are only barely sustainable only as house museums in this day and age---visitation and interest is down across the board, expenses are out of control. Weddings are a win-win, as long as they don't become the tail that wags the dog, and with care and enlightened stewardship (how I love that phrase, which so rarely lives up to expectation), a balance can be struck between public access and the dirty business of doing whatever one has to to keep the lights on.Something I am less ambivalent about is that Nassau county should not be allowed to own historic buildings---that is made clear by regular perusal of this blog.PS (The house itself actually looks crisp and clean, however. Lovely place. By coincidence, I was in Mrs. Moore's mother's former house in Bar Harbor just a few days ago. In the formal garden there is a pool, now dry by necessity. It once had a statue by Paul Manship in the center, long gone, and replaced by a simple, non-garden center fountain on pedestal. Simple solutions are almost always better if funds or appropriate materials are not available.
I would like to comment on something Downeast Dilettante wrote, that ~ "house museums are barely sustainable only as house museums in this day and age---visitation and interest is down across the board, expenses are out of control."Well, visitation at the Newport mansions has risen in recent years; 9-plus percent in 2013 alone ! And yes, there are weddings scheduled as well ~ at Rosecliff, the "party house," but that part of it is minuscule compared to the tour attendance. Over 400,000 at The Breakers alone, and 900,000-plus overall !The Trustees of Reservations, in Massachusetts, do very well at places like Castle hill and Naumkeag ~ which are both undergoing estensive, and extremely expensive, grounds restoration. As to the fountain at Chelsea ~ one can only say that, unless you're the daughter of a refined bandit with funds unlimited, this is what ordinary brides can expect for drive-by landscaping effect !
Old East Sider. I'm very well aware of all of this, but the Newport Mansions are the exception, not the rule, and as a draw, they benefit from proximity and critical mass. At Castle Hill, lovely though the grounds are, and the admirable restorations/stabilizations going on, they are but a shadow of their former selves yet---and vast amounts of money have to be raised. Incidentally, it was Castle Hill I had in mind when I made my comment about the balance between income from events and weddings balanced with public access, which Castle Hill achieves admirably---and without drive-by plantings. The Trustees are also doing wonderful work at their great Fletcher Steele garden at Naumkeag. But Naumkeag has a substantial endowment to help ease the pain of basic maintenance. Most house museums/gardens don't have the funds/leadership/curb appeal to attract 400,000 visitors ---many in fact could not physically sustain those numbers. I wish house museum was the solution to all the problems facing grand houses that have outlived their private use---I'd happily visit them all---but it isn't.One does wish that instead of the central feature and the bedding plants surrounding it, that the grotesque that rim the basin had been re-piped.
Westbury Gardens?Nemours?Viscaya?Biltmore?San Simeon?House museums and money makers all. What they do not have is a disfunctional bureaucratic mindset. NY
And for each one of those, I can name a thousand that are struggling, including Vizcaya. Biltmore is an extreme and interesting exception, run as private enterprise. Old Westbury and particularly Nemours enjoy adequate endowments. They could not be self sustaining alone on admissions. That is the only point I'm making, at risk of being dogmatic. And many of the others, Newport and Castle Hill included, are heavily dependent on grants and major fundraising. Admission alone rarely can support one of these houses, as romantic as it is to think so.
DED, thank you for stating what I had guessed about the fountain at Chelsea -- the grotesque that rim the basin were the original water feature. If correct I also wonder, "Why not go back to the original?" It would make a much better background for wedding photos (vibrant streams of water vs a dribbling piece of metal).
Looking at both the 2008 and present images it strikes me that the central feature might probably have been the rim of a basin where could either have been a simple water jet, or piece of sculpture spouting water, besides the "grotesques" likewise spouting water from the pipe-ends still visible in their mouths. I hardly think that the mound of earth within that central rim once held plantings of any kind.
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